Insights from the Higher Ed Experts

BY Anthony Campisi | September 14th, 2023

How Colleges Can Solve Undergrad Admissions Challenges

How Colleges Can Solve Undergrad Admissions ChallengesIt’s no secret that colleges face a number of challenges when it comes to attracting undergrads in the future. The much-discussed “demographic cliff” will shrink the pool of potential freshmen as soon as 2025, and at the same time, many parents are now questioning if college has the best return on investment (ROI) given its rising costs and the rapidly changing nature of the country’s economy. So how can colleges solve undergrad admissions challenges?

Fortunately, all hope is not lost. In fact, colleges all around the country can use these admissions challenges as opportunities to reinvent themselves and prepare for the future. Here’s how colleges can tackle the undergrad admissions challenges head-on and adopt the strategies they need to succeed in the future.

Undergrad Admissions Challenge: Facing the demographic cliff

Sometimes called the enrollment cliff, the demographic cliff facing colleges in the near future has been the source of much hand-wringing, but just what is it exactly? It refers to the potential 10-15% enrollment drop facing colleges due to the shrinking population of 18-year-olds beginning around 2025. This is largely due to the demographic impact of the Great Recession from 2007 to 2009 and its aftermath, which caused many families to have fewer children or put off having them entirely. In the subsequent years, birth rates have failed to increase, leaving fewer college-aged students in the coming years.

Although colleges can’t alter demography, of course, they can take proactive steps to prepare for the upcoming enrollment cliff and minimize its impact. Some of these include:

  • Making the application process simpler and more streamlined by switching to a test-blind or test-optional admissions process.
  • Placing additional recruitment marketing efforts on students who attended college in the past but never graduated with a degree. These non-traditional students represent an attractive opportunity to help bolster enrollment.
  • Crafting messaging toward prospective adult students looking to reskill, change careers, or adapt to economic changes like the rise of AI.
  • Employing personalized marketing campaigns toward prospective students, with tailored emails, text messages, and other forms of communication.
  • Shifting your marketing strategy and messaging to engage students earlier, focusing on the benefits of attending college, and ensuring they’re getting the information they need quickly and easily.

Undergrad Admissions Challenge: Addressing the ROI question

At the same time colleges are facing demographic challenges, many families are flat-out questioning if college is worth it given rising costs and the fast-changing nature and unpredictability of the economy.

Although this is another undergrad admissions challenge that colleges need to address, prospective undergraduates and their families can be assuaged with the right messaging and information. When marketing to them, focus on conveying the value that a college degree offers. Statistics consistently show that college graduates on average make $1.2 million in lifetime earnings more compared to those without a degree – make sure your prospects know this figure!

In addition to this, emphasize the transferable skills, higher social capital, increased employment opportunities, and access to jobs with better benefits that college graduates are able to obtain. By conveying value and long-term opportunities, your messaging and marketing can help calm families understandably skittish about rising college costs and lingering student loan debt.

Prepare for the future today

Colleges are at a crossroads. Despite the looming challenges facing undergraduate enrollment in the future, taking proactive steps and adopting new and innovative strategies can help future-proof your organization. Need help in preparing for the future and addressing these challenges head-on? GPRS has the experience and expertise you need. Contact us today for more information.