The World is Flat…Even for College Recruiters 

Paradoxically, during economic downturns, it’s not uncommon for less expensive public institutions to see increased demand. However, budget cuts make it difficult to support that demand.  The announcement a couple of weeks ago that CSU plans to decrease its student body by at least 10,000 students and cap enrollment at all 23 of its campuses is perhaps the most notable example.  As such, a vacuum is created and students in search of higher education are left with few options.  

However, this unfortunate set of circumstances for systems like CSU may be opening new doors for others.

While institutions in California, Texas, Florida and Arizona are faced with budget cuts and scaling back their enrollment efforts, colleges and universities across the country are ramping up their recruitment efforts in these affected regions. According to the L.A. Times, “It’s a message heard more often in California these days, as East Coast and Midwest colleges face an anticipated drop in their local applicant pools and cast a wider net for prospective students.”

Though some institutions are unable to keep up with demand and forced to cap enrollments, other schools are coming in from outside regions offering prospective students generous financial aid packages and other incentives to lure them out-of-state.   In regions like New England, which is facing a decline in the high school population, looking outside of the region has become a necessity. 

How will these conditions impact selectivity and yield?

Larry Gordon writes,

“Admissions officials say the change is unlikely to make it easier to get accepted by the most prestigious universities, such as Harvard and Princeton, which reject 90 percent of applicants. Nevertheless, those schools say they want to keep up their West Coast recruiting and let potential students know of the sweetened financial-aid deals wealthy colleges can offer.

“I think we are all very aware of the demographics and the changing nature of our applicant pool,” said Janet Lavin Rapelye, dean of admissions at Princeton.

But for the next few years, students applying to colleges a notch below the top tier may find it a bit easier to land a spot.

So we’re seeing both ends of the spectrum: increased demand, but not enough supply in places like California; and decreased demand, but high supply in regions like New England. Vastly different circumstances with their own challenges in terms of how you market to prospective students. But at the end of the day, both sides will have to manage their applicant pools carefully and be mindful of not just quantity but quality.

What are you doing to find the right balance?

Thinking long-term, both the discovery and consumption of higher education are changing drastically. What are the implications of schools beginning to recruit more and more from outside their traditional regions (not to mention the explosive growth of distance learning) on the overall educational landscape?

What are you doing to keep up?