Colleges Will Downsize In The Next Decade

With shrinking demographics enrolling and schools financials getting tight, look for a major shift in academics.

Here’s more from

For the past seven years, Gallup, commissioned by Inside Higher Ed, has polled the opinions of the country’s college and university business officers. This year’s results are out. They are not optimistic, nor should they be. According to the respondents, a growing number of their schools face not only financial decline but also an inability/unwillingness to deal with it.

Simply put, fewer students in K-12 means fewer high school graduates; fewer high school graduates means fewer college enrollments. The heady times of the last 15-plus years, when we in universities could count on steady enrollments, are over, according to the report. The question for university leaders now becomes what to do about it. That is where the situation becomes more complicated.

With the magnitude of the demographic changes they face, it makes sense that there was a 16 percentage point decline over the past year of those business officers responding that their school’s strategy would be to increase enrollment. In its place, reallocation of existing revenues is now favored by 64 percent. To this end, roughly 50 percent of respondents—seven percent more than last year—indicated a determination to close underperforming academic programs next year; 44 percent responded that they will be reducing administrative positions, up from 35 percent in 2016.

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