Where Have All The Applicants Gone?

This article was originally published by Dan Harrop on February 22, 2016. 






That is the sound of students falling from the enrollment funnel into the private education matriculation bucket.  Gone, make that long gone, are the days when filling the freshmen class was as easy as controlling the spigot through which the volumes of applications flowed.   


In no particular order..

The Cost  -   Many high school juniors and seniors are building their college list around cost or, at the very least, they are adding a few less expensive options. Search engines make it easy to comparison shop based on tuition, degrees offered, location, etc.  In a matter of minutes, students can know which schools offer a four year degree in their desired major at the lowest cost. 

This does not help the students determine the value of the degree but that is a topic for another post.

Demographics - Simply put, the static to declining number of American high school graduates will persist until the 2020s according to the  National Center for Education Statistics

Increasing competition from traditional rivals - Traditional rivals are upping their game by adding new courses, new majors, and innovative pedagogies while they continue to add and improve their facilities.  The ones with large endowments are able to increase their financial aid and/or weather a few years 'in the red' while maintaining a highly selective admission process. 

Old brick and mortar institutions are emerging as new rivals-  Often these physically and programmatically smaller institutions have been around for decades in your city or county but weren't really your competition. Recently, these small local or regional colleges began changing or expanding their mission, offering more degrees and course options.  They are re-branding from "college" to "university" or simply dropping "State" or "Community" from their name.  While this is not a new concept it seems to be happening more often as local colleges look to be regional and regional colleges look to be national in a quest for more students and more revenue.

Here are a couple examples from the last 2 years or so :

Castleton State College is now Castleton University (VT)

St. Joseph's College is now University of Saint Joseph (CT)

Richard Stockton State College is now Stockton University (NJ)

Delaware Valley College is now Delaware Valley University (DE)

Midway College is now Midway University (KY)

North Seattle Community College is now North Seattle College (WA)

Seattle Central Community College is now Seattle Central College (WA)

South Seattle Community College is now South Seattle College (WA)

Community Colleges issuing four year degrees - In 2005 there were 8 states that permitted community colleges to offer four year degrees.  Now, there are more than 21 states, according to Inside Higher Ed.  This equates to more than 146 community colleges across the US issuing 4 year diplomas.   In October 2015, the LA Times reported that 15 California community colleges would soon be approved to offer four year degrees.  Will this become a trend for all community colleges to emulate?   

In March 2014, The The Seattle Times reported that 3 community colleges dropped "Community" from their names (see above).  These institutions are now offering 4 year degrees with tuition fees that can be calculated in hundreds of dollars instead of the thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars found at most private 4 year degree granting institutions.

Increasing competition from new, perhaps more formidable, rivals -  Institutions and business are rolling out new learning pedagogies online almost daily.  Many are venture funded educational startups springing from great software minds in Silicon Valley, Boston, NYC or other tech cities According to Forbes, $2.5 billion was poured into the educational technology sector in the first six months of 2015!  Some of these companies are partnering with colleges and universities to create online and hybrid teaching models to enhance the learning experience for their students.  For others, it is about finding a model to make money and lots of it. In this world, 'students' are viewed as 'consumers'. 

MOOCs (massive open online course)  A few years ago the talk was about how MOOCs would change the education landscape forever.  While the sizzle on this concept seems to be fading there is still reason for the education establishment to be on their toes.  According to EdSurge, in the summer of 2013 there were approximately 500 course options available.  There are now about 2500 course options available at 400+ universities enrolling 16-18 million students.  These numbers will most likely continue to increase as MOOCs, like community colleges, begin to offer 4 year degrees- starting this year. http://www.moocsuniversity.org/mooc-based-degrees.html

For-Profits institutions - Lately, these institutions have been under a great deal of pressure from the federal government but don't count them out yet. Many of those small software startups could grow into this category with a brick and mortar presence.  Aside from that, there are currently around 3,416 for-profit institutions in the USA according to IES National Center for Education Statistics. http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2015/2015097.pdf.  While this number represents fewer than the year prior it is and will continue to attract and enroll students.


2001 - 2002  -  766,000 students enrolled

2013 - 2014  -   3.2 million students enrolled 

WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN? -  Are we in the early stages of a cosmic shift in how we view and experience education?  What do you think?

Buzzwords in US Private Education Is About More Than Rebranding

This article was originally published by Dan Harrop on February 8, 2016.  


for sale.jpg



For Sale

Times are tough for many private institutions in the education market.  On the admission front, there is a shortage of applicants, a shortage of matriculants and a shortage of financial aid dollars to attract the best and the brightest.  

According to data released by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, a nonprofit education organization, 19.3 million students were enrolled in two-or four-year public or private schools.  This represents a nearly 1.3 million fall from the 2011 peak enrollment figure.  It also represents the fourth year in row where the number of US college students declined.   

While the US has seen tremendous growth in the number of international students enrolled (IIE annual Open Doors survey ), these increases cannot make up the difference in the flat to negative growth of US high school graduates ( National Center for Education Statistics) encompassed with the increased competition from traditional rivals, online options, community colleges and for-profit institutions.

Decreasing income from declining tuition revenue year after year has forced senior administrators and board level leadership to implement change (with a capital 'C' ) beyond simply launching a new marketing campaign or hiring a new VP of Enrollment Management.  

Leaders will look to secure the future of their respective institutions and words, not often associated with American education, will become more and more commonplace in boardrooms across the country.

Words such as:  Merger, acquisition, bought, sold.....closed.

VIETNAM: Tiger or Pussycat

This article was originally published by Dan Harrop on June 8, 2016.



In the American world of international admission all eyes are on Vietnam.  Universities, colleges, and even private and public high schools are recruiting students from this growing market. 

Vietnam's importance in the education sector cannot be overstated.  Korea is no longer sending the volume of students as in past years and many recruiters are hoping to cover this gap by enrolling more students from this pro-America country.  The question for many schools is:

1. Is Vietnam a 'full pay' market?  If not, how should education institutions allocate financial and personnel resources?

2. Is Vietnam going to continue to be a major sender to US institutions or is this the apex?

3.  How price sensitive is this market?

Determining the answers to these questions is more an art than a science and the answer to a $70k a year boarding school might not be the same as to a $30k - $40k university or college.  There is no shortage of anecdotal data to suggest that Vietnam is a growing Tiger- just ask an international admission director.  At the same time, SEVIS data released in December 2015 shows positive momentum to re-affirm the hopes and suspicions of many:


The coming admission cycles will be telling as to the future of this young and burgeoning education market.