The Agile College

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. Nathan Grawe, Author and Professor of Economics at Carleton College joined the podcast to talk about his new book, The Agile College, and the enrollment growth strategies higher ed needs to consider to successfully navigate the new demographic changes that are coming.

Some institutions might recruit theirway through this, but most are going to have to deal with the unpleasantarithmetic that we can't all increase the number of students that we arerecruiting: you're listening to enrolment growth,university from helic education, the best professional development podcastfor higher education leaders looking to grow in roman at their college oruniversity, whether you're looking for fresh and roman growth techniques andstrategies or tools and resources. You've come to the right place. Let'sget into the show. Welcome back to enrolados university,the proud member of the connect edu podcast network, i'm eric olsen withheales education and we're here today with dr nathan graf author andprofessor of economics at carlton college nathan. Welcome to the show,thanks for having me, really excited to talk with you today about your new book,the agile college and some of the enrolment growth strategies that highered needs to at least consider in order...

...to navigate the new demographic changesthat are coming. But before we dig in give me god listeners a little bit ofbackground on both carlton college and your role there sure. So i teach in theeconomics department at carlton where i've been for twenty two years. Carltonis a highly selective, liberal, altes college, located about forty fiveminutes, south of minneapolis, st paul. We have about two thousand students, sowe're a residential liberal arts college of it. I think your first bookdemographics in the demand for higher education, provided, i would argue, asobering reality check for many of us that the consistent eight percent yearover year in roman games we had been experiencing earlier this century wereperhaps not only because of our brilliant marketing strategies, butbecause of sheer demographics being in our favor. For so long with thecontinually growing high school graduating class year. Be here, that'sno longer true, so to catch us off to speed what are some of the biggestdemographic challenges that hire it is going to be up against in the next twodecades. I think they're really two and...

...the first. We have a bit of experiencewith that's the changing composition of the american student body, the domesticstudent body. Obviously, we can also think about international studentmarkets, but thinking about the domestic pool, it's becoming morediverse in a number of dimensions, and that's because of changes in fertilitypatterns across different demographic groups. It's also the case that we'reseeing changes in composition geographically due to migration andimmigration. So this sort of changing composition is something that'srelatively slow moving and i think most campuses have certainly gotten prettyaccustomed to being aware of at least and beginning to think about how theyneed to adapt. The second challenge is simply the number of kids being born.So if we go back to two thousand and seven right before the financial crisis,the united states was actually producing children to rate greater thanwhat's called the replacement rate, the rate necessary to replace thepopulation just with birds alone. But then the financial crisis we saw youngfamilies experiencing economic and...

...certain team pull back on fertility and,in fact, all the way through two thousand and twenty. Now we know thatwe've seen a contraction in the number of birds, and so, if we flash forwardeighteen years, the traditional aged college student market will start tocontract in the mid two thuanas. Well, it isn't going to be a contractionreally until the mid, o, tousand and twenties. I think we're actuallyexperiencing some of the the pains associated with that shrinking poolalready because, as you noted, we sort of grew up and got used to an everincreasing pool and so in some sense grappling with scarcity. Just havingthe same number of kids come out every year is a challenge in itself, becauseyou can't paper over maybe some less than best practices just by gettingsome additional students into your school. On top of that, we already havein some parts of the country started the downturn in the number. So if welook in the great lakes region up into the north east, we're all ready on thedownward slide, and that will that the pace of that slide will pick up in thenext five years or so, and we do see...

...then in schools in those regions. Thestruggles that come from a shrinking student pool- it's interesting, youlook at that two thousand and seventy thousand eight. Is this reallyinteresting? Turning point? I wonder if anything else has happened in the lasteighteen months. That's my greatest similar one down the line, but nathanis there anything that we can learn from looking at past pandemics orsimilar events to try and estimate some projected demographic changes that ovidmay be creating for future higher education demand. Yeah there's beenreally interesting. Work done by melissa, kerney and phil levine writingover at the brookings institution about just that that question, and so theylook back at t e thousand nine hundred and eighteen flu pandemic and inparticular what they find is that, when the numbers of deaths spike, we seenine months later, that there are fewer children being born. In addition,pandemics of course can also have financial consequences and so using thegreat recession as a guide. They also think about what the economicconsequences of the pandemic might be.

