Enrollments at U.S. colleges and universities have been on a straight decline for the last six years. Specifically, Indiana University Northwest saw enrollment for degree-seeking students drop 3.7% this year. Two private colleges in San Francisco have also been affected so drastically by declining enrollments that they are closing, which will lay off more than 200 faculty and staff members.
The cause of enrollment declines varies by location and demographics, but competition from for-profit schools and career-based programs is a major factor affecting enrollment numbers. And since public colleges and universities receive funding from the state based on their enrollment numbers, any amount of decline is a major concern.
Deans, presidents, and provosts all over the country are asking themselves how their institution can improve their enrollment strategies to increase numbers. Fortunately, the answer may be found in the data they already have. Enrollment analytics holds the key to solving the problem of declining enrollment numbers.
Using context clues
From college admissions data to student demographics and course success rates, colleges and universities collect a variety of data. Understanding the context behind the numbers can help institutions develop strategies to tackle declining rates.
Here’s how: Using a higher education data analytics software program to organize and visualize your institution’s data can help you find the source of an issue by allowing you to analyze trends from certain terms or years. For example, do you know why students might drop out of certain courses before the withdrawal deadline? Maybe some are just in a habit of testing out courses and maybe others aren’t prepared for an online learning environment. An Enrollment Report created by data analytics software is one of many ways to look at this data to find the source of the problem. Once it’s found, you can develop tailored solutions to help both your students and your enrollment numbers.
Analyzing granular & high-level data
Institutions can benefit by looking at their data from both a high level and a granular level, both of which are easy to do with the right data analytics software. For example, this can include analyzing data attributed to the entire student body as well as by certain programs and courses.
A great example of this is assessing the supply and demand of your courses. If there aren’t enough prerequisite math classes, some students may take a semester off or decide not to return to school if they can’t get into the class they need. Simply offering more prerequisite math courses could result in an uptick in enrollments.
Another opportunity to use high-level and granular data is by looking at your inventory of online courses. The demand for these courses is higher than ever before because of the flexibility they offer. Some students may only be able to earn a degree through an online program, which means an institution could lose out on enrollments if one isn’t available. This is especially important in community colleges that cater to working adults who are also balancing families and their education.
The main takeaway that institutions across the country need to understand is that the higher education landscape is evolving. It’s imperative that institutions keep up with student demands in order to prepare successful strategies that can help prevent serious issues like declining enrollments. Whether you’re using a higher education analytics software program or an internal management process, using data is the best way to tackle inefficiencies and stay competitive.