The enrollment challenges facing colleges and universities are clear.  Higher education in the United States is facing extraordinary obstacles and hundreds of institutions are struggling to just maintain current enrollment levels. Even more are facing significant declines.  
It is reasonable to attribute enrollment challenges to market conditions, the pandemic, demographics, financial aid under-funding, and more.
Here are the current realities of our times:
  • Enrollment is down at colleges and universities.  Community colleges have been impacted the greatest, but overall enrollment in just the last year is down by more than 3% across the spectrum.  Enrollment decreases at Christian colleges have been even more pronounced.


  • The pandemic continues to negatively impact enrollment.  Students have elected to drop out, delay initial enrollment, or permanently opt out of college.


  • Concerns regarding return on investment are causing many families to reconsider the value of investment in post-secondary education. Students interested in preaching, evangelism, and mission work are deterred by the prospect of supporting a family while also pursuing a meaningful vision.


  • Demographic realities translate into fewer high school graduates and smaller customer bases.


  • The economy is making it more difficult for adults called to Christ to choose a new career.
The challenges are real, but not determinate. 
Despite the myriad of obstacles, many institutions have thrived during these times. Instead of using current conditions as an excuse, a few colleges and universities have elected to closely examine current and historic strategies and tactics to consider new and proven approaches that can overcome current trends.
Here are some general approaches to consider:
  • Before you surrender to the popular explanations for your enrollment decline, decide to evaluate how your current plans regarding recruitment, financial aid, and retention may be influencing your disappointing outcomes.


  • Establish a committee to evaluate all admission, financial aid, and retention policies.


  • Consider securing outside counsel to take a detailed look at your enrollment management operation to offer suggestions for substantive change.
Christian colleges have more at stake than just budget imperatives and operational survival.  Do not let noncompetitive enrollment tactics deter the ability of your institution to spread the good work.
In my previous post, I offered eight effect ways to prepare for post-pandemic enrollment. However, additional evaluative steps may be necessary today because the mission demands it!  


  • John Dysart

    John W. Dysart is President of The Dysart Group.  He has held leadership positions and provided consulting services in higher education for more than thirty years. Mr. Dysart has consulted with more than 170 colleges and has been able to increase new student enrollments by as much as 70%, reduce or stabilize discount rates and increase retention rates by as much as 7% in a single cycle. Considered a national expert in enrollment management, John Dysart has conducted seminars and made dozens of presentations for 18 higher education professional organizations and has written articles for several higher education publications.

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