Putting those two things together. Theyestimate that we might see that in two thousand and twenty one there are threehundred to five hundred thousand fewer birds than we otherwise might have soyour listeners might have heard. Maybe three months ago, two months ago, thecdc announced numbers for two thousand and twenty, and they were down fourpercent. It's easy to hear the the year two thousand and twenty, andimmediately have this adverse reaction. Oh my gosh, that's ovid, but the fourpercent decline in two thousand and twenty in bers was largely not ovid,remembering that ovid didn't really start to affect us in terms of havinglockdowns and things like that until march. So nine months after march, thedecember data might reflect ovid and december was indeed particularly bad intwo thousand and twenty, but we already saw declines all the way up throughnovember, suggesting that birds were already low. The real consequences ofovid will happen in two thousand and twenty one. So corny and levin arepretty pessimistic about what the pandemic will do. We can hope thatthat's just the laid birds rather than lost birth so that maybe in twothousand and twenty two we might have...

...more brave babies born and i'm hopingthat their analysis is overly pessimistic because they're, looking atthe consequences of the financial recession in two thousand eight twothousand and nine, to try to gauge what will the pandemics economicconsequences speech and we've been really aggressive in the last eighteenmonths with stimulus, and so it's possible that the fall out won't bequite so severe, so remains be seen. I mean we're living it right now, and sowe'll have more information very shortly about how two thousand andtwenty one actually bears out. I'm excited for a surprise chapter in yourbook. Eighteen years from now called bitcoin babies, the apout we didn't seecoming nathan in your last book. You pointed out our demographic reality inthe agile college or new book. You provide some strategic options aboutwhat higher red should could do about it. What are a few of those high levelstrategic suggestions? The first place that people obviously are going to lookat is, let's recruit our way out. If...

...the pool is shrinking, let's find newmarkets and- and i think to some degree- we should look at this. When we look atthe differences in matriculation by say, race and ethnicity, we know we havemore work to be done in the air area of access, even as we have made progressin recent decades, and so i'm not saying that we shouldn't do that. Buton the other hand, i think if all we do is look at the decline in babies, thatwe are expecting and say we're going to offset that by increasing matriculationrates were not being terribly realistic. Some institutions might recruit theirway through this, but most are going to have to deal with the unpleasantarithmetic that we can't all increase the number of students that we arerecruiting if the pool is falling and matriculation rates don't jump in someabsurdly strong way. So i think, in other words, we're going to have tolook at some additional strategies as well. Yes, let's be on our a game whenit comes to expanding access and recruitment, but we also, for instance,need to look hard at retention. Perhaps the cheapest student to recruit isalready on our campus and that often falls to an enrolment management officeand obviously a lot of campuses are...

...working hard to break that conversationout to the rest of campus to get other staff and faculty engaged with what isreally a problem that belongs to all of us. If we can increase pretension, thenit's possible that, even though the numbers of students who walk in thefront door remains the same or even declines, we might have stable orincreasing enrolments and total, and so i think, retention, work and studentsuccess. Work might be some of the most optimistic ways to approach thisproblem. But of course you can't simply tell the enrollment management officeto do something to change retention and student success while leaving the restof the campus untouched, and so i think we also have to be open toconversations about. How do we change the academic program? And how do wethink maybe differently about how we identify ourselves? Who are we? And ifwe aren't willing to do this work, then we might have to do some harder workthings like retrenchment, so i think we...

...do have some opportunities in terms ofrecruitment, but we're going to have to look beyond recruitment. Given the sizeof the decline in fertility were seeing. What about a green field exercise? Youhave have outargue unique nostrodamus: ask knowledge of what is coming basedon your research. If you were starting a university from scratch, knowing whatthe demographics are going to look like in two thousand and thirty, and you getto launch that university in the fall of twenty nine. What are you buildingand maybe more importantly, who specifically, are you trying to buildit, for? I think it's a great question. I think the answer it's probably goingto be a little unsatisfying for some of your listeners. The answer is probablythat there isn't a single answer. One of the great attributes of the american hired systemis that it is so diverse. We have two year schools. We have highly selectedfor your schools, we have open access for your institutions, we haveresidential campuses, commuter campuses, we have sectarian and non sectarian. Wehave a single sex and so on, and what...

