Saturday, December 31, 2022

State of Play 2023


State of Play 2023


The state of higher education seems to live near a precipice, and as we enter a new year, many of us are clinging to the edge.


In the final weeks of 2019, I posted what I believed were the eight leading threats to higher education. At the time they were:


1.      Market Disturbance

2.     National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) Changes

3.     Price Sensitivity

4.     International Student Decreases

5.     2026 “Demographic Cliff”

6.    Poor Public Understanding of What We Do

7.     Geographic Population Redistribution

8.    Limited Reputation


I many ways, most remain, but their respective scale and impact have changed dramatically over the past three years.


We had our “black swan” market disturbance with the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, which set all of the other pieces caroming about.


We have reached a new stage of normal following the legal changes in recruiting practices (the dissolution of the old NACAC standards), which were fresh and untested in 2019. Most institutions were less predatory and most students and their families were less prone to peregrinate than many of us expected.


Following a couple of years of decline, international enrollments were decimated by the pandemic. Nationally, we have seen a gradual rebound, but it is a different market. Political challenges in China and the war in Ukraine have changed the balance of international students on our campuses and the destinations domestic students seek when studying away.


The “demographic cliff,” when we know the number of traditional college-age students will drop by about 1.1 million between 2026 and 2028 became foreshadowed as a consequence of the pandemic. Population data had projected a slight increase in enrollments between 2019 and 2026 when the 18-year-old population would continue to climb slightly before hitting a 6% and then 8% drop.


Overall population numbers have logically tracked, but in the past three years, 1.2 million fewer traditionally aged students dropped out of college or chose not to enroll. Higher education experienced the fall off the cliff, and the real cliff is still 3 to 4 years ahead.


Like institutions across all sectors, the pandemic created huge expenses and significantly undercut revenues for higher education, but many of us found significant savings from the cessation of costly programs (for us study away is 5% of our overall budget). Government relief also softened the blow.


Now that we have fundamentally gone back to normal operations, we are doing so with about 7% fewer students nationwide, and the remaining 93% have been redistributed. In Agile College, Nathan Grawe predicted that as the demographic cliff approached, not only would geographic redistributions affect enrollments by region, but a move toward flagship publics and elite independent institutions would exacerbate the impact on regional publics and private institutions outside of the U.S. News top 5o lists.


Independent colleges and universities in Pennsylvania have seen enrollment declines ranging from 6% to 25% since 2019. For tuition-dependent institutions, which is most of us, there has been a parallel drop in revenue. These decreases have occurred against the backdrop of 7+% inflation. As a result, many institutions have developed structural deficits.


A common trope on many independent college campuses has been that when a number of struggling sister institutions close, the remaining schools will take on the students they would have enrolled and reach a financially sustainable enrollment. The problem with that “plan” is that closings hurt the reputation of our sector, and our fundamental competitors are large publics, oddly not each other.


Of Susquehanna’s top ten cross-applicant institutions, only one is a four-year private. Our main competitors are Temple, Pitt, Rutgers, the University of Delaware, and our number one competitor is Penn State.


This is where we are the victims of a lack of understanding of what we do compounded by a limited reputation.


Recently, I put forward a comparison to prospective students: “In preparing for your future, do you want to have all of your classes led by expert faculty dedicated to teaching, have a faculty member serve as your advisor and mentor as you complete independent research and creative work, and develop hands-on expertise with state-of-the-art equipment and in field work, or do you want to be able to be able to say you attended 20 massive tailgate parties?”


For most students at Susquehanna, that truly life-changing first path comes at a considerably smaller out-of-pocket cost. The challenge is in helping enough of them to understand the benefits, financial and personal.


Small residential liberal-arts institutions offer a proven return on investment. They focus on the experiences and skills that best support student development and preparation for lives of consequence, and yet they struggle to maintain their share of a shrinking market.


One of the great unknowns about the coming few years is if traditional percentages of 18-year-olds will return to our campuses before the demographic cliff hits, or will we see another million+ drop compounding our current dilemma. In either case, the economics of small independent colleges and universities has rarely been so dynamically challenging.


We need to adjust our operations to align with our current resources while striving to capture a larger share of a smaller market. It is good business, but more importantly, it will be good for students.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Alphabet Soup

Alphabet Soup - Higher-Education Organizations


There are dozens of national, international, and regional organizations supporting higher education. The following list, which although possibly exhausting, is far from exhaustive, can serve as a decoder ring for their acronyms along with an explanation of the role each plays and a hyperlink to their respective websites.


·      AACC – American Association of Community Colleges – One of “The Six” Higher-Education Organizations in Washington, DC; they represent almost 1,200 institutions

·      AACSB – Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business – This is the leading accrediting body for business schools in the U.S. It has become quite international in scope, accrediting more than 950 schools of business around the world in over 1oo countries and territories.

·      AACRAO - American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers – They establish the standards by which academic credit is recorded and transferred. In the U.S., most institutions will accept transfer credit from other regionally accredited institutions. AACRAO often serves as the objective reviewing body when institutions are asked to accept international transfer credits.

