Highlights from Higher Ed: Enrollment Trends, Profit Motives and Helicopter Parents

RJ Nichol
Dec 6, 2019

Enrollment remains essentially flat at private non-profit colleges

An analysis of National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) data reveals that enrollment at private non-profit colleges remains steady, despite the recent closings of several such institutions. Researchers attribute most of the past decade’s “lost enrollment” to the shuttering of for-profit schools. School closings and consolidations caused the number of private non-profit colleges to fall from 1,960 in 2017 to 1,930 in 2018; at least nine have met the same fate this year. Last year, Moody’s Investor Services predicted that up to 15 would wind down operations annually by 2019 or 2020. According to the report based on NCES data, enrollment at private nonprofits, which has been on the rise every year since “at least” 2004, climbed from 4.27 million students in 2017 to 4.28 million in 2018. In 2014, 3,630 for-profit colleges enrolled almost 2 million students; by 2018, 1.27 million students attended one of the country’s 2,790 for-profit institutions.

Source: Education Dive

Increasing and “new forms” of competition tops the list of higher-ed leaders’ concerns for the years ahead

Researchers working with the American Council on Education and the Georgia Institute of Technology asked nearly 500 public and private higher education leaders to identify which market trends will have the biggest impact on their institutions in the next five years. The most common response, cited by 62%, was “increasing/new forms of competition for prospective students.” The list of top-five concerns also includes:

  • declining traditional-age student population (59%).
  • increasing nontraditional student population (39%).
  • declining federal and state financial support (38%).
  • declining public confidence in the value of higher education (27%).
  • geopolitical uncertainty affecting international students (23%).

It’s worth noting, however, that responses provided by public and private officials often differed significantly. For example, declining financial support is a cause of concern for 63% of the latter but only 20% of the former; a decline in the number of traditional age-students worries 50% and 66%, respectively.

Source: Huron Consulting Group

Who decides when a school is non-profit?

Even though Grand Canyon University (GCU) is registered with the IRS as a non-profit institution, the Department of Education has decided to treat it as a for-profit school. Why? Because “the for-profit management company GCU hired [to oversee marketing, enrollment and other functions] was run by the same people who run the school. The CEO of the for-profit was also the President of the school.” As a result of such arrangements, one observer notes, “profits from taxpayer grants and loans, student tuition and student debt still flow to investors. And just as crucially, regardless of what the IRS says, if profit potential exists, there are incentives to recruit as many students as possible and spend as little as possible on actual teaching.”

Source: Forbes

“Helicopter parents” may be doing their college kids more harm than good

A recent study revealed that college students who say they are the children of so-called helicopter parents “were more likely to suffer from exhaustion from schoolwork, cynical attitudes about their education, and feelings of inadequacy.” The term helicopter parents refers to those who seemingly hover over the lives of their children at all times in order to monitor their activities and remove perceived obstacles from their path. According to researchers, that behavior may prevent children “from having to learn sufficient self-control skills, a gap that leaves them unprepared to handle the academic and social challenges of college life.” As a result, students may end up feeling “increasingly helpless, hopeless, and resentful” and “exerting less effort on their studies.”

Source: National Association for College Admission Counseling

RJ Nichol

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