...that means is that no matter what it isthat someone needs in the higher education spear, they can probably findit, and i think there are going to be opportunities for most institutiontypes. If we were thinking about it from an existing institutions. Point ofview, i guess that what i would say is we have to think hard about the contextin the circumstances. I give examples of tactics to address these variousaspects of high education practice, but i also stress that we can't simply takesomebody else's activity off the shelf and plug it in on our campus. We haveto think about how it needs to be adapted to fit our circumstance and socertinly here, yeah, i'm biased. Obviously i teach at carlton, which isa residential liberal arts college and i feel very very strongly that that'san important form of education, so you, frankly, if i were to create aninstitution, i would probably start with that kind of education, becauseit's what i know, but that doesn't mean it's the only kind that we work. Ithink they're going to be opportunities for two year: institutions that focuson the adult learner market. We have...

...about a hundred and fifty millionworkers at any point in time. It doesn't take very much marketpenetration there to offset whatever decline, we're seeing in thetraditional age. We have campuses that will focus on hispanic communities andwe'll have campuses that will focus on white communities where you havecampuses that will focus on the southwest, but will also need campusescontinue in the northeast, even though that's disproportionately declining. Soyou know certainly the case that if you find yourself in the mountain west sayyou are advantage just because the demographics are stronger there, butthat's not to say that there aren't successful pass forward forinstitutions of all types if in super helpful. Finally, leave us with somenext teps advice. Printed tion is listening, they're looking to preparefor an align themselves with this next chapter of higher education. Whereshould they start? First, i would say start with mission. Whatever is goingto happen next had better align. Well with your mission, i quote john mcgeethe author of break point in my book, where he talks very eloquently aboutthe importance that, as we approach,...

...these changing tactics that had betteralign with a bigger strategy. Often campuses come to a point of change whenthey when they experience crisis. Maybe crisis is an important motivator, butit can also lead us astray, because in that point of crisis we can just begrasping for anything and if we we end up grasping, is a set of tactics thatdon't line up with each other and don't line up with who we are as aninstitution. What our mission is, we end up having less than success as wemove forward so really knowing who you are and asking whether what you've beenis what you need to continue to be seems to me like a great place to start.I think a second thing that needs to happen early on is a little bit ofrealism to look at the markets. You're serving some institutions have a smallnumber of feeder schools. For instance, you can easily get in roman data andsee in the feeder schools that i am working on. What do i see is comingdown the pike now i think if you see the schools that you draw from aredoing relatively well, you can't stop...

...there because you have to remember thatwe are in a national context and if other schools are drawing on pools thatare shrinking and i guess the other pools have to be shrinking faster thanaverage. If your pool is not drinking at all, then we have to expectcompetitors to start looking at our healthy pools, but at least it's a goodplace to start what is going on in the markets that i'm serving and how big achange do we need to make once you you know what your mission is, and you knowthe size of the challenge that you potentially face that i think itbecomes clearer what needs to be done? Will it be sufficient to increase ourfirst year, attention rate by three percentage points? Well, if we knowkind of what we face in terms of the demographic challenges, we might beable to conclude that, yes, that will suffice or know that's not nearlyaggressive enough. We need to do that and a whole bunch more so having aclear sense of who we are and who we need to be and having a laser likefocus on that, while sizing up the size of the challenge that we face, i think,is a great place to start these conversations. I hope also the bookwill be helpful just because it gives...

...so many different examples of whatother people are doing, not that you would copy those exactly, but that itmight be a starting point for conversation to break people's mindsopen, and maybe they adapt something that other people are doing or maybeobserving what others do sparks an entirely novel response of how your owninstitution might respond. Yeah nath, let's point them to that starting point.Thank you. So much for your time to what's the best place for listeners togo, grab the agout college, so they can get it. The john hopkins universitypress website or an amazon or a number of brother online book sellers awesomea thin thanks. So much for joining us today. Thank you for having meattracting today's new post. Traditional learners means adopting newenrolment strategies. Helic educations data driven enterprise, wide approachto enrolment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive inthis new education, landscape and helix has just published the second editionof their enrollment growth playbook, with fifty percent brand new content onhow institutions can solve to day's...

...most pressing enrolment growthchallenges download it today for free at helos education, com, playbook, you've been listening to enrolmentgrowth university from helis education to ensure that you never miss anepisode subscribe to the show in itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thankyou so much for listening until next time. I.

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