November 18, 2021

It's time to reimagine struggling programs to increase enrollment


Jose Flores

Reimagining struggling programs at colleges and universities to meet market demand and student expectations.

Many traditional colleges are missing key components for non-traditional students and are not fulfilling specific market demands.

Recently, I analyzed IPEDs enrollment data for full-time undergraduate students enrolled in the state of New York. This data analysis suggested that there were 764,826 students enrolled in the colleges and universities in NewYork for fall 2018.  

The breakdown of these enrolled students was as follows:

Data and chart from 2018 IPEDs Data and VisitDays analysis

The 5% market share that for-profit institutions own represented 37,949 students. That means that these are 37,949 students that chose a non-traditional education path that more aligned to their current academic and career needs instead of choosing a traditional college or university.

As for-profit institutions continue to own this marketshare, traditional institutions are attempting to answer the call to these market demands by creating professional studies programs and accelerated degree programs, most of which live in a School of Professional Studies. In most cases, traditional schools have not been able to grow these programs anywhere near as fast as for-profit schools.

There is one thing that is clear from this discrepancy in marketshare - traditional institutions need a new set of programs and a more flexible approach in the delivery of these programs to their market. As students select colleges and universities, traditional institutions that have been around for over 150 years need to begin to modernize their approach and invest in education that produces outcomes for students.

With this in mind, I dug deeper into this idea and selected two schools (1 for-profit and 1 not-for-profit) that were in the same geographical location, only a few miles apart, in New York State. I chose a major that was being offered in both schools – business. The results were astonishing. If the traditional institution offered business programs in the same way the non-traditional institution did and it was able to attract the students to attend the institution with a smarter strategy, then it would essentially double its total enrollment nearly overnight.

As college and universities struggle to make incoming classes, rearchitecting their offerings and practices is one piece of the puzzle that can turnaround any struggling institution.