What We’re Reading: Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education

by Derek Rogers, Director of College Counseling

Within the world of higher education, the prospects of major demographic shifts in the United States have been widely discussed.  Recent projections by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) have pointed towards an eventual decline in the number of American high school graduates, resulting from declining birthrates.   Additionally, changes in the demographic composition of these students and the regions they come from have already forced colleges to alter their traditional recruitment patterns.  Perhaps no book captures the nuances and potential impact resulting from this shifting landscape better than Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education, by Nathan D. Grawe.

An economics professor at Carleton College in Minnesota, Grawe examines the impact of the Great Recession (2007-2009) on future college attendance through the year 2029 using the Higher Education Demand Index (HEDI) he developed.  Unique to this approach is the emphasis placed on institution type, as HEDI forecasts differentiate between two-year colleges and several types of four-year colleges, in addition to the geographic segmentation present in other projections.  The nuanced forecasts provided by the HEDI present major challenges for institutions to solve, namely, how to combat steep enrollment declines and maintain financial stability.  Grawe also provides his thoughts on how institutions might attempt to tackle these challenges, including an increased emphasis on retention efforts and a more tactical approach to student recruitment.

All colleges and universities utilize yield prediction tools in order to help determine which students will enroll at their institution in a given year.  Each college thinks about their approach differently, based on their strategic objectives.  Increasingly, the decisions made by admission offices about which students to admit will reflect that institution’s priorities, not simply the characteristics of the student’s application.

At Rainier Scholars, we closely monitor the micro and macro level trends that impact four-year college admission decisions.  This book provides our team with a better understanding of how the enrollment landscape may change in the coming years and enhances our ability to guide our students through the admission process.  Amid the uncertainty presented in this book, the rigorous academic preparation and leadership skill development our students obtain will help them standout in this changing landscape.