As higher education institutions navigate through their first year of “normalcy” since the pandemic, they will continue to create paths toward a brighter future for their students. But what does the future look like for the institutions themselves?
In a recent survey conducted by the accounting firm BDO, leaders across 47 colleges and universities were asked to list their top priorities for 2023. Here’s what they had to say
Of the options below, which are among your top three priorities for the next 12 months?
- 81% reported improving enrollment and student retention.
- 74% are seeking new sources of revenue and funding.
- 55% want to improve staff retention and recruitment.
What’s surprising, however, is that such a low number of college leaders chose student and staff diversity as a top priority:
- 15% aim to increase board or staff diversity.
- 4% say they want to enhance board expertise.
- 4% reported looking to increase the diversity of the student body.
According to recent data from the National Student Clearinghouse, enrollment among undergraduates has dropped by nearly 1.4 million, and enrollment numbers continue to dip.
“Given this drastic decline, it is not a surprise that colleges and universities plan to prioritize student retention and enrollment,” the survey reads. “While the 2008 recession correlated with increased enrollment for graduate degrees, an economic downturn may not have a similar effect this time due to costs and shifting attitudes about higher education.”
Since leaders have shown a great deal of concern for tackling student enrollment, here’s a look at how respondents say they’re addressing this issue:
- 68% say they’re implementing campaigns to encourage potential students to enroll.
- 55% are lowering tuition.
- 55% are offering new degrees and courses.
- 47% are increasing hybrid learning opportunities.
“Beset by many of the same challenges as other nonprofits, colleges and universities are grappling with inflation, the anticipated economic downturn and a competitive recruitment and retention environment,” the survey reads. “They also are contending with challenges unique to their organizations: Many smaller institutions are grappling with declining student enrollment, and colleges and universities of all sizes are navigating a triumphant return to campus life while balancing hybrid course options amid the ongoing pandemic.”
College leaders represented in the survey come from institutions that lie generally in the middle of the market. Nearly half of these institutions receive between $25 million and $75 million annually in revenue. Around 53% report between $512 million and $200 million in assets.