Colleges can steer away from higher ed’s demographic cliff


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Andy Hannah is an adjunct professor of analytics and entrepreneurship on the College of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate College of Enterprise and president of Liaison Worldwide’s Othot Division, which focuses on predictive and prescriptive analytics.

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Andy Hannah

Permission granted by Othot


For the final seven years, I’ve taught a course on analytics on the College of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate College of Enterprise. Daily, my college students and I discuss how main firms and startups use enterprise intelligence and analytics to get forward of traits and achieve their objectives — or fall behind.

It is exhausting to think about a greater backdrop than Pittsburgh for educating these classes. Over the past three many years of the twentieth century, Pittsburgh skilled a massive decline in inhabitants because it misplaced manufacturing-related jobs. But since then, Pittsburgh has rebuilt itself into a robust innovation and know-how hub, accurately forecasting immense progress on this sector while attracting younger and brilliant staff to help it.

Throughout the nation, faculties and universities at the moment are dealing with comparable challenges and on the lookout for new methods to draw college students. A lower in beginning charges stemming from the 2008 monetary disaster is expected to reduce the variety of first-year school college students by as much as 15% beginning in 2025. With births as soon as once more falling in the course of the pandemic, faculties face the prospect of steady declines of college-going 18-to-24-year-olds for many years to come back.

Right this moment’s enrollment challenges dealing with faculties and universities didn’t start — and won’t finish — with COVID-19. However labor market volatility and monetary pressure introduced on by the pandemic have intensified demographic points already in play. It’s a phenomenon that has been at greater education’s doorstep for a few years, but many establishments are nonetheless not absolutely ready.

In an more and more complicated and aggressive panorama, how can campus leaders perceive the individualized drivers of pupil enrollment and success? The appliance of superior analytics presents a sensible, confirmed answer.

Utilizing analytics to achieve a deeper understanding of potential college students’ demographic and behavioral knowledge, establishments can glean new insights into college students’ pursuits and wishes and their probability each to enroll and persist. To compete for college students and stay financially sustainable on this new period, faculties and universities should perceive these components and the complicated interaction between them. Armed with these insights, establishments can then develop a extra intentional method to determine, enroll and matriculate college students who usually are not simply glorious matches for his or her campuses however could be drawn from beforehand untapped areas or demographics.

Take into account the case of Western Connecticut State College, a regional public college of about 5,000 college students in Danbury, Connecticut. On account of modifications within the economic system, declining beginning charges, and “mind drain” all through the Northeast, Connecticut ranks 48th in inhabitants progress over the previous decade and has misplaced floor to fast-growing states within the Solar Belt, Mountain West and Southeast. The Western Connecticut State workforce has efficiently integrated analytics into its enrollment management strategy and has employed this knowledge to find and attain beforehand hidden pockets of scholars, each inside the state’s borders and past. (Western Connecticut State College is a consumer of Othot and its guardian firm Liaison Worldwide.)

Equally, group faculties and establishments in distant and rural areas are experiencing dramatic enrollment declines and are turning to extra proactive and nontraditional methods to have interaction potential college students. Within the mountains of western North Carolina, Blue Ridge Neighborhood Faculty has set its sights on reenrolling those that have stopped out through the use of knowledge to determine college students who’ve amassed important educational credit score and deploying success coaches to assist information these returning college students by way of the enrollment course of.

Whereas the enrollment trendlines seem like discouraging, they aren’t insurmountable. New approaches to recruitment and enrollment — and better perception into demographics and labor market demand — give faculties and universities highly effective new instruments as they chart their paths to restoration and sustainable futures.

By utilizing data-driven approaches to determine and interact beforehand untapped college students in new geographies, goal advertising {dollars} and different sources extra successfully, and revise and refine monetary support methods, establishments not solely can survive the demographic cliff however thrive — even throughout a interval of extended enrollment volatility. There are quite a few examples of how establishments are already bucking the pattern.

All through the nation, faculties and universities are grappling with the consequences of demographic change and looking for new methods to serve new audiences. It’s doable, however time can’t be wasted. By recognizing, understanding and making ready for these inevitable modifications, establishments can start charting paths away from the looming cliff and again in the direction of promising and sustainable futures. They’ll meet the second by leveraging the ability of superior analytics and discovering new methods to ship on the promise of social and financial mobility for all who search it.

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