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Moody’s: Enrollment hinges on programs aligning with student interests

Moody’s: Enrollment hinges on programs aligning with student interests

Higher Ed Dive

Laura Spitalniak
October 20, 2023
Dive Brief:
  • Colleges’ ability to adapt their academic programs based on student interests and labor market demands will become increasingly important to counter enrollment challenges, suggests a new analysis from Moody’s Investors Service.
  • Institutions equipped to closely track shifting student interests and adjust their offerings accordingly stand to benefit when trying to recruit enrollees, the analysis said.
  • For instance, computer and information sciences programs’ undergraduate enrollment has grown across public colleges, even though the number of undergraduates broadly has declined. Focusing on these degrees could help boost enrollment and avoid financial distress, Moody’s said.
Dive Insight:
College enrollment has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels, with undergraduate numbers falling 7.7% between spring 2019 and spring 2023, Moody’s said.
Institutions are also preparing for the 2025 demographic cliff — an expected drop-off in high school graduates due to declining birth rates during the Great Recession.
To adapt programs to student and labor market demands, colleges could create new credentials or eliminate existing ones that no longer attract students.
“To be sure, the connection between student interest in degree programs and labor market dynamics is imperfect,” the analysis said. “But data that takes into account mid-career wages and underemployment by bachelor’s degree program shows a handful of programs that offer universities a significant opportunity to grow or stabilize enrollment, including computer science and engineering.”
But pivoting to in-demand technology fields isn’t a panacea for colleges.
Improving computer science programs can be expensive, as qualified faculty may receive competing compensation offers, Moody’s said.
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