Combating the Enrollment Decline in Higher Education

Combating the Enrollment Decline in Higher Education

New findings from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center provide a clear picture of the decline in enrollment higher education has seen in the spring term of 2021. Total college enrollment fell 3.5% from one year prior — resulting in a deficit of 603,000 students. This shortfall is seven times worse than the decline educators saw in 2020.

Demographics Related to the Enrollment Dip

However, the initial figures do not tell the full story — certain institutions and demographics of students have fared worse than others. Male enrollment continues to lag behind female enrollment significantly; compared with last year's figures, men's enrollment declined by 5.5% (or by 400,000 students). By way of comparison, women's enrollment dropped by only 2% (by 203,000 students).

Of all age groups, traditional college-age students made up the largest portion of the enrollment dip —enrollment dropped by 5% for those between the ages of 18-24. Specifically, this age group has contributed to substantial losses at community colleges (-13.2%). Conversely, adult students (over the age of 25), show a 2-3% boost in enrollment at private non-profit four-year and public four-year colleges.

While the research center reported an enrollment decline in nearly every undergraduate major, computer and information science and psychology were among the few programs to prosper. Enrollment in those majors was up by 3% and 4.8%, respectively, compared to 2020. The overall fall in enrollment (3.5%) represents the most remarkable year-over-year drop since the research center began tracking enrollment data ten years ago (for reference, the enrollment decline last fall was 2.5%).

The Most Vulnerable Populations are Forgoing College

Although every institution experienced a dip in undergraduate enrollment this spring, community colleges bear the brunt of it — with an enrollment decrease of 9.5% or 476,000 fewer students. More than 65% of the total losses in enrollment can be traced back to the community college sector.

According to President of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, Michelle Asha Cooper, the report illustrates how the pandemic has compounded the hardships today's students face:

 Those seeing the sharpest of these striking declines in enrollment are community colleges. These institutions often serve the largest share of students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. While many students may enroll or re-enroll at a later time, we know that delays in enrollment and needing to step out from higher education can decrease the odds that a student will ultimately earn a degree or credential.

Another Clearinghouse report (High School Benchmarks) echoes this sentiment. The report indicates that the number of high school graduates going straight to college decreased by 22% this fall, driven mainly by losses of lower-income and urban high school students. In addition to the decline in community college enrollment, this data demonstrates that more vulnerable students are not going to college.

Senior Vice President of Public Relations for the American Association of Community Colleges, Martha Parham, believes two-year colleges should continue funding remote technology for learning while preparing for safe, in-person education. She also asserts that a robust marketing approach will be an essential strategy in increasing enrollment:

"Marketing and outreach to the impacted populations will be a key need going forward to make sure that students that have been impacted by the pandemic are aware of the opportunities that community colleges offer. It will be challenging, but community colleges are resilient and ready to get the nation's students back on the road to completion."

Leveraging Salesforce Customer 360

Understanding who a prospective student is and what is important to them is critical to engaging them on a personal and meaningful level. Salesforce's Customer 360 platform leverages data analytics to provide education and training providers a full-scope view of prospective learners' trends, as well as insights tied to their engagement. 

With this information, training organizations can use Salesforce’s Customer 360 to create unique audiences and send them the most personalized and relatable content. For instance, organizations can send students content related to the majors they are interested in or the career paths that appeal to them. Salesforce’s Customer 360 leverages personalized interactions to ensure more leads pass through institutions' sales funnels to drive better results.

Gerent has been helping education providers design and implement Salesforce solutions for over a decade. We have a thorough understanding of the education sector as a whole and would love to assist you with your unique situation. To strike up a conversation with an expert in the education sector, contact us today!

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