ERIC Number: EJ857817
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Reference Count: 0
The Missing Enrollment Meltdown
Dawley, Kathleen; Epstein, Jonathan P.
College and University, v85 n1 p49-52 Sum 2009
Shifting economic winds over the past year brought an end to a powerful, healthy wave that many higher education institutions rode successfully in recent years. While the work of college and university enrollment leaders and organizational executive teams is never easy, the recent student demographic spike, the abundance of online admission applications, and half a decade's surge in financial markets made for mostly smooth sailing--until last fall. Shivers of panic quickly shot through higher education. Captured vividly by both mainstream and industry media, the 2009 enrollment season was predicted to be among the most devastating in American higher education history. Some went so far as to predict that historical data would no longer be helpful in forecasting enrollment results. Surrounded by dire rhetoric, many institutional leaders were understandably fearful as this past year's enrollment cycle charted its course. But along the way to the enrollment cycle's fatal capsizing--severe excess capacity at smaller, private colleges; ballooning yields at public institutions nationwide; unrecognizable enrollment patterns--something else happened. The enrollment apocalypse simply never arrived. This is not to say that the recent enrollment cycle wasn't immensely problematic, presenting complex challenges for many institutions and resulting in disappointing outcomes for some. This is also not to say that dire financial crises for some colleges and universities have been resolved. Some have new enrollment challenges; others have had persistent difficulties recruiting a full freshman class. But there are severe and persistent budget problems at many institutions that are not enrollment related. Instead, these problems stem from endowment losses and expensive capital projects. While there were several months when it was easy to garner attention predicting enrollment disasters and dismal futures, those forecasts never held water. In this article, the authors reflect on the past year, look forward to the next, and explore why the enrollment doomsayers were wrong. The authors offer three insights that may not have been obvious in the midst of the storm.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A