Perhaps more than any other factor that so deeply affects an institution’s bottom line, enrollment often seems out of our control as presidents and chancellors: We can’t change the birthrates, geography, economy, and population shifts that to a great extent determine whether a campus or system has enough students and revenue to continue offering a high-quality education.
Yet that is not the whole story. As the pool of traditional-age students shrinks, our commitment to improving the lives of students must continue to grow, broadening our reach to more nontraditional students, including more underserved students, more working adult students, and more student veterans.
As all of the enrollment-success stories of ACE member institutions in this issue illustrate, demographics are not destiny. They are a dynamic set of climatic variables that colleges and universities must anticipate, adapt to, and leverage in order to serve the mission of higher education.
In Ohio, a state experiencing particularly steep population changes and lower birthrates, University of Cincinnati President Santa J. Ono describes how his institution is breaking enrollment records without sacrificing quality.
As campuses increasingly look abroad for students, Robin Matross Helms, the senior research specialist in ACE’s Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement, taps experts in the field to highlight future trends and implications for international enrollment.
Across a wide swath of institutional types—North Carolina Central University, Dickinson College (PA), Georgia Gwinnett College, and Lawrence College (WI)—each president and chancellor has overcome daunting enrollment odds with bold and innovative strategies to widen the recruitment pool, stop admissions “melt,” and strengthen retention rates.
The diversity of these and other innovative strategies and scenarios reflects the strong diversity of our higher education community, but there is one important commonality among them: No one at any of these institutions would claim that their enrollment successes came easily. In fact, each represents an intense focus on data, student needs, and the imperative of rising to a challenge.
As our Annual Meeting draws near, I look forward to hearing from you and your colleagues about your own success. Along with insights from such luminaries as Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman of The City University of New York and The New York Times and Michael Beschloss, who has been called “the nation’s leading presidential historian,” we will bring you vital networking opportunities and practical sessions that will equip you with new tools and best practices for overcoming your own institution’s challenges.
I look forward to seeing you in Washington on March 14–17.
Molly Corbett Broad
American Council on Education