Declining enrollment rates in higher education have been trending over the past couple of years. Now we’re seeing a record number of colleges have to partner with larger universities, sell off land and other assets, or even close their doors altogether in the face of a number of changing factors. From lack of financial resources to declining religious population centers, rural locations and tuition discounting – smaller colleges are feeling the burn of low enrollment rates the most…
But it’s not over for those thinking outside the box. Keep reading to understand the constraints colleges face, and see how some are utilizing technology for survival.
The Problem for Small, Midwest and Catholic Colleges
In recent years we’ve seen a moratorium on for-profit colleges after giants like ITT Technical Institute and Westwood College closed their doors. Often found to be, or alleged to be, putting profits above students, for-profit colleges have faced controversy for years. Since their time in the spotlight however, it’s small liberal arts colleges now facing extinction.
While experts continue to be at odds about specific causes and the longevity of the decline, there are some factors influencing current trends that cannot be denied.
• Lack of cash: Small endowments, not enough donors and an average annual enrollment well below 1,000 students has stretched budgets thin. As niche colleges compete to provide an individualized student experience – with small class sizes and additional faculty – they struggle to balance costs between students and outside resources.
• Financial aid dependence: Rising tuition costs require more students to seek financial aid and discounted tuition in order to attend. While some institutions report enrollment increases year-over-year, significant discount rates cut into needed revenue to support costs.
• Location preferences: Rural areas, the Midwest and Appalachia are seeing particularly low interest from students. According to Moody’s Investors Service 2017 tuition survey, institutions in the Midwest report enrollment decreases 20% higher than other parts of the country. Additionally, people are moving away from Roman Catholic population centers, causing a decline in Catholic-affiliated college enrollment rates.
• Public perception: Limited program offerings and smaller financial aid payouts are traditionally associated with smaller colleges versus large state universities. Regardless of the truth, the perception of “less” by prospective students, is also thought to influence their decline.
What’s a College to do?
One of the biggest changes in education is the advent and easy adoption of eLearning, or online program offerings. Introduced in the 90’s, online education is finally making mainstream waves as the general population becomes more comfortable, familiar and reliant on technology in everyday life. Harnessing this nontraditional format, which can provide many benefits for students and institutions alike, is absolutely necessary to stay competitive within a nation of decreasing college enrollments, and increasing demand for online education.
Expand Recruitment Reach by Broadening Access
Historically, adult learners have been under-served and minority students have been recruited in smaller numbers. Now, universities have the opportunity to target these unique student populations with online or hybrid courses that fit their specific needs.
Whereas a traditional, 18-year-old, first time freshman would jump head first into the typical college experience of living on-campus and attending full time, nontraditional learners don’t have the same options. Instead, they need a format that doesn’t require them to put life on hold in the name of education.
They need a flexible schedule that lets them complete coursework any time of day. They also need a convenient course delivery method that doesn’t require commuting, parking, or set class times and locations. Most over 25-year-old students manage a full time job and family responsibilities while attending classes, so it’s the job of colleges to provide a solution for overcoming those obstacles.
Take advantage of the demand for online programs that give flexibility and convenience to students on their time. Not only can you expand your recruiting reach with diverse formats, but face-to-face programs can also be expanded to provide additional opportunities in eLearning. The more choices an institution can provide students, the more competitive the college becomes.
Lower Costs by Investing in Modern Solutions
Opening the doors of education to more students is crucial, but so is lowering the enormous price tag associated with higher ed. While some colleges are increasing tuition to cover costs, innovative institutions are making eLearning investments to lower tuition, in order to increase enrollments.
Online courses don’t require full-time faculty, classroom and supply overhead, or additional fees for campus use. Often times, course curriculum can be written once, digitized through a learning management system using interactive video and activities to drive learning outcomes, and then updated as needed. Course materials like text books can be accessed digitally at a lower cost and recycled between students.
Bottom line, there are steps colleges can take to save costs without diminishing outcomes for students or losing precious assets. Colleges can then pass these savings onto eLearning students to make education accessible, affordable and a realistic response to improving ones’ life.
Ensure ROI by Partnering with E-learning Experts
If you’re a college on the brink, you may be reading this in a hot sweat. Sure, all the facts make sense and the conclusion is clear: implementing eLearning is critical to survival, but how do you do it? Faced with limited financial resources, quick demand and pressure from the top, it’s time to act fast.
Since most colleges are not well-versed in eLearning, hence the problems discussed above, you need to team up with experts who can provide a full-suite of custom solutions that fit the needs of your unique college, culture and student. Through collaboration and consultation with experts, you will develop an infrastructure that supports your education and training goals from faculty recruitment to technology, curriculum development and desired learning outcomes.
Beyond Campus Innovations (BCI) provides cost-effective, custom online eLearning solutions, educational services and turnkey outsourced solutions that cater to your institution’s needs, wants and long-term strategy. With an expert consultant by your side, BCI can provide the return on investment your college needs to instill trust and longevity for the future of students and the institution as a whole. We offer a variety of services, all aimed at making your institution a success.
• Curriculum development and instructional design
• Organizational training
• Consulting services
• Education technology solutions
• Enrollment and management services
Don’t wait until it’s too late. Contact BCI today to see how we can help you and your organization survive and thrive within these uncertain times of higher education.