This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

June 22, 2022

Continuing Decline in College Enrollment

Right now, throughout the world, there are a number of influences coming together to conspire against our institutions of higher education. Unfortunately, for several years now, there has been a disturbing trend in higher education. Enrollments are down, way down.

What Declining Enrollments Mean for Colleges and Universities
It doesn't take a genius to know that decreasing numbers of students translate to fewer dollars in the coffers of colleges and universities. What that reduction in funds means for the faculty and staff is fewer positions for college professors and instructors and fewer slots for administrators, although these institutions have been decimating the ranks of administrators for years. Ask any college or university administrator and they will tell you that there used to be two or sometimes three people doing the job they now perform singlehandedly.

How Bad Is It?
According to new data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, college enrollment as of Spring 2022 is down 4.7 percent from a year ago. The Pandemic just made the situation worse. Since the start of the pandemic, total undergraduate enrollment has fallen by 9.4 percent. Between the student loan crisis and the tight labor market offering attractive opportunities to skip college or drop out, young people are opting to forego the college experience in favor of making money. We actually saw a similar phenomenon around the beginning of the new millennium 22 years ago; history is indeed repeating itself. And sadly, these declines are not confined to undergraduate programs. Without undergraduates on campus, some schools decided they simply did not need the same number of graduate assistants. Without the graduate assistantships, some grad students were not able to afford to stay.

Obviously COVID Did Not Help
With COVID restrictions on campus, some students decided that paying high tuitions when they could not enjoy the full college experience was simply not worth it. During the lockdowns, many were also unable to continue their part time jobs that helped them pay for classes, so they had no choice but to suspend their enrollments. Once they were out of school and in the workforce, often remotely, inertia took over.

Thinking Like a Futurist, There is More Bad News
With fewer enrollments, these post-secondary institutions will have fewer graduates. Fewer grads mean ultimately a reduced number of people that the development folks can solicit for donations and thus less money for all the initiatives the college or university can undertake to update its infrastructure.

Bucking the Trend
A few remarkable schools have bucked the trend, notably, my favorite poster child for the model university, High Point University in High Point, North Carolina. Under the extraordinary leadership of its president Nido Qubein, the school has been consistently adding schools and programs and increasing enrollment since shortly after Qubein took over. What's their secret? Their formula is simple: provide the most student centric college experience on the planet. From teaching Lifeskills to the undergraduate students (Qubein does that himself) to providing Success Coaches to requiring a certain number of hours of community service. Understanding the value of real-world experience and having numerous relationships with corporate America, they even have counselors dedicated to helping students find the best internships for them. The beautiful campus features many unique learning labs that include corporate board rooms, mock interview rooms, a mock courtroom, and even fine dining restaurants that teach global etiquette. This university is doing many things right! There's so much to talk about that I plan to write another Herman Trend Alert detailing HPU's many programs and its spectacular results.

What's Ahead for Higher Ed
When the economy slows down, enrollments are likely to stop declining. When faced with unemployment, some folks choose to go back to school for more education---and that desire includes additional certifications and certificates as well as degrees. In the longer term, expect to see all kinds of alternatives to sitting in a classroom for four years. Wise colleges and universities are already thinking about the future and adjusting their plans and offerings. Also, although we would like to have COVID in our rearview mirrors, it is not. We can expect more COVID variants or other similar infections to plague us off and on for the foreseeable future. The good news is we now have a model for response and can do so quickly. Hopefully, we will not be blindsided as we were in 2019 and 2020 again. Smart institutions will have several sets of plans to accommodate the different possible near-term futures. Perhaps someday, the colleges will be like Viking Ocean Cruises, test everyone daily, and have a full medical lab on site.

Next Week's Herman Trend Alert: Diet, Eye Health, and Lifespan
Recently researchers at the Buck Institute have discovered a fascinating connection between what we eat, eye health and lifespan. We humans can use all the help we can get to stay alive and healthy and that includes our eyes as well.

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