We mentioned three years ago in our April Focus that “April showers will bring May flowers.” Unfortunately, today most of higher education is being “showered” with more obstacles that are significantly impacting consideration and selection of colleges and universities. In addition, more colleges are closing in May, and discount rates are soaring for so many higher education institutions. And while the COVID era provided supplemental revenues to so many institutions, the funds were simply a temporary solution for the institutions that have been struggling for years. Granted, there are many highly-selective colleges that are seeing their applications going up and the percentage of acceptances go down, but these are the exceptions – and a large percentage of these students come from higher-income families, or the college/university has a very healthy endowment to help provide generous financial assistance to those in need.
No question, times have changed, and the marketplace is being showered with plenty of doubt and uncertainty about the value of higher education. A recent article in Money Scoop noted the following: “That framed college diploma your parents stare at while beaming with pride might be losing its pizzazz. Per a March 2023 JobSage survey, 69% of respondents believe college degrees will soon become less of a factor when looking to snag a well-paying job. And 72% would skip college altogether if their ideal job didn’t require it. Plus, 92% of respondents think college degrees are overpriced.”
Despite all the concern and consternation about the value of higher education, the reality is that if your college or university can provide durable evidence about the return on investment and the inherent worth of the educational experience, your institution will continue to get attention and most importantly, selection and retention. Gallup has a new book titled Culture Shock, and while it focuses more on the mindset applicable to “the new workplace,” it is relevant to what is going on in the higher education marketplace. Prospective students and families, along with college counselors and independent advisors, are all seeking durable evidence about the worth of the investment. ROI is definitely shaped by graduation rates, job placement, internship opportunities, and the net price to attend, but today the emotional and mental atmosphere that exists for all students (along with faculty and staff) on the campus or online is making a difference and enhancing value. Ideally, have your students and graduates share their stories and provide authentic durable evidence that will persuade others to matriculate.