·      AAC&U – American Association of Colleges and Universities – this is the organization that focusses on liberal-arts education across higher education with an emphasis on enhancing the quality of teaching and learning and advocacy on the power of a liberal education.

·      AAHEA – American Association for Higher Education and Accreditation – Founded in 1870, this was originally the “Department of Higher Education” of the NEA (National Education Association). It later became a free-standing organization that has become focused on supporting and accrediting faith-based institutions.

·      AASCU – American Association of State Colleges and Universities – One of “The Six” Higher-Education Organizations in Washington, DC; this began as the Association of Teacher Education and has come to represent state-supported institutions. They focus on expanding access to all students. They have over 400 member institutions.

·      AAU – Association of American Universities – One of “The Six” Higher-Education Organizations in Washington, DC; this is the organization of leading research universities, 2 Canadian and 60 from the U.S. They work on policies and best practices for research and scholarship in higher education.

·      AAUP – American Association of University Professors – Founded by John Dewey and Arthur Lovejoy in 1915, the AAUP was initially founded to protect academic freedom and to identify and foster best practices in the academy, it has subsequently also become a labor-advocacy organization of the professoriate. Their “Red Book,” Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors, has become the foundation of best practices and principles connected to academic freedom and tenure.

·      AAUW - America Association of University Women – Founded in 1881, they have advocated for equity for women and girls in higher education.

·      ACA – American Counseling Association – This is the principal organization of professional counselors in the U.S., including college and university counselors.

·      ACAD - American Conference of Academic Deans – This group, supporting academic leaders “above department chairs and below presidents” provides professional developments and the exchange of best practices for academic leadership at the dean and provost level.

·      ACBSP - Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs – This group was founded in 1988 to provide an accreditation option based on teaching and learning alone for business programs whose research commitments did not align with those required by AACSB.

·      ACCA – American College Counseling Association – This is the leading organization for collegiate mental healthcare professionals.

·      ACE – American Council on Education – One of “The Six” Higher-Education Organizations in Washington, DC; this is the umbrella organization of higher education that represents public, private, and community colleges, it has about 1,800 member institutions and organizations.

·      ACPA - American College Personnel Association – This is one of two leading organizations for student affairs staff.

·      ACTA – American Council of Trustees and Alumni – This is a conservative group that calls on trustees to hold higher-education institutions accountable for their curricular requirements. They grade institutions each year in a report card called “What will they learn.” The idea is reasonable, but the execution is inconsistent. Some of the nation’s best colleges get failing grades for not requiring coursework in specific departments. Just because a student isn’t required to take a course in the history department doesn’t mean that they don’t learn history.

·      AGB – Association of Governing Boards – They support college and university boards of trustees, promoting best practices among boards.

·      AIR - Association of Institutional Research – This is a national association for institutional researchers and institutional effectiveness officers. They advocate for best practices and for consistent use of data across higher education.

·      Annapolis Group – Originally founded in 1984 as the Oberlin Group, the Annapolis Group constituted itself in 1993. It is a presidential group of the leading independent residential liberal arts colleges in the U.S. They confer to support best practices and to advocate for their sector. They host a joint annual meeting for presidents and chief academic officers that is traditionally held in Annapolis, MD.

·      APLU - Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities – One of “The Six” Higher-Education Organizations in Washington, DC; founded in 1887, it is North America’s oldest higher-education organization; they have 218 members including 76 land-grant universities and the 33 Native-American land-grants schools. Two-thirds of sponsored research in higher education occurs on their member campuses.

·      ASHE – Association for the Study of Higher Education – This group has over 2,200 members dedicated to analysis and research on higher education.

·      Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching – This organization was founded in 1905 by Andrew Carnegie and Chartered by Congress the following year. This organization created the “Carnegie Unit” as a shared concept of the credit hour; TIAA (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Associate) the leading retirement fund in higher education; Educational Testing Service, the group that produces the SAT and GRE exams; and the Carnegie Classification System that categorizes institutions as research, regional comprehensive, baccalaureate, etc.

·      CAS – Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education – This is a consortium of 41 professional organization in higher education who work together to create shared standards and best practices across student development and student affairs operations.

·      CASE – Council for the Advancement and Support of Education – This is the national organization for advancement (fundraising), marketing, and communications professionals in higher education.

·      CHEA - Council for Higher Education Accreditation – This is the national organization that sets standards and supports accreditation of institutions across higher education. This includes disciplinary and regional accreditors. CIQG is the CHEA International Quality Group that provides parallel services for non-U.S. institutions. They are members of INQAAHE, the International Network of Quality Assurances Associations in Higher Education, which is headquartered in Barcelona, Spain.

·      CHEMA – Council of Higher Education Management Associations – This is an informal organization of many of the organizations on this page along with other organizations that provide support of services for higher education. It is coordinated by NACUBO.

