In his 2018 book Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education, Nathan Grawe projected that a 10% decline in new students enrolling in higher education facilities would occur from 2018 to 2029.

However, with the growing pandemic, it is possible this decline will happen within the coming year, nine years before Grawe’s hypothesis.

This general decline in enrollment is not only detrimental to the institutions themselves, but also employees and students.

The Sorenson Impact Center at the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah for the past two years has prepared strategies and frameworks in creating student-centric decisions for institutions facing declining enrollment rates. They are now featuring their work in a series in Inside Higher Ed.

In their analysis, they have found an “alarming likelihood that negative impacts will be disproportionately felt by a generation of students who are already among the least supported: students of color, students from poorer households and students from rural areas. They will be overrepresented among potentially millions of students whose education will be compromised by rapid systemic decline in the postsecondary structure.”

In addition to the concern of the negative impacts on the least supported students, the center also noted a concern for the students at institutions who never close their doors but should because they cannot deliver a quality education anymore.

As tuition provides nearly half of an institution’s revenue, a sudden decline in enrollment will cause difficult decisions to be made.

The Sorenson Impact Center says that while we may be heading toward an uncertain future, this also gives colleges and universities to create a more equitable system of higher education for all students.

“By acting proactively, colleges and universities can respond to this pandemic and adapt in ways that balance institutional priorities with the needs of students they serve.”

Read the Sorenson Impact Center’s full op-ed in Inside Higher Ed.



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