Colleges Left Scrambling as Enrollment Falls

Friday, 26 Jul 2013 02:12 PM

By Melanie Batley

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American colleges have for years filled their coffers with huge tuition hikes built on an enormous demand for student placements. But now many institutions of higher learning are facing the prospect of financial difficulty as enrollment levels fall.

According to The New York Times, college enrollment fell two percent in 2012-2013, the first significant decline since the 1990s. Nearly all of that decline, as it turns out, has been absorbed by for-profit and community colleges.

With another year of expected declines for 2013-2014, traditional four-year, nonprofit institutions are expected to see a contraction that will last for several years as many choose instead to take advantage of the economic recovery and head for the workplace.

The wealthiest, and most competitive colleges, however, are expected to remain unaffected.

"There are many institutions that are on the margin, economically, and are very concerned about keeping their doors open if they can't hit their enrollment numbers," David Hawkins, the director of public policy and research at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, told the Times.

But aside from the lure of employment, colleges are concerned that it's also their high tuition costs that are putting students off because they worry about debt. Schools are trying to address that problem by offering deeper discounts and accelerated degree programs, which could ultimately change the entire landscape of the once standard four-year residential college experience.

Thats good news for aspiring students. Gaining admission to middle-tier institutions will most likely get easier, the Times reports. A number of colleges who have seen their admissions plummet are now aggressively recruiting and even extending the May deadline for students to secure their places.

Some institutions have even resorted to calling students who declined their spots and trying to convince them to change their minds.

"After May 1, I got e-mails from three or four colleges saying, 'We've still got spots, and we're looking for people to fill them,' and I don't remember getting any in the past," Lisa Bleich, an admissions consultant, told The Times.

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