Proving higher education's value.
In addition, a huge financial aid cloud hangs over everyone's heads: the one with that odd moniker of "prior-prior." While the hope is that FAFSA modifications will ultimately benefit students and institutions alike, 2016 is the big transitional year when changes go into effect (for the 2017-18 academic year), and it could make for a bumpy road. Or worse: It has the potential to turn admissions and financial aid offices into a land of confusion.
This new sense of urgency will require higher education leaders to start thinking about the 2017 admissions season as soon as possible--even while they're still making decisions for the 2016 incoming class. This big issue and more lies ahead in the world of college access and enrollment.
Getting ahead of prior-prior
Here's a quick crash course: Students will be able to file a 2017-18 FAFSA as early as Oct. 1, 2016, and they can do so using the family's 2015 tax returns (so instead of the prior year's tax figures, it's the prior-prior year's, hence the name). This could lead college-bound families to expect that an earlier FAFSA filing will result in colleges sending award letters out sooner. Or, at the very least, they'll want to see a school's published tuition price before they apply.
One thing's for sure: Institutions will have to do financial and enrollment planning much earlier than in the past, says Jerry Lucido, executive director for the Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice at the University of Southern California. "They'll have to set tuition earlier, understand housing rates earlier, do projections earlier."
While it's uncertain how long it will take for schools to acclimate to the changes, the first year will be the problematic, Lucido predicts. But managing the transition well could present a big opportunity for the colleges that aggressively get out in front of the changes. "Prior-prior can be used as a fulcrum to get out better information about aid, indebtedness and value," he says, adding that the wisest administrators are already beginning to plan.
And as you'll see below, such information campaigns will become an increasingly vital recruitment strategy.
Another big FAFSA change is that colleges will no longer be able to see students' college selection lists, says financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz. In the past, having access to this information helped in predicting class size and getting a read on the competition. It even helped admissions offers prioritize which students to contact (applicants who listed their institution first, for instance). "The FAFSA changes will make it more difficult to predict what the yield is going to be," says Kantrowitz, who has written extensively about financial aid policy and has testified before Congress about student aid on several occasions.
As prior-prior rolls out, schools will not only have to plan earlier, but do so without the predictive benefits of students' college selection lists. A bumpy road, indeed.
Targeting students in new ways
The changing demographics of college students means that schools might be forced to handhold more families who haven't experienced the admissions and financial aid processes at all. "The only growing segment in the traditional U.S. college-going market is made up of low-to-modest income students, most of whom are likely to be first-generation students," says Lucido.
With staff already stretched thin, the prospect of having to educate families, too, frightens some administrators. There's even pressure on higher education facilitators to go out to middle-schoolers to talk about curriculum, and how to save money for college, says Luke Schultheis, vice president for admissions and enrollment management at AACRAO. The problem? "There's a real gap in ability, in skill level, and who's available for what," he says, resulting in "lots of talk, but not lots of action."
That's where you'll start to see colleges and universities forming new partnerships to disseminate information. For example, he says, "Some colleges partner with nonprofits like The Posse Foundation that prepare first-generation students with much needed social capital like knowledge about the admission and financial aid process."
College Advising Corps is another like-minded group; its strategy is to send recent college graduates, who are often first-generation students, into high-needs high schools to counsel students on admissions and financial aid.
"Starting earlier than senior year is helpful," says Jaye Fenderson, co-producer of the documentary First Generation and co-founder of the newly launched Go College Now initiative with Wells Fargo. "The more schools can work with community-based mentoring organizations--the boots on the ground--to get that information out there, the better."
Arizona State University has had success with this approach, essentially using ambassadors to spread the word in the local community that the school is affordable and that it offers a quality education. Working with organizations in the metro-Phoenix area, ASU has increased the number of first-generation and low-income students by a large percentage, Fenderson says.
As families grow increasingly price sensitive, they're beginning to ask higher ed institutions about return-on-investment, Kantrowitz says. He predicts administrators will need to talk more about things such as net price, as well as the intangible benefits of a college education such as learning life skills and cultivating relationships, if they want to convince families that a post-secondary education is still a worthy investment.
In other words, says Schultheis of AACRAO, institutions must be proactive about explaining how their pricing will pay off in the long run--almost from a defensive position--to address negative media messages about indebtedness and post-college outcomes.
"We're stuck in the cyclone of noise. Instead of touting the wise investment in higher education, the media really hammers home this linear relationship between owing money and how much you're going to earn on the job," he says. "Many of my colleagues struggle with this."
For the next year or two at least, colleges will have to promote outcomes, says Lucido, as well as be empathetic to families who are facing financial struggles. "It's important for us to continue to make our value proposition."
Dawn Papandrea is a Staten Island, New York-based writer.
Director, Center for American Language & Culture, The College of New Jersey
Topic: Tuition, financial aid
Trend: Students and parents, increasingly concerned about the costs of higher education in the U.S., will begin looking more carefully at why public institutions are more expensive than they used to be. The root cause is decreasing state funding, which will force those same parents and students to ask where their tax dollars are going to work for higher ed.
