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Enrollment Decline Has Colleges Running Scared

Colleges are facing a problem they haven’t faced in nearly a decade: declining enrollment. New Census Bureau data reports that college enrollment dropped by about a half-million last year for the first time since 2006. Some of this may simply be a result of students who went to school in the late 2000s to avoid the recession finally graduating.

But college administrators are clearly worried that this may be the sign of a long-term trend. A recent survey of industry leaders found that over one-third are now concerned that they won’t be able to keep enrollments steady with tuition prices where they are now—an increase of over 10 percent from last year. As a result, many schools are looking for ways to keep costs down, as the WSJ reports:

The survey said many schools are trying to lower costs without hurting quality, with 59% of respondents looking to online education and other innovative strategies, compared with 41% last year.

The high cost of college tuition has been endlessly debated by the chattering classes, but as long as students kept enrolling, universities had little incentive to lower it. Now, however, we’re seeing the clearest signs yet that students and parents are beginning to balk at the price of college, which we hope will encourage schools to begin competing on price rather than expensive amenities. If this proves to be more than just a statistical blip, we could be seeing a higher ed transformation sooner rather than later.

[College quad image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Pete

    Don’t sweat it, Mr. Mead.

    The colleges will just continue to lower their standards under the flag of increased diversity and all will be well. That is sad but true.

  • AnnSaltzafrazz

    Another factor is men choosing not to go to college.

    Male enrollment 2011 = 9,123,000
    Male enrollment 2012 = 8,602,000
    Change = -521,000 / -5.7%

    Female enrollment 2011 = 11,256,000
    Female enrollment 2012 = 11,327,000
    Change = +71,000 / +0.6%

    (links for data from this page: )

    A decline of over 5% of male enrollment should set off alarm bells, and would if the genders were reversed. The stories of schools treating men like predators abound, with men treated as guilty and needing to prove their innocence instead of the other way around. Perhaps men are getting the message that college is enemy territory and not for them.

    Colleges should wake up and not turn away this cohort with their discriminatory anti-male policies.

  • OldmanRick

    Wow, does that mean some schools of academia may have to lay off some highly paid administrators and become more competitive to win those education bucks?

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