Show Me the Green

St. Patrick’s Day is often celebrated in a sea of green. But in today’s higher education marketplace, students and families along with colleges and universities are all striving to see green.

On the demand side, there’s heightened price sensitivity. “Affordable” is in the eye of the beholder, and even families with the ability to pay think about whether they are willing to pay it. So the green they want to see is in the form of non-repayable scholarships and grants.

On the supply side, colleges and universities are having to get more creative in coming up with that green to give. Sixty percent of respondents to the LAWLOR-RHB Survey of Independent College Presidents reported it is very challenging for their institution to increase revenues. Presidents of private non-profits are worried in particular about the demand for institutional financial aid. Inside Higher Ed recently found that 85% of them are concerned about enrolling their target number of undergraduates. Meanwhile 82% are concerned about enrolling enough students who don’t need institutional student aid, 87% about having enough institutional financial aid to enroll as many low-income students as they’d like, and 66% about giving out too much aid to students who may not need it.

The ability of colleges and universities to generate sufficient revenue to fund institutional aid is being complicated by government policy shifts at the national level. The Atlantic reports on a survey that shows 40% of U.S. colleges have experienced a decline in international applicants for the Fall 2017 term, which is presumed to be due to proposed travel restrictions and the political discourse surrounding foreign nationals in the U.S. And the newly proposed 2018 budget indicates the executive branch’s intent to eliminate or cut multiple sources of funding for low-income students. These factors will exert even more pressure on colleges’ balance sheets.


IHE Presidents Survey

Presidents at private baccalaureate colleges expressed less confidence this year than last about the financial stability of their institution. (Inside Higher Ed)

International Student Admissions 

More than three-quarters of U.S. colleges surveyed expressed concern about their future ability to enroll international students. (The Atlantic)

Aiming to Downsize Student Aid

“Trump’s Budget Blueprint Pinches Pennies for Education,” proposing a 13.5% cut to the U.S. Department of Education. (NPR)


Lawlor Recommends

“March Madness” has also become a metaphor that captures the state of higher education these days. The tenuous nature of forecasting anticipated green (whether from enrollment revenues, contribution revenues, or auxiliary enterprises) in planning for the next budget cycle—let alone the consequences of not generating sufficient green in this budget cycle—is creating lots of consternation for senior administrators.

But the turbulent times are also serving as a market smart catalyst for many campus communities to think differently about generating revenues and responding to the realities of the marketplace. Thinking critically, engaging in comparative analysis, communicating persuasively, and fostering a culture of edupreneurism creates its own four-leaf clover of potential success.

No matter what, we wish everyone a wonderfully green St. Patrick’s Day!