This page will catalog resources that provide summaries or analysis of the environment for higher education.  Two  macroscopic analyses come from the Bain Group and from Moody's Investment Service. There are case studies from Saint Michael's College in Vermont and a second article that reviews the budgetary reforms at  Wittenberg, with whom we've collaborated on some of our Teagle work in recent years.

Please don't hesitate to forward additional resources that might be added to the page ( 


Demographics of prospective student population

Jon Boeckenstedt's interactive blog that provides state-by-state analysis of the student applicant pool.

The Western Interstate Commission has a comprehensive overview of national demographics for college prospects.  Chapter Two of this study can be found here.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center has released a report on the current term's enrollment, which demonstrates that Illinois continues a downward slide in student enrollment.  Chart 6 provides the data on the last three years on enrollment, when Illinois has experienced a 7.7% decrease in students who have enrolled in college. 

The Association of Governing Boards (AGB) released some of the results from a survey on the attention that governing boards are now paying to enrollment management and declining tuition revenue. 

2014.2.20.  There is a steady flow of articles that document the shrinking prospect pool for this academic term.  The LA Times suggests that it might be easier for students to pick and choose among offers from different institutions.  The WSJ is a bit more direct: small, private colleges will face an enrollment decline because of the fewest graduates in 20 years.  This piece from Bloomberg focuses more on the Midwest, with a number of our aspirant institutions predicting smaller classes. 


Economics of Higher Education and Institutional Finance

2014.5.28 There is an increasing raft of budget crises at institutions and some, like Quinnipiac, taking a troubling governance route to the adjustments.  Others are trying

2014.3.9.  This article describes how presidents at many R-1 institutions have turned immediately to staff and faculty dismissals during tough economic times.  This stands in contrast to our experiences at IWU, where the president has used private gifts to help forestall workforce reductions in the short-term and buy some time for longer-term planning. 

This NYT article reviews the difficulties of recruiting poor students with the changing economic environment and the financial challenges faced by families since the Great Recession in 2008.

The Wall Street Journal published two articles in one day last month, one that reviewed the shrinking prospect pool and another that concentrates on the specific challenges faced by private institutions. 

This longer piece from Inside Higher Education chronicles the challenges faced by a long list of small liberal arts institutions.  Many of these institutions are smaller than IWU and face greater financial challenges, but the story mentions several institutions that are quite similar to us.  Especially note the section of tuition revenue trends toward the end of the article.

Accreditation/Sectoral change in Higher Education

2014.2.20.  The Federal government has left regulation of higher eduction to the regional accrediting agencies, for the most part, but there appears to be a growing appetite for direct federal regulation.  With all of the problems of the HLC, nearly everyone agrees that direct regulation from the Federal government would be much, much worse.  The Obama administration has called for a rating system that would determine institutional eligibility for Pell Loans and other federal support. The US Department of Education has made it more difficult for PLUS loans-, which is an important fallback instrument for some of the more needy IWU students.

As a result, there are leaders in higher ed who are in the somewhat odd position of defending accreditation, not because of the system itself but because the only alternative is direct federal regulation.

Budget/Enrollment Updates

2014.11.3. At the BOT meeting last week, there was another presentation that summarized IWU’s enrollment patterns and tuition revenue trends, with special emphasis on 2013-14. Some of the most interesting analysis concentrates on the regimen that we’re using for financial aid and how tuition revenue has varied over time. 

In October’s General Faculty Meeting, President Wilson presented information that summarizes enrollment, tuition revenue, and other indicators (slide 2).   The data on this slide indicates how our yield has declined steadily over the last six years, while our discount rate has increased as we attempt to attract more matriculants.  The net revenue that we are earning from our entering class has been consistently between $10.5m and $11m, with the exceptions of 2010 and 2011. 

