The enrollment cliff: A trail guide for academic leaders

Student comparing notes whilst sitting on a bench

Are we standing on the enrollment cliff?

What academic leaders need to know.

Are you growing weary of the doomsday predictions colleagues throw around about the enrollment cliff? Want a fresh take? In this blog, we’ll discuss what the enrollment cliff is, what it means for academic leaders, and how they can navigate their institutions through this challenge through innovation and creative solutions.

What is the enrollment cliff?

The term "enrollment cliff" refers to a predicted decline in student enrollment in higher education institutions, particularly in the United States. This phenomenon has been a growing concern for academic leaders as they anticipate the potential challenges and implications it may have on their institutions. The enrollment cliff can be attributed to several factors, including demographic shifts, economic conditions, affordability concerns, and changes in student preferences.

What do academic leaders need to know about this issue?

  1. Demographic shifts: The traditional college-aged population (18-24 years) is projected to decrease in many regions, leading to a decline in the number of potential students. This decline is primarily due to a decrease in birth rates in previous years.

  2. Economic conditions: Economic factors, such as recessions or fluctuations in job markets, can influence enrollment patterns. During economic downturns, individuals may choose to enter the workforce or delay pursuing higher education due to financial constraints.

  3. Affordability concerns: Rising tuition costs and student loan debt have become significant concerns for prospective students. Affordability issues can deter students from enrolling in higher education institutions or lead them to explore alternative educational pathways.

  4. Competition and market saturation: Higher education institutions are facing increased competition from alternative education providers, such as coding bootcamps, online platforms, and vocational training programs. These alternatives often offer more targeted and skill-specific education, appealing to students seeking immediate job prospects.

  5. Changing student preferences: Shifts in student preferences and expectations are influencing enrollment patterns. This was drastically hastened by the pandemic when universities worldwide shifted to online offerings. Students are increasingly seeking flexible learning options, online programs, and programs that align with their career aspirations. Institutions need to adapt their offerings to meet these evolving demands.

How can ACI Learning help?

If your academic institution is looking to stay ahead of enrollment cliff issues by adapting to meet modern learner expectations, providing flexibility, enhancing curriculum offerings, and supporting learners throughout their lifetime career trajectory, ACI Learning makes it easy to complement your robust tradition of education with innovative — and even delightful — supportive content.

Academic institutions struggle to keep curriculum up to date with the rapidly changing fields of IT and cybersecurity.

We produce some of the best IT and cybersecurity content [ND2] [ND3] in the industry to ensure learners have the knowledge they need — coupled with hands-on virtual labs and assessments — to complete their academic career and be job-ready. Our subject matter experts and world-class video production studios create training content that is constantly updated to align with industry standards, changes in certifications and challenges that demand solutions.

It can be difficult to meet modern learner expectations and provide training that is easy to integrate into existing LMS and curriculum.

We work closely with you to map, modify, and mix and match learning content from our evolving library, and can create bespoke video and lab content. We ensure set up is easy with LTI and provide deep links. Our content is delivered in formats that suit the modern online classroom, including hands-on labs, in-person, online and on-demand.

It can be difficult to keep learners engaged.

Our training is called binge-worthy for a reason: Our unique, on-demand video courses are filmed in a dual host, talk show format. We offer more than 7,000 hours of content in the vendors and skills your IT students need to advance learning. From network security, cloud management, subnetting, firewall configuration, storage, DevOps, and more,students can learn and practice it all. We also allow students to test their skills in a risk-free, virtual environment through our Practice Labs.

Want to learn more about the enrollment cliff?

Academic leaders can gain a deeper understanding of the enrollment cliff phenomenon and access practical strategies to address the potential challenges it poses for their institutions. To delve deeper into the topic and explore additional insights, you can refer to the following sources:

  1. The College Enrollment Cliff: Understanding the Enrollment Patterns and Preferences of College-Bound Students by Simpson Scarborough (2018): This report provides an in-depth analysis of the enrollment cliff phenomenon and offers strategies for institutions to address the challenges associated with it. It can be accessed here.

  2. The Enrollment Cliff: Averting the Collapse of Higher Education by Brian C. Mitchell and W. Joseph King (2017): This book discusses the factors contributing to the enrollment decline and provides insights into potential strategies for academic leaders to navigate this challenging landscape.

  3. Inside Higher Ed covers a wide range of topics related to higher education, including the enrollment cliff. It offers news, analysis, and opinion pieces that can provide valuable insights into current trends and discussions.

  4. The Chronicle of Higher Education is a reputable source for news, analysis, and commentary on higher education. It regularly covers issues related to enrollment trends and provides a comprehensive view of the challenges faced by academic leaders.

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