Trends in Higher Education

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Demographics | Economics | Environment | Global Education | Learning | Politics | Technology

Our last edition focused on uncertainty in the energy sector and its potential effects on the economy. The economy remains at the forefront of this edition and we continue to encourage readers to do wide-ranging scenario planning to help them prepare for many possibilities. For those of you familiar with the work of William Bridges on Managing Transitions (2003), we'd like to suggest that we are in what he calls a 'neutral zone.' Neutral zones are times of maximum uncertainty and creative possibility between the ending of the way things have been and before the way they will be has become apparent. Expect continued turmoil and plan to seize opportunities for redefining and refreshing your organization's integrated plan.

I Demographics

Observation

The pattern of increased enrollment in higher education during economic downturns is decidedly less clear in this recession (Chronicle of Higher Education, November 28, 2008, chronicle.com/free/v55/i14/14a00102.htm).

* The number of students taking the Graduate Record Examination declined in 2008, the first time that's happened during a downturn (Inside Higher Ed, December 8, 2008, insidehighered.com/news/2008/12/08/gre).

* Enrollment fell by 1.5 percent at Southern Illinois University's Carbondale campus while it increased across most of the rest of the state (Chicago Tribune, September 23, 2008; www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-ap-il-collegeenrollment,0,719809.story). Wayne State University saw its enrollment decline by 4.7 percent (Detroit Free Press, October 28, 2008, freep.com). The University of Wisconsin-Madison saw applications for admission in fall of 2009 drop by 3 percent (Chicago Tribune, February 11, 2009, chicagotribune.com/news/chi-ap-wi- uwadmissions,0,6728552.story)

* The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities reported that nearly one-fifth of private colleges and universities reported a smaller than anticipated freshman class this fall (The New York Times, December 22, 2008, nytimes.com/2008/12/22/education/22college.html?scp=l& sq=%22National%20Association%20of%20Independent%20Colleges%20and%20 Universities%22&st=cse).

* The American Association of Community Colleges reported that community college enrollment rose 8-10 percent; the average age of students did not rise as it typically does during a recession (Newsweek, December 15, 2008, www.newsweek.com/id/175061).

Our Thoughts

The declining high school population will play a greater role in enrollments in some states than others; as will the extent to which the state or region is affected by the economic decline.

* There are more unemployed college graduates seeking work than high school dropouts (CNNMoney, December 5, 2008, money.cnn.com/2008/12/05/news/ economy/degreed_workers/?postversion=20081205l4).

* The percentage of adult college students (25-49) in New York State's higher education system has dropped from one- third of all students in 1995 to just over one-fifth in 2005 (Daily Gazette, September 21, 2008, www.dailygazette.com).

* Texas and Mississippi report that community colleges are seeing significant increases in enrollment, but much slower increases in enrollments at four-year institutions (The Dallas Morning News, September 25, 2008, dallasnews.com; The Clarion-Ledger, September 23, 2008, clarionledger.com).

* Utah saw an increase in undergraduate enrollment of close to 20.5 percent between 2000 and 2007 while its population increased 18 percent. Enrollment in graduate and professional schools increased 35 percent {The Salt Lake Tribune, September 23, 2008, www.sltrib.com).

Observation

The governance and administration of the academy is likely to continue being stressed by the economy and shifting demographics. Like enrollment, different regions and institutions will respond to these pressures differently--some with more conflict internally than others. …