College presidents are becoming increasingly concerned about enrollment issues, such as having enough institutional aid to support more low-income students, retain current students, and meet overall enrollment revenue goals, according to a new survey from Inside Higher Ed.
The survey, conducted by Gallup on behalf of Inside Higher Ed, includes data from responses from 706 college presidents from a variety of institutional sectors and levels (associate, baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral). In addition to enrollment management concerns, college presidents largely opposed maintaining the College Scorecard, and said they believe the 2016 presidential election exposed a “disconnect” between academe and American society.
On questions about goals for their student body, presidents appeared most concerned with enrolling low-income students, student retention, and overall targets, but also expressed concern about enrolling enough students who do not need institutional aid, enrolling more online students, and enrolling enough racial and ethnic minority students for a diverse student body. They were also somewhat concerned about enrolling more international students, more first-generation students, and giving out too much aid to students who might not need it.
Overall, 87 percent of college presidents said they were very (52 percent) or somewhat concerned (35 percent) about having enough institutional aid to enroll as many low-income students as they would like. More than 8 in 10 college presidents were also very or somewhat concerned with enrolling students who are more likely to be retained and to graduate on time, and enrolling their institution’s target number of undergraduates.
Still, those answers varied among presidents at different types of institutions. Presidents at private colleges, which tend to be much more dependent on tuition revenue, were almost twice as likely as public college presidents (82 percent, compared with 44 percent) to say they were very or somewhat concerned about enrolling enough students who do not need institutional aid. Similarly, private college presidents were more likely than public college presidents (66 percent, compared with 34 percent) to say they were concerned about giving too much aid to non-needy students.
A majority of college presidents also said they believe the purpose of institutions of higher education is misunderstood.
“Public misperceptions of the mission of higher education and the environment on campuses can hinder colleges’ abilities to persuade students and families, not to mention donors and policy makers, about the value of a college education,” a report on the survey said. “Most college presidents perceive that the public does not accurately understand the college landscape.”
Overall, just 12 percent of college presidents strongly agreed or agreed that most Americans have an accurate view of the purpose of higher education. Similarly, just 17 percent strongly agreed or agreed that the public has an accurate view of the purpose of their sector of higher education.
More than 8 in 10 college presidents (84 percent) agreed or strongly agreed that attention to student debt has led many prospective college students to view college as less affordable than it is when financial aid is taken into account. A majority of college presidents (80 percent) also said they believed that attention to large endowments at some institutions has caused some to believe that most colleges are wealthier than they are. Presidents of certain types of institutions, such as public doctoral institutions (88 percent), private nonprofit doctoral/master’s institutions (84 percent), and private nonprofit baccalaureate institutions (84 percent) were slightly more concerned with the impact that attention to large endowments can have on institutional perception.
Many college presidents (54 percent) said they believed the election brought attention to the fact that academe appears to be out of touch with American society at large, and that there is an anti-intellectual sentiment growing in the country (69 percent). College presidents also said that under a Trump administration they believe that undocumented students may lose rights they gained under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) action (75 percent), that for-profit education will receive less federal scrutiny (69 percent), and that international students might be less likely to enroll (58 percent). And a large majority of college presidents (71 percent) said they would oppose maintaining the College Scorecard.
“The recent change from the Obama administration to the Trump administration could result in a very different approach to higher education policy at the federal level,” the survey said. “The Trump administration could undo many of the policies the Obama administration put into place.”
Publication Date: 3/14/2017