The class entering IWU this fall (2014) exposed a couple of patterns that are concerning.  Most importantly, the number of domestic, first-year matriculants dropped significantly (slide 3) and most precipitously among families with the ability to pay (slide 4).  This is most certainly in reaction to increased tuition discounting at cross-application schools, a trend that is likely to continue.  In fact, the University of Illinois has already indicated their intention to be more aggressive in recruiting students for class entering next fall (2015).

This information is more useful when cast against the broader national context.  The NACUBO 2013 Tuition Discounting Study provides a comprehensive analysis of enrollment and discounting trends from a year ago (Caution: this report is a 155-page PDF).  Nearly half the institutions in the survey report declining enrollments, with increasing price sensitivity among prospective students and ever-rising discount rates, especially at small, tuition-dependent institutions like IWU.

2014.9.5 We will have a much clearer picture near the end of October when the National Student Clearinghouse data are released.  Once we have access to that data, we will be able to specify the institutions attended by students from our prospect pool who chose not to attend IWU.  Then, we can conduct further analysis on differences in financial aid packages, curricular offerings, etc., that led students to choose other institutions over IWU.  This article from DePauw indicates that they're beginning the discussion regarding headcount and tuition revenue that began at IWU two years ago.

We already have some analysis from the pool of admitted students and the freshman class of 2014-15.  First, students whose families have more ability to pay chose IWU at a lower rate than expected, and we yielded fewer students from out of state than predicted.  This slide illustrates the heightened competition for national students, including students from neighboring states.  Also note that families with income greater than $150,000 chose IWU at a lower rate.  That finding is reflected in this slide, as well, where the highlighted cells provide additional evidence that students from affluent families enrolled at lower rates than expected.  

Taken together, this initial evidence confirms that the competition for students--even those with the demonstrated ability to pay--is increasing. The University of Illinois' indicated this week that they are changing their financial aid strategy in light of this trend.

Human Capital is also sharing qualitative information on the national applicant pool and the aspects of college they deem the most important.  This chart illustrates the factors students indicate are the most important in considering their college options.

2014.5.28 Here is an admissions update as of the end of last week.  Like the summary below, note that the 2013 figures on the chart are for the final incoming class, while the 2014 figures are for the year to date.  Our colleagues in the MMWC are still hoping to increase the net tuition revenue figure a bit and to increase the headcount of the incoming class to 500-505.  It appears that other institutions in the Midwest are experiencing similar enrollment patterns.

2014.4.20 As a reference, here are the median salaries for professor and associate professor for the last three years.  These are the benchmark figures that are used to implement IWU's equity adjustment policy for faculty salaries.

This document provides a snapshot of our recruitment efforts as of Thursday, April 17.  The 2013 figures are for the final class and the 2014 figures are for the year to date.  Note that the applications and admissions will not change much between now and May 1.

2014.11.13 The background materials from today's open forum are here.  These PowerPoint slides summarize information on IWU's enrollment enrollment and revenue history, and also include some of the specifics of why admissions should concentrate on Net Tuition Revenue rather than headcount.  I would be pleased to participate in other discussions if faculty or staff colleagues are interested.

And, some humorous/frightening perspectives on the liberal arts and undergraduate education

It certainly doesn't help us make the case for the liberal arts, but here are a few sources of humor about our life's work.  Our colleague, Kathie O'Gorman, has taken a break from her research into "The Disappeared" in South America and her work on Joyce, Beckett, and others to publish an absolutely hilarious piece in McSweeney's.  "Your Faculty Horoscope" is a must-read.

Here is a blog where students post grotesquely reductionist summary statements about their undergraduate theses.  And, McSweeney's provides one answer to the question of what one might do with a liberal arts degree.  

And the frightening.  A scholar from the American Enterprise Institute produced a whitepaper that suggests a radical dismantling of our current system of higher education.  

Forbes has published a series of hysterical pieces that predict the collapse of the higher education sector, addressing debt, millennial's growing ambivalence about college, and the imminent collapse of higher ed. 

This piece from Salon has the pithy title, "College is a Scam."