COVID-19 and US higher education enrollment: Preparing leaders for fall

COVID-19 and US higher education enrollment: Preparing leaders for fall

The first year in university helps define the student experience and heavily influences the institution’s finances. Higher education leaders are concerned about what will happen in the Autumn. This survey insights article published by Mckinsey & Company may be able to help provide some answers.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a massive toll on lives and livelihoods around the globe. The public-health crisis and economic devastation we are experiencing now have thrown entire industries and institutions into turmoil. Higher education leaders responded quickly by moving to remote learning for the remainder of the 2019 academic year, but they now face a new challenge: 2020 enrollment. Understanding the potential impacts of COVID-19 on enrollment is critical. In a recent survey, 86 percent of college presidents put fall or summer enrollment numbers at the top of their most pressing issues in the face of COVID-19

The predictive-enrollment models that leaders have used to plan classes won’t hold up in a COVID-19 world. Much will be tested, including an institution’s ability to serve and educate all students and create the sense of community and vibrancy typically found on campuses nationwide—and their ability to do so in a financially sustainable way; tuition and fees make up 26 percent of revenues for four-year public institutions and 35 percent for four-year private nonprofit institutions.2 As we have seen, the effects of COVID-19 are not playing out equitably, which higher education leaders must take into account as they make decisions for their schools’ futures.

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