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College enrollment numbers on the decline, institutions trying new tactics to attract students

Posted at 1:06 PM, Dec 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-06 20:17:32-05

New numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau are showing fewer people are going to college. Earlier this week it announced that 18.9 million people were enrolled in 2018. That's compared to about 20.4 million in 2011 for a change of about 1.5 million.

And colleges of all types are feeling the pinch – some choosing to push back and attract new students with new tactics.

While some students cite college costs and the fear of racking up student loans, Doug Shapiro, the Executive Research Director at the National Student Clearinghouse, says there are many reasons college enrollment has dropped by 1.5 million students since 2011.

One is the nation’s strong economy which means fewer older students seeking new training at community colleges.

"Well it is a cyclical pattern,” Shapiro said.

"What we're seeing is as those students work their way through the system, and remember, even at community colleges today, it often takes four or five or even six years to finish a degree, so those students have slowly been filtering out of the system ever since.”

Ursuline College's Susan Dileno says new immigration rules impacting international students and the Great Recession have also had an effect.

"Well, it all started with the recession in 2008 when families feeling the pinch stopped having babies,” Dileno, the Vice President of Enrollment Management at the college, said.

Scott Schulz, the Vice President of Enrollment Management at Baldwin Wallace University, says location is also a factor with numbers in the northeast and Midwest especially on the decline.

"Lots of institutions, not enough people and so you are seeing then some of the struggles and some of declines are many institutions, although BW, like some others as well, are looking at it as an opportunity to find new ways to expand and strengthen the value proposition,” Schulz said.

They’re also trying to stay relevant by offering innovative programs, improving on-campus facilities and offering new opportunities for scholarships.

Baldin Wallace now offers "business information systems, digital marketing, public health, the kinds of majors that are in-demand,” Schulz said.