If you didn’t already know, college admissions is a stressful job. Every year, Inside Higher Ed conducts a survey of admissions directors to see what keeps them up at night. Here’s the first striking point from the 2017 survey: “Only 34 percent of colleges met new student enrollment targets this year by May 1, the traditional date by which most institutions hope to have a class set.”
The survey, a collaboration with Gallup, found that this number has decreased from 37 percent a year ago and 42 percent two years ago — meaning, less colleges are hitting their mark. As author Scott Jaschik points out, this fact can be either an “annoyance” or an “existential crisis.”
For private colleges and universities, which is the bulk of Capture Higher Ed’s partners, 36 percent met their May 1 admissions goals. Well-regarded Kenyon College got 800 less applicants than the year before, and over 1,400 less than two years ago. Ohio’s Antioch College, as of September, had only 22 new students for the fall quarter — it was hoping for 60.
Here’s another statistic, and an emotional one: 85 percent of college and university admissions directors reported they were moderately or very concerned about meeting their target by May Day. Last year the number was 54 percent, and the year before the number was 34 percent. The number is clearly climbing. The number of those who are not worried at all is falling from seven to five to only three percent in the past few years.
What factors are contributing to this, according to admissions directors? For one, many think that “higher education has an image problem.” Many students and parents wonder if a college education is worth the hefty price. Media reports of unemployment rates of college graduates, not to mention the public discussion of student debt, especially during the presidential election, have had a huge impact on how society views the value of higher education.
It’s no surprise that admissions directors are anxious about the image of higher education than they have been in the past. By now, 95 percent of admissions directors agree that higher education needs to do a better job of explaining the value of a college education. Many admissions directors also doubt that prospective students — and their parents — understand the value of a liberal arts degree.
We cannot help but notice students that are concerned about debt: 80 percent of admissions directors believe their institution is losing potential applicants due to concerns about accumulating student debts. The percentage of admissions directors from private institutions who agreed was even higher at 89 percent.
How have admissions directors responded to the crisis? Many have begun to turn their focus toward either recruiting students who can afford the sticker price or, increasingly, rural and low-income students. Some are cutting tuition, which in terms of paying for faculty and facilities can prove to be a nightmare scenario.
Capture Higher Ed empathizes with these concerns. We understand the fear. Our CEO, Steve Huey, has remarked in company meetings that his concern extends to the admissions personnel who day in and day out feel the stress of meeting enrollment goals and keeping their schools open. The tools we have created — Capture Behavioral Engagement (CBE), Capture Recruitment Intelligence (CRI) and Envision — are meant to remove the anxiety. If you’re feeling the pinch, we invite you to see how these tools help find the students who are right for you.
By Sean Hill, Senior Content Writer, Capture Higher Ed