The Real Reason for the Enrollment Crash

Earlier this week, The Enrollment Crash Goes Deeper Than Demographics, written by Nathan D. Grawe, a professor of economics at Carleton College and the author of Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education, was published by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The enrollment crash most certainly goes beyond demographic shifts.  The crash goes all the way to the “leadership” of colleges and universities.  The “leaders” that are failing to address changes in the market.  The “leaders” that are clinging to the same strategies and tactics while hoping that “…if we just work harder, good things will happen.”

The crash is due in large part to the failure of institutional leaders  -Presidents and Boards – to offer unique, valuable solutions to the people and community they supposedly serve based on their mission statements.

The crash is due to those leaders cutting resources that impact the ability to make the people and community aware of the unique value offered by the institution, generating interest within the community for the institution and its offerings, and motivating the people within the community to enroll at the institution.

Ahh, unique value.

What Unique Value Does Your Institution Offer Your Community?

When I am on campus, speaking with members of the staff and faculty, I will ask ‘…what is the unique value your institution offers its students and the community?’  And this is what I hear nine times out of 10.

“We’re accredited.”

“We’re flexible.”

“We have people that care about our students and work to help them succeed.”

“We have great faculty.”

Some will even say, “We have the lowest tuition in the area.”

Right now, most of you reading this are also thinking, “What would my answer be to that question?”

And here’s why you can’t answer it correctly – you don’t know what the people in your community value.  Without knowing what they value, you are always going to be guessing.

Leaders Lead, and We Need Leaders

Now is the time to get out into the community and get to know the people.

And I am not talking about lunch at the downtown Rotary Club or a speech at the Chamber of Commerce monthly dinner or a cocktail at the local country club.

Go to the businesses and speak with the owners and key leaders as well as the employees.  What are their needs, and how can you help?

Go to the local grade schools, middle schools, and high schools.  Meet with the faculty, staff, students, and their parents.  What are their needs, and how can you help?

Go to the non-profits and government agencies located in your community and find out how you can help them.

Think outside the box.  Go beyond 4-year undergraduate degree programs and 2-year graduate degree programs.  Think about how you can be their life time source for education, development, enrichment.

Run the numbers on subscription pricing and see if you can develop a profitable business model that your audience and community support.



Written by

Strategic turnaround consultant and writer.

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