Thursday, 6 March 2014

Private Colleges: Decline in Enrolments sees a Dip

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"I think it's fair to say 30 percent of these private schools won't exist in a decade." - Jonathan Henry, vice president of enrolment, Husson University, Bangor, Maine (Source: goo.gl/j1clVw)

This quote is proving to be truer than the truth. If you follow the trends of private college enrolments, you will see how badly it has been suffering. As an educator, I find it important to follow any kind of news related to the education system and an article on the declining rate of enrolment in private colleges is what caught my eye. With the steady decline in enrolment from 2010-13, around 45 colleges have joined hands with other institutions in order to survive and sustain their position.

How are the colleges responding?

I further read that at Husson University, enrolments in 2013 were 10% lower than they were in 2009. This figure was rather alarming and I couldn’t believe the situation private schools were in. It was also mentioned that the schools that were struggling or hanging by a thread were either surviving with mergers, pay cuts, new recruitment plans or were finding answers with layoffs and closure.

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Other ways in which colleges responding

Also, many colleges responded differently. For example, ‘single-sex’ colleges were becoming co-ed, to attract more students; other colleges went to high schools, outside the country, trying to attract rich students who were willing to cross borders. Also, some universities are offering part scholarships to students who schedule a campus tour, hence attracting more students.

The affects of the decline

The reason for the decline of enrolment seems to be affecting all of us. There is a great decline in people graduating from school and that decline seems like it will continue in future. Another major reason for the decline is the advancement of technology and online learning substitutes which is upsetting profit margins as well as costs, student debt seems to be on the rise as the job market seems to be falling for graduates and incomes are starting to stagnate.

The impact of technology on physical schools

As I read on, I also saw how technology has invaded the education system, leaving little room for physical colleges to grow. In future, the physical colleges will lessen due to the mergers and bankruptcies, but students will get various choices to complete their education. In future, students will get the opportunity to take a combination of various courses through different modes of study, traditional, blended, and online or even through MOOCs. In fact, according to a study conducted by American Association of State Colleges and Universities, 14% (around 3 million) students are completing their graduation online, whereas 30% of the students take at least one class online. The online headcount has increased by 53% at the College of DuPage, since 2009. While this is brilliant news for students who find it easier to study online, it is bad news for physical private colleges.

The future... As employers these days are accepting online degrees and certificates and as online college courses are flexible, more affordable and more convenient, people have started picking online college courses instead of traditional college courses. Though this may be grim for traditional colleges, it is a beacon of hope for those who cannot afford to go to traditional college. After thinking for a while, I came to the conclusion that as technology is taking over the world probably this is a good thing but embracing technology completely will leave no room for the institutions that have existed for such a long time and have contributed in a large way. What is fair is rather inconclusive. So all we can do, is wait and watch, and adjust with time.