Higher Ed Happenings - Enrollment Tensions

Higher Ed Happenings - Enrollment Tensions

I’ve just returned to work after an incredible trip to Egypt (thanks Nectir for the PTO!) and find myself wading through the higher education news sites and publications to get up to speed. This has been a fruitful exercise; I’m hoping to write a weekly update here wherein I share my thoughts on what’s happening in higher education as a means to navigate the waters myself. There’s certainly a lot happening in the administrative space — see University of Florida’s presidential appointee — but the undercurrent continues to be enrollment tensions.

If you’re not familiar, here are a few of the contributing factors to this crisis:

  • Declining birthrates have resulted in fewer college-age people
  • Rising tuition costs and student debt are a barrier
  • Growing skepticism of the value of a degree and return on investment
  • The inequities in access, health, and wellness magnified by the pandemic

In fact, 1.3 million students disappeared from US colleges during the pandemic; undergraduate attendance has fallen nearly 10% and many schools continue to see enrollment drops throughout 2022. But the rate are which students are choosing to leave higher ed or not pursue it at all points to a much sharper downturn than expected. This is something on my mind, and on the minds of all education professionals, admissions to student affairs to adjunct faculty.

So, what do we do? Well, I wish I had the secret sauce to share. While I search for that insight, I would highlight the work of the Student Experience Project — SEP is a collaborative committed to building equitable learning environments and fostering a sense of belonging on campus. Much of their work aligns with what we are trying to do at Nectir and research shows that when students feel like they belong, they have more positive learning experiences and are more likely to persist.

If you’re looking for a way to address enrollment, invest sometime in making sure students feel they belong. SEP recently published a report, Increasing Equity in Student Experience: Findings from a National Collaborative, that describes early findings and lessons learned from the collaborative and presents future directions for university leaders seeking to systematically measure and improve student experience. There's some actionable items too! Check out the First Day Toolkit that guides faculty through the process of improving syllabi and the first day of class to support social belonging, growth mindset, and an equitable learning experience, or consider using Ascend, a free, data-driven program that enables instructors and administrators to get feedback on student experiences and create a more supportive learning environment.

If we are going to tackle the challenges surrounding higher education, we’re going to do it one student at a time. Let’s start by ensuring all students are welcome and belong in our classrooms.

Community in every class.

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