Othot Report Analyzes Data From 454 Colleges, Finds Vastly Different Institution-to-Institution Impacts From Forthcoming Demographic Cliff

In one finding, 25 percent of public universities will face steep enrollment declines of 9 percent or more after 2025, though many public schools are still well positioned to survive the national enrollment downturn.

February 8, 2021 · 
3 minute read

Pittsburgh, PA (February 8, 2021) — Othot, provider of the nation’s most advanced analytics platform for colleges and universities, today released their latest Higher Ed Pulse Report, Futureproofing Institutions Against the Demographic Cliff, analyzing enrollment trends and institution-level data from more than 450 four-year colleges and universities. The report found deep differences in how schools are positioned to experience and address the forthcoming national reduction in college-age students.

National research estimates and projections show a significant decline in new college students just around the corner, beginning after 2025. Triggered by the “birth dearth” of the 2008 economic recession, fewer students will graduate from high school through at least 2032, draining college enrollments and revenue.

"So far, the view of this demographic cliff has been regional or by state, which isn’t particularly helpful if you’re making decisions for a specific school," said Andy Hannah, co-Founder, chairman, and chief partnership officer of Othot. “So, we went as deep as the public data would allow, looking under the hood at 454 colleges and found that the coming enrollment shocks won’t be universal and that the geography of where a school is located, for example, is not the only thing that matters to their future enrollments.”

Key findings of the "Futureproofing Institutions Against the Demographic Cliff" report include:

  • The coming reduction in traditional enrollees will squeeze most schools - 80 percent of the schools in the analysis will likely see overall enrollment declines between 2021-2028.
  • Where a school is located is not determinative of enrollment, but where they recruit is.
  • Even so, geographic concentration of recruiting matters since the institutions with negative expected growth between 2020-28 recruit an average of 57 percent of their first year students from their home state.
  • Between 2025-28, a quarter of public institutions will experience enrollment declines of 9 percent or more. Just 11.8 percent of private schools are expected to see declines of that magnitude.
  • Of the 114 institutions in the lowest quartile for expected growth, 40 (35 percent) also have retention rates in the lowest quarter of the sample, providing opportunities to soften the impact of enrollment declines by boosting retention. Of those 40, only eight are private schools.

Highlighting that geography does not necessarily lock in enrollment trends, the new report shares the example of the city of Chicago. Even though they share the city, the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois – Chicago will experience the national and regional declines differently because of where they recruit. While the University of Chicago is projected to see first-time, first-year enrollments drop 4 percent, its urban neighbor will face a decline nearly three times as deep, at 11 percent.

As a further example, just because a school is in a state that is expected to grow in the next decade does not mean the school will. Even if a significant share of a school’s students come from a growth state, competition for those students is likely to increase as other schools implement strategic changes to offset their projected losses.

“The headline here is that the winter of enrollment is coming,” said Patricia Beeson, Provost Emerita, University of Pittsburgh; Director of Research at Othot. “And to be ready, to prepare, you need to know how those conditions will impact your recruitment market directly and what the opportunities and challenges are. You’ve got to get that information and see it clearly, and then act quickly. Otherwise, demographics will become destiny and for many schools, that future is not pretty.”

"Futureproofing Institutions Against the Demographic Cliff," co-authored by Hannah and Beeson, examined multiple data points of the 454 schools from public sources and used existing demographic projections to develop enrollment estimates for two periods, before 2025, when national enrollments are projected to increase slightly, and after 2025, when they are expected to sharply decline. The results are segmented by region, by state, by size of rise and fall, by institution type and by retention opportunities.

The names of the 454 analyzed schools are included in the report. If requested, Othot will provide growth analysis for each individual institution in the report.

About Othot, Inc.
is the leader in advanced analytics and artificial intelligence solutions for higher education institutions across the United States. Together, Othot and its partner schools focus on each institution’s specific enrollment, student success, and advancement goals. Othot’s cloud-based solution provides continuous intelligence in real time and empowers schools to engage each prospective, current, and former student with the right tactic at the right time. Othot is higher intelligence for higher education.

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