Private Higher Education Trends for 2014

As we do each January, The Lawlor Group offers this summary of trends in the higher education marketplace that we predict will have a significant impact on student recruitment and enrollment efforts during the coming year.

1. Demography is destiny. Because of some key demographic projections, the recruitment of traditional-age college students will not get easier anytime soon.

  • College enrollments will grow more slowly.
  • A smaller proportion of college students will be traditional-age.
  • The race/ethnicity of high school graduates will diversify.
  • High school graduate numbers are declining in all but 18 states

2. The power of perception. Economic conditions are influencing the way prospective students and their families view the value of attending a particular college.

  • Most students attend a college with tuition and fees of less than $11,100 per year.
  • Student loan debt is seen as burdensome.
  • Tuition increases are straining families’ ability to pay.
  • Among families with the ability to pay, willingness is an issue.

3. Measurement a must. Heightened demand for accountability from prospective students and their families, as well as legislators and government officials, is requiring colleges to better track outcomes.

  • The most common reason students attend college is for career preparation.
  • Politicians and policy makers are advocating for performance-based funding.
  • Students expect to earn a bachelor’s degree within four years.
  • Many recent college graduates are underemployed.

4. Trust in transparency. Widespread use of anytime/anywhere technology is democratizing the control of information and is pushing institutions toward communicating with authenticity.

  • Word of mouth is the most trusted form of information.
  • Increasing online access via mobile devices brings expectations of responsiveness.
  • Social media is being utilized increasingly during the college search process.
  • Prospective students and other stakeholders are making more sophisticated demands for data.

5. Evolve or atrophy. Too many long-standing practices at colleges and universities have become unsustainable, creating an imperative to innovate.

  • Net tuition revenue goals are becoming more difficult to reach.
  • Competition in awarding merit aid remains fierce.
  • Leadership is lagging.
  • Income inequality is only getting worse in the United States.

 Lawlor Recommends

Several questions that college enrollment and marketing administrators should be asking about their institutions to test how well they are responding to these market trends can be found by downloading “Trends for 2014: Five Factors Facing Private Higher Education.” Statistics that provide evidence of these trends can also be found online. We will be updating these statistics on an on-going basis as new research data and findings are released.

In addition to our online resource, TLG representatives will be highlighting, featuring, and discussing the Trends for 2014 on numerous individual campuses around the country and at a variety of other national and regional venues in the near future. We recently rolled out the Trends for 2014 at the CIC’s Presidents Institute and will be discussing it at our upcoming Lunch with Lawlor event in Chicago (by invitation only) just prior to the Midwest College Board Forum.


In the News

In “Higher Education Is Now Ground Zero for Disruption,” Forbes warned its readers that “the $1 million bill to put the kids through college is coming soon” and argued that American colleges and universities have “a product that does not work, ridiculous costs, and an antiquated business model.”


Did You Know?

Total revenue dropped 22% at private nonprofit four-year universities between Fall 2011 and Fall 2012.

Source: NCES