Does Anyone Believe the Enrollments are Stabilizing Narrative?

Institutions increasingly facing harsh realities on enrollments and revenues

Was this forwarded to you by a friend? Sign up, and get your own copy of the news that mattered sent to your inbox every week. Sign up for the On EdTech newsletter. Interested in additional analysis? Try with our 30-day free trial and Upgrade to the On EdTech+ newsletter.

I would like to expand on statements I made in Friday’s newsletter in response to a question about LMS features.

For the past dozen years, the defining features of academic LMSs have been intuitive design, cloud hosting & scalability, and open integrations to 3rd party apps. Those trends remain, but what is emerging is a need for LMSs that make it easier for institutions to go beyond the for-credit course dictated by strict academic term definitions. [snip] The noncredit, registration & payment stuff in answer #1 is also an example of LMS companies trying to help institutions with enrollment & retention.

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.

Subscribe to On EdTech+ to read the rest.

Become a paying subscriber of On EdTech+ to get access to this post and other subscriber-only content.

Already a paying subscriber? Sign In

A subscription gets you:
New content 3-4 times per week
Shared Q&A discussions
More coming soon