Illustration of three people standing underneath a magnifying glass

May Misery Magnifying More Mayhem

We noted previously in our March issue, without question these are fascinating times for most colleges and universities. And this year things are even more exacerbated by the continued FAFSA delay and the impact it is not only having on prospective students and families along with current students and families, but also the personnel in financial aid and admission offices. Adding the continuous concern and consternation that is lingering in the minds of higher education leaders who already know about the decline in the number of prospective students, questions about affordability, and the necessity to convey the inherent value of attending college, the 2024 recruitment and retention year is definitely full of unsolicited mental and emotional madness that is creating even more misery and magnifying more mayhem for the future of so many colleges and universities. And as we have noted previously about the changing landscape facing private higher education (and public, too), these are definitely changing times.

In a bit of irony, a new book about higher education recently came out and Inside Higher Ed interviewed the author, Stephen Burd. His book, Lifting the Veil on Enrollment Management, has some good, relevant insights and yet, we have recently heard from so many chief enrollment officers who are in disagreement with many of his conclusions. Burd is authentically capturing a certain type of college or university that is definitely overlooking things that are so relevant to consideration and selection, but most of our clients and other colleges and universities have been completely open to welcoming and accepting most students and ironically, most are from geographic areas in fairly close proximity to where the college is located. Affordability is definitely an important variable today including no debt, along with internships, student life, graduation rates, and proximity to future job opportunities. And these variables are serving as an authentic catalyst for higher education leaders to recognize that today enrollment revenues can no longer sustain most institutions. Other resources have become a necessity.

Lawlor Recommends

The primary supplementary resource that colleges and universities must embrace to alleviate the lingering misery and mayhem that is continuously growing among so many higher ed institutions is fundraising. Several colleges and universities have recognized this and initiated significant gifts via generous alumni and friends. The impact is significant and fosters a stronger, more vibrant college that generates even more attention and interest.

And while generous fundraising can help the price to attend be more affordable, colleges and universities must continue to rethink higher education. Identifying “what matters and what doesn’t matter” is a necessity. Taking on this process can foster innovation and creativity, and if it is done through active collaboration, it creates an atmosphere that fosters positivity and will lead to continued success—and most importantly, neutralize the existing misery that is creating some mayhem at some institutions. Yes, we are continuing to live and work in a marketplace that presents a genuine conundrum for many, but having an edupreneurial mindset will help all of us continue to develop and implement viable solutions—and enjoy future success.