Merger Watch: Cannibalism as a technique to enhance enrollment — science weblog

Ricardo Azziz has held quite a few govt positions in greater training and led the merger that resulted in Georgia Regents College, now Augusta College. He’s principal at Strategic Partnerships in Larger Schooling Consulting Group.

He writes the common Merger Watch opinion collection on company restructuring in greater training.

A headshot image of Ricardo Azziz

Permission granted by Ricardo Azziz


Everyone knows that enrollments are dropping. Nevertheless, contemplating the various providers and webinars that purport to assist enhance scholar numbers, plainly few acknowledge that it’s not the enrollment of a person school that’s tumbling— it’s the enrollment of all the sector.

However the place are the scholars that everyone desires coming from? Or higher mentioned … what schools are you going to cannibalize college students from? 

Let’s have a look at the info.

Larger training in the USA has been on a development path for the reason that creation of the GI Invoice and the nation’s post-World Warfare II industrial dominance and rising financial prosperity. Between 1947 and 2011, enrollment in establishments of upper training grew eightfold. By 2021, over 60% of the U.S. inhabitants age 25 and older had attended an establishment of upper training, though not all have attained a school diploma. 

Nevertheless, critically, greater training within the U.S. has been constructed for a rising inhabitants. Public training methods created huge networks of campuses to serve the far reaches of their states. And personal schools grew their enrollments and their amenities by leveraging authorities cash and the seeming willingness of the American public to pay no matter was requested, ultimately resulting in exponentially rising tuition and attendance charges. 

However the child boomer period is over. And so is the occasion. The nation’s inhabitants development price dropped from 1.7% in 1961 to 0.1% in 2021. Consequently, the quantity of highschool graduates — the biggest potential school scholar inhabitants — has plateaued and is anticipated to start to say no after 2025

On the identical time, there are a lot of different forces at work lowering school attendance. For instance, the participation of latest highschool grads in school dropped by virtually 5% from 2010 to 2020. And the variety of college students finishing school inside six years has stalled at about 60% on common, greater for four-year non-public nonprofits and decrease for four-year for-profit schools. The remaining 40% of scholars who attend school go away with out a diploma or certificates — now numbering almost 40 million disenchanted college students. And more and more, there are myriad pressures to cut back the necessity for, or the worth of, a school diploma. 

Consequently, scholar enrollment at schools nationwide has fallen by greater than 10% since 2012, reflecting a lack of greater than 2 million college students. And for the reason that 100 or so largest establishments have gained greater than 750,000 college students throughout that interval, the precise lack of college students being confronted by schools with lower than 30,000 college students is 2.5 million. 

To place this in perspective, we should always keep in mind that three-quarters of U.S. schools and universities. have a mean enrollment of 1,500 college students – which implies the lack of 2.5 million college students equals the entire enrollment of about 1,700 of those schools, or about 60% of all schools with enrollment of lower than 5,000 college students.

Whereas establishments can hope that school enrollments enhance, they should face the info — the variety of college students attending school, at the very least within the speedy future, will proceed to drop, and there’s no simple answer in sight. The massive establishments are getting larger, and the small ones are getting smaller. 

And the one efficient technique to enhance enrollment within the brief time period is to cannibalize college students from different establishments — whereas different schools attempt to do the identical factor to your scholar market. It is a expensive and sometimes wasteful fight however one which establishments — and enrollment officers — perceive must be pursued. 

One efficient development and/or survival tactic to think about on this setting are school and college mergers and consolidations. Whereas they could not handle the speedy enrollment cliff – if completed properly, they do yield bigger establishments which can be higher in a position to recruit and retain college students. And higher in a position to cannibalize college students from their friends… 

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