Higher Education

Merger Watch: Cannibalism as a way to increase enrollment

Ricardo Azziz has held quite a few government positions in larger schooling and led the merger that resulted in Georgia Regents College, now Augusta College. He’s principal at Strategic Partnerships in Larger Training Consulting Group.

He writes the common Merger Watch opinion collection on company restructuring in larger schooling.

A headshot image of Ricardo Azziz

Permission granted by Ricardo Azziz


Everyone knows that enrollments are dropping. Nevertheless, contemplating the numerous providers and webinars that purport to assist enhance pupil numbers, it appears that evidently few acknowledge that it’s not the enrollment of a person faculty that’s tumbling— it’s the enrollment of the whole sector.

However the place are the scholars that everyone desires coming from? Or higher mentioned … what faculties are you going to cannibalize college students from? 

Let’s take a look at the information.

Larger schooling in america has been on a development path because the creation of the GI Invoice and the nation’s post-World Warfare II industrial dominance and rising financial prosperity. Between 1947 and 2011, enrollment in establishments of upper schooling grew eightfold. By 2021, over 60% of the U.S. inhabitants age 25 and older had attended an establishment of upper schooling, though not all have attained a school diploma. 

Nevertheless, critically, larger schooling within the U.S. has been constructed for a rising inhabitants. Public schooling programs created huge networks of campuses to serve the far reaches of their states. And personal faculties grew their enrollments and their amenities by leveraging authorities cash and the seeming willingness of the American public to pay no matter was requested, finally resulting in exponentially rising tuition and attendance charges. 

However the child boomer period is over. And so is the occasion. The nation’s inhabitants development charge dropped from 1.7% in 1961 to 0.1% in 2021. Consequently, the quantity of highschool graduates — the biggest potential faculty pupil inhabitants — has plateaued and is expected to begin to decline after 2025

On the similar time, there are lots of different forces at work reducing faculty attendance. For instance, the participation of current highschool grads in faculty dropped by almost 5% from 2010 to 2020. And the variety of college students finishing faculty inside six years has stalled at about 60% on common, larger for four-year personal nonprofits and decrease for four-year for-profit faculties. The remaining 40% of scholars who attend faculty depart with no diploma or certificates — now numbering almost 40 million disenchanted college students. And more and more, there are myriad pressures to scale back the necessity for, or the worth of, a school diploma. 

Consequently, pupil enrollment at faculties nationwide has fallen by more than 10% since 2012, reflecting a lack of greater than 2 million college students. And because the 100 or so largest establishments have gained greater than 750,000 college students throughout that interval, the precise lack of college students being confronted by faculties with lower than 30,000 college students is 2.5 million. 

To place this in perspective, we must always keep in mind that three-quarters of U.S. faculties and universities. have a median enrollment of 1,500 college students – which implies the lack of 2.5 million college students equals the whole enrollment of about 1,700 of those faculties, or about 60% of all faculties with enrollment of lower than 5,000 college students.

Whereas establishments can hope that faculty enrollments improve, they should face the information — the variety of college students attending faculty, at the very least within the fast future, will proceed to drop, and there’s no simple answer in sight. The large establishments are getting greater, and the small ones are getting smaller. 

And the one efficient option to improve enrollment within the brief time period is to cannibalize college students from different establishments — whereas different faculties attempt to do the identical factor to your pupil market. It is a expensive and infrequently wasteful fight however one which establishments — and enrollment officers — perceive must be pursued. 

One efficient development and/or survival tactic to think about on this setting are faculty and college mergers and consolidations. Whereas they might not handle the fast enrollment cliff – if finished effectively, they do yield bigger establishments which can be higher in a position to recruit and retain college students. And higher in a position to cannibalize college students from their friends… 

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