Washington Post, Higher Education Is Headed For a Supply and Demand Crisis:
Already, we’re beginning to see the impact of demographic changes in higher education. A survey released last week by the Chronicle of Higher Education found that 52 percent of private colleges and 44 percent of public colleges didn’t meet their enrollment goals this past fall.
“We’re an expensive product,” Kathryn Coffman, vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid at Franklin College in Indiana, told the Chronicle. “Now more than ever, outcomes are critical, and people want to know that the investment they’re making is going to result in something.” ...
The raw numbers are sobering. But then a new book landed on my desk a few weeks ago that put the figures in a new, and disturbing, light. In Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education [(Johns Hopkins University Press 2017)], Nathan D. Grawe, an economics professor at Carleton College, in Minnesota, explores the overall decline in high school graduates in greater detail.
As he notes early in the book, just because someone graduates from high school doesn’t mean she will go to college. The past two decades in higher education have been about expansion as the percentage of high school graduates going to college has increased even when high school enrollments plateaued. Higher education leaders have generally assumed that the college-going rate in the United States, now just shy of 70 percent, would continue to inch up. Few have considered it could move in the opposite direction.
In researching his book, Grawe created something he calls the “Higher Education Demand Index.” It attempts to adapt population trends into college-attendance forecasts, using federal education data to estimate the probability that different populations from different cities and states will go to college.
“Unless something unexpected intervenes, the confluence of current demographic changes foretells an unprecedented reduction in postsecondary demand about a decade ahead,” Grawe writes. ...
Not all schools will be affected equally, Grawe argues. Elite colleges— those ranked in the top 50 in U.S. News & World Report nationally — will have about half the drop-off in student demand as those outside the top 100 because household brand names attract students willing to travel far distances.