May 23, 2022
Four-year colleges must take notice — and reach out to nontraditional students
U.S. college enrollments have declined by 3 million students over the past decade. While the decrease has been concentrated in community colleges, it’s coming soon to many four-year institutions.
Demographers predict an “enrollment cliff” beginning in 2025, when the traditional college-age population will start shrinking for the foreseeable future.
Unless they bring in more students, colleges will struggle financially, and some could shut their doors. Some are already doing so. The result: fewer Americans will have the skills needed to strengthen our democracy, advance our knowledge-based economy and solve the challenges of our time — from climate change to life-threatening diseases to racial inequities.
To reverse enrollment trends, colleges must do more than compete for the dwindling number of graduating high school seniors. They need new strategies to attract populations they have long undervalued and underserved: high-school students taking college courses, community-college transfers and working adults.
Here are ways colleges can develop the talents of these three groups.