These are very dire words from an expert in education and business.
Although America has the best higher education system in the world, it is also the most expensive. Over the past decade, federal and state government funding has been dropping and online education continues to explode. Meanwhile, new challenges are cropping up that threaten student enrollment for American residential colleges.
These challenges include:
Student enrollment declining: Overall higher education enrollment in America has continued to decline. Nationwide enrollments began their slide in 2012 and have now continued for the last 10 consecutive college terms.
Too many applications: Concerns over getting in and common applications are causing students (and their worried parents) to apply to many more colleges. This makes it very difficult for a school to get a predictable yield (the size of the incoming class). Accepting too many students causes overcrowding, but enrolling too few students causes layoffs.
Uncertain immigration laws: The new U.S. administration will certainly attempt further restrictions on allowing foreigners to enter (or return to) the country. Foreign students are lucrative for American colleges since they rarely are offered financial aid. Even if they're unsuccessful, the uncertainty around immigration will force these international students to look to options outside of the U.S. and force colleges to look for more students domestically.
Colleges and universities can roll out marketing campaigns to increase student applications and the percentage of students who matriculate (accept the admission offer). These initiatives don't dramatically increase fixed costs compared to the cost of building a new dorm or classroom building.
Here are three proven ways to drive student enrollment:
1. Increase campus visits
Survey says that 50-60% of accepted students will matriculate if they have had a campus visit. If they don’t have a campus visit, this percentage could be substantially lower. Therefore, it is imperative to encourage prospective students to come to campus in your marketing efforts.
It's also just as important to schedule phone or web interviews with international students who cannot travel to visit campus. Once interested, colleges and universities need to make arranging campus visits as simple as possible.
Appointment scheduling makes it easy for schools to offer appointments for campus visits, tours, and admission interviews. Once each visit is completed, follow-up surveys can provide an opportunity for feedback and address next steps.
2. Increase your geographical footprint
Expand your university to other locations. There are many examples of this trend.
Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, has opened campuses in Boston and San Francisco.
Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, has opened campuses in Seattle and Charlotte.
These branch campuses don’t have to be large to succeed, and they increase the chance that the school will be considered a national brand. All school locations are located in downtown areas and have close relationships with large companies.
Since these campuses are starting from scratch, it is important to encourage as many people as possible to come to campus tours or events. Word of mouth and social media make it easy for prospective students to share the news about your educational offerings.
3. Expand corporate education
Many universities also offer executive education to working professionals. This is an attractive offer for companies, who are eager to take advantage of educational opportunities for their employees but don't want to hire full-time educators internally.
Executive education can even be combined with satellite branches to double the impact. For colleges and universities, this results in additional enrollment without the need to build more dorms.
It's been said that companies and executives are more particular than undergraduate students, and therefore require flawless processes from start to finish.
It's quite apparent that universities will face challenges in the coming years. Don’t forget to:
Strongly encourage prospective students to come for a campus visit
Look into expanding your locations
Consider how you can create more corporate partnerships