Does Anyone Believe the Enrollments are Stabilizing Narrative?
Institutions increasingly facing harsh realities on enrollments and revenues
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I would like to expand on statements I made in Friday’s newsletter in response to a question about LMS features.
I believe those points will be relevant based on news from the upcoming LMS conferences this month, but my point is much broader than features.
Facing Structural Realities
I am seeing a trends of institutional leadership in US higher education coming to grips with the biggest challenge they face. We’re past Covid shutdowns, mostly past the emergency spending relief, dealing with new levels of inflation, and we’re heading into the early parts of the demographic cliff. Even if that cliff is more of a downhill slope, it piles on top of pre-existing trends of enrollment declines since 2011, and it will be an accelerant.
The stories I am reading increasing point to ‘we have a large structural deficit that is getting worse, and we have to [shut down, merge, cut departments] now’, which match what I’m seeing privately in our consulting and market analysis work. But even for institutions avoiding such cuts and changes this year, there is an attitude of ‘academic leaders must find new sources of revenue and diversify beyond standard degrees’.
Structural enrollment declines for traditional degrees are increasing in importance, despite all of the Spring coverage that enrollments are stabilizing. I’m not questioning the data from the National Student Clearinghouse, but I am questioning the framing of the Spring results.
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