Using admissions tools like AMP allows colleges and universities to harness the power of data when evaluating prospects, applicants, and admitted students. In the past, the pipeline to admission began with evaluating favorable high school demographics and pursuing those students. Now, schools are shifting their pipeline focus further into the future, prospecting as far as 20 years into the future.
Why the sudden prospect anxiety? There are a number of factors contributing towards this change. During the past few years, admissions trends have taken a turn. After an all-time high of 3.3 million applicants in 2008, admissions numbers began dropping, marking the start of a “long decline in the number of new high school graduates.” This smaller applicant pool is both beneficial for potential applicants and concerning for colleges hoping to preserve their elite status. This recent decline in applicants mirrors a similar trend that occurred during the 1980′s and 90′s. “When the Baby Bust generation was graduating high school, it was a very good time to go to college,” says John Nelson, a Moody‘s analyst. “Admission standards were much more liberal.”
In addition to smaller applicant pools in the next few years, the next couple of decades do not look very promising either. Colleges are now looking to high schools and even kindergartens when planning for the future. As reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education, “For every 100 18-year-olds nationally, there are only 95 4-year-olds. The Northeast and Midwest show the sharpest drop-offs, according to a Chronicle analysis. In less than a third of states, mainly in the West, can you find as many younger children as older ones.” With fewer young children in this 20-year education forecast, colleges and universities will need to survive with fewer students.
And in addition to this population drop-off, diversity is increasing. In the coming years, there will be fewer black and white students, while the Hispanic and Asian-American student demographics continue to grow. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, “The nation’s already seeing a sharp rise in first-generation and low-income graduates—the very students whom selective four-year institutions have long struggled to serve.” Very few schools cater to these lower income students. According to the College Board, and as reported by the New York Times, two-thirds of students at some of the most selective colleges come from the top quartile of income. Only six percent of students from the bottom quartile are admitted into the top schools.
With a nationwide demographic shift towards lower income minorities, colleges will have fewer tuition dollars coming from affluent students. Some schools are already preparing for this shift in demographics by looking for prospects outside their comfort zone. At Syracuse University, former Chancellor Nancy Cantor ran into controversy for aggressively diversifying the student body, but she was unapologetic. “If you were a strategic business you would be optimizing on what the world is going to look like,” she reported to the Chronicle of Higher Education. “You wouldn’t be holding on for dear life to your brand.” Under Cantor’s guidance, Syracuse University has become more diverse but has also seen a resulting drop in rankings.
As the applicant pool grows smaller and competition for top-achieving and high-paying students grows, schools certainly need to make adjustments and aggressively pursue new prospects and markets. AMP online admissions offers tools for tracking prospects, but as of now, none of their schools use these tools to track kindergartners. What is your school doing to strategically track prospects?
Do you think that looking 20 years into the future is taking it too far?