·      CIC – Council of Independent Colleges – This is a national organization of about 690 private, mostly residential, teaching and comprehensive colleges. They present annual conferences for Chief Academic Officers and Presidents, a series of professional development programs to prepare the next generation of higher-education leaders, and a variety of academic initiatives, notably Legacies of American Slavery, Humanities Research for the Public Good, and NetVUE, a program exploring the role of vocation in intellectual inquiry.

·      CIEE – Council for International Educational Exchange – Founded by IIE, this organization operates over 175 study abroad programs in over 40 countries.

·      CUPRAP – College and University Public Relations and Associated Professionals – This group promotes and celebrates marketing and public relations in support of higher education. It began as a Pennsylvania-based organization and has gained a national footprint,

·      EDUCAUSE – This is the information technology organization within higher education.

·      HACU - Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities – This serves as a hub organization for HSIs (Hispanic Serving Institutions), but it also provides advocacy and support across higher education for Hispanic students and how all institutions can better support their education and networking opportunities.

·      HEDS – Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium – This is a voluntary member organization of mostly liberal-arts colleges and smaller comprehensives who share data. The consortium is housed at Wabash College and provides its member with many sector analyses.

·      HERI – Higher Education Research Institute – Housed at UCLA, this organization conducts research across many facets of higher education. These include useful surveys of faculty and students

·      IIE – Institute of International Education – Founded in 1919, IIE promotes international student exchanges and conducts significant statistical research on international higher education, most notably in Open Doors, an annual report on study abroad. They have created NAFSA and CIEE, and they sponsor aid for international exchange and relief,

·      IPEDS – Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System – is a data collection branch of NCES (National Center for Education Statistics), which in turn is an operation of the U.S. Department of Education. This is the repository for much of the data institutions must submit to the federal government.

·      NACAC – National Association for College Admission Counseling – This organization provides standards and guidance for counselors in secondary schools who advise students about college selection, and they support those who recruit students to attend college. In 2019, the Department of Justice challenged a long-standing set of standards aimed at eliminating interinstitutional competition for students once an enrollment decision was made. They sponsor many college fairs. There are 23 regional affiliates with some truly delightful acronyms. My favorite is NYSACAC, the NY affiliate.

·      NACADA – National Academic Advising Association – This is an international organization of over 10,000 academic advisors on more than 2,400 campuses. They are housed at Kansas State University.

·      NACE – National Association of Colleges and Employers – This is the principal organization that supports career services professionals and career placement offices.

·      NACUBO - National Association of College and University Business Officers – This is the leading organization for those who lead business and finance offices on college campuses. They provide professional development, guidance on best practices, and compile and analyze valuable comparative data,

·      NADOHE – National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education – This is an organization of Diversity Officers that also partners with other national organizations to share best practices and to advocate for DEIJ across the academy.

·      NAFEO – National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education – Founded in 1969, this is the national organization that specifically support HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities).

·      NAFSA – founded as the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers – now NAFSA: Association of International Educator – This organization supports study-abroad professionals and advises international students wishing to attend U.S. institutions. They also support English as a Second Language programs.

·      NAIA – National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics – This is the athletic association for about 25o smaller higher-education institutions, most of whom offer athletic scholarships. They began as a result of the creation of the NIT (National Invitational Tournament), a basketball tournament that predates the NCAA tournament by two years. They were the first national athletic association to invite Historically Black Colleges and Universities into membership.

·      NAICU – National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities – One of “The Six” Higher-Education Organizations in Washington, DC; This is the lobbying organization for independent higher education in DC; its membership includes over 1,000 institutions; NAICUSE (National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities State Executives) is a subgroup of the state- and district-based (37 states, Puerto Rico, and DC) organizations that represent these institutions on the state level.

·      NASPA - National Association of Student Personnel Administrators – This is the principal organization for student affairs professionals.

·      NCAA – National Collegiate Athletic Association – This is the national athletic association for over 1,100 institutions. Founded in 1906, the NCAA moved to university and collegiate level competitions in 1957, and then to its current three-division system in 1973. Division III does not allow athletics scholarships; Division II allows athletics scholarships and is generally small to moderate-sized institutions; and Division I allows athletics scholarships and includes many large institutions. Much of the funding for the NCAA comes from the television revenue derived from the “March Madness” men’s basketball tournament.

·      NCHEMS - National Center for Higher Education Management Consulting – This organization helps institutions and systems in their strategic planning work.


Some Pennsylvania-specific bonuses:


·      AICUP – Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania – This organization supports 92 independent, non-profit higher-education institutions in the Commonwealth. They provide and foster lobbying efforts in support of the students at our respective institutions, and they coordinate over 30 shared services creating savings to each participating institution for software, insurance, cyber security, and many other programs.

·      PASSHE – Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education – This is the organization of 10 state-owned institutions. Previously comprising 14 institutions, the system recent merged two triads into unified institutions retaining 3 campuses each.

·      PHEAA – Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Authority – Created in 1963 by the PA General Assembly, PHEAA provides a range of financial-aid services including loan guarantee, loan servicing, and a range of other aid services. They also administer the state’s need-based higher-education grant program.



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