* Throwback to quality print marketing materials as a way to stand out
* Targeting community college students as potential transfers
* Better transfer orientations
* Providing access to top-tier institutions (via the Coalition for College Access and Success' new application platform, coming in April 2016)
* Marketing robust academic programs to potential students, including more practical and professional studies at liberal arts colleges
* Unlimited social media marketing experimentation (some schools are scaling down efforts where there are uncertain results)
* Ramping up amenities or discounting tuition to attract students
* Access to prospective students' college selection lists
* MOOCs as the ultimate solution to college access
Colleen Bielitz Chief business development officer, strategic planning and innovation, Becker College (Mass.)
Topic: Academic affairs
Trend: Nanodegrees will begin to grow as students seek particular skills that will allow them entree into specific industries. Colleges that offer nanodegrees geared toward developing high-demand skills (up-skilling) will gain a competitive advantage over other higher education institutions still offering just traditional degrees, because nanodegrees center solely on providing students with a new skill that employers will value.
Attracting students, making college affordable
Increasing enrollment will be the second highest priority for top campus leadership in 2016. Three-quarters of the approximately 100 chancellors, presidents and provosts surveyed named that goal as one of the four highest priorities among 10 items listed. Increasing selectivity, however, was named by only 4 percent as a priority.
Among the 95 admissions, enrollment and marketing readers responding to a separate survey, almost two-thirds expect enrollment to increase modestly or significantly; about one-third expect no change. First-generation students, non-traditional students (such as older adults) and students from other states are a few populations that schools are focused on growing.
Top admissions and marketing actions for the coming year include focusing more on data to track the entire student lifecycle, as well as creating new articulation agreements to make transfer to or from the institution easier.
In the area of financial literacy, 80 percent of respondents have a formal initiative. Popular actions for the coming year include plans to expand outreach to current students and more actively counsel students about the financial implications of academic decisions such as choice of major and course load. These programs will focus more on student loan debt as well as on broader financial literacy issues.
44% Presidents, chancellors and provosts who believe their institution's student success efforts in 2015 will positively impact access and enrollment
Top campus officials on financial and reputational harm
76% named enrollment declines as the biggest worry in 2016 and beyond, when asked to choose from a list of 15 potential issues that could harm the institution's name or stability
... but schools seem to be meeting the challenge for 2016
71% expect nontraditional enrollment to increase modestly or significantly
63% said traditional student enrollment would increase modestly or significantly
UB Survey; all percentages have been rounded
Sexual assault and reputational harm
22% of top campus officials said reputational issues related to sexual assault are of big concern to the leadership team
7% expect to be in the public eye for complaints students or staff have made about the handling of sexual assault allegations
On the agenda for 2016:
77% will engage in discussions about sexual assault policies and procedures in 2016 to ensure they are what they should be
51% plan to actively solicit feedback from the campus community about these policies and procedures
Fewer than 1 in 5 expect to roll out significant changes
Fewer than 1 in 10 expect to hire a person dedicated to addressing sexual assault allegations
UB Survey; all percentages have been rounded
Financial literacy initiatives in the coming year
More outreach to current students 44% Financial literacy program will be mandatory 9% More focus on student loan debt, in recognition of default rate concerns 31% More focus on broader financial literacy issues, outside of student loan debt 31% A new related website 8% New in-person events aimed at increasing financial literacy 34% New online events on financial literacy 20% More active counseling of students about the financial implications of their course loads, GPA, choice of major and debt 42% UB Survey; all percentages have been rounded Note: Table made from bar graph. Retention and graduation rate shifts to come in 2016 Overall retention rate Will increase significantly 6% Will increase modestly 54% Will stay the same 31% Will decrease modestly 9% Graduation rate Will increase significantly 6% Will decrease modestly 2% Will increase modestly 59% Will stay the same 33% UB Survey; all percentages have been rounded Note: Table made from pie chart.
Student population shifts to come in 2016
Overall student enrollment changes expected Increase significantly 8% Increase modestly 56% Remain unchanged 22% Decrease modestly 13% Decrease significantly 1% Note: Table made from pie chart.
Need-based versus merit aid in 2016
40% of enrollment and financial aid administrators said need-based aid will increase
45% said need-based aid will stay the same
38% said merit aid will increase
49% said merit aid would stay the same
UB Survey; all percentages have been rounded
Published tuition rates movement said tuition will increase in 2016 72% said it will stay the same 19% said it will decrease 2% weren't sure 6% UB Survey; all percentages have been rounded Note: Table made from pie chart. Admissions and marketing actions for 2016 Crossing department lines to bolster student success/ completion 62% Focusing more on data to track the entire student lifecycle 62% Creating new articulation agreements to make transfer to or from the institution easier 50% Partnering with high schools and/or community colleges to improve college readiness 41% Taking a significant new approach to recruitment 34% Launching a re-branding campaign 28% Making significant changes to the application process 23% Offering a shorter path to a degree 20% Making a significant effort to enroll more students requiring financial aid 11% Stopping the SAT or ACT admissions requirement 2% UB Survey; all percentages have been rounded Note: Table made from bar graph.
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|Title Annotation:||OUTLOOK: access and enrollment|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2016|
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