Spring 2022 Higher Ed Pacing Towards Undergrad Enrollment – Niche Instant Insights

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Niche Instant Insights

Key Insights

  • 58% of colleges reported an increase in applications and 42% reported an increase in acceptances. One-third of colleges reported increases in deposits with 15% reporting more than a 15% increase over the prior year.
  • 87% of colleges reported that staff turnover has been an issue this year, with 44% reporting that it was a significant issue for them.
  • 83% of respondents report that they’ve been planning changes for next year already. The most common are to focus more on generating and converting inquiries than prospecting (46%), increasing partnerships to increase their reach (39%), and increasing prospect and inquiry volumes (33%). 

Summary and Methodology

Many more colleges are seeing increases in applications than are seeing corresponding year-over-year increases in deposits. Yield will be decreasing again this year, so finding any ways to increase efficiency and affinity will help determine who will have fewer struggles next year. One of the biggest challenges has been staffing. More than a third of colleges reported that they have fewer staff this year than last, and 87% said that staff turnover has been a problem this year. Colleges that can recruit and retain staff with better working conditions and salaries will set themselves up for longer-term success and more ability to focus on recruiting and supporting students instead of continuous hiring and onboarding.

This survey was sent to 891 individuals in undergraduate leadership roles and was open March 28-April 13, 2022. Respondents were compensated for their time. We received responses from 54 institutions across the United States and Niche will be collecting feedback to determine if timing may have contributed to low response rates.

Pacing Toward Enrollment

Applications are up at most colleges—58% of colleges reported an increase in applications, and 42% reported an increase in acceptances. However, reports of a decrease in students applying should be an early indicator for decreased yield again this year. Slightly more colleges reported an increase in deposits than a decrease year-over-year. One-third of colleges reported increases in deposits—with 15% reporting more than a 15% increase over the prior year. Looking more granularly, almost half (48% reporting) of small colleges reported increases in deposits. Deposit increases were highest in the northeast (38% reporting) and lowest in the west (25% reporting).

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Enrollment Staffing

Half of the colleges reported that their staffing has not changed this year, but 35% said they are down staff. Turnover and burnout are being acutely felt; 87% of colleges reported that staff turnover has been an issue this year, with 44% reporting that it was a significant issue for them. If colleges were able to increase staff, half were able to increase high school visits while 38% decreased. Only 16% of colleges that had a decrease in staffing increased high school visits, and 63% decreased the number of high schools they visited.

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There was a direct correlation between staffing changes and enrollment metrics. No colleges reporting an increase in staffing reported a decrease in applications or acceptances, and only one reported a decrease in deposits. Almost half of the colleges reporting a decrease in admissions staffing reported a decrease in applications, 37% reported a decline in acceptances, and 52% reported a decrease in deposits.

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Enrollment Marketing Tactics and Planning

There were a number of priorities that have increased in importance this spring. The most common were receiving deposits (85% reporting), getting students on campus for visits (74%), and fighting melt (70%). Generating new interest is still a priority for some colleges, 38% of colleges reported that finding new 2022 prospects and inquiries was a higher priority this year than in the past. Travel was still down significantly from 2018-19. In fact, 59% of colleges reported that they visited fewer high schools, and 54% attended fewer college fairs.

Looking towards 2023, 83% of respondents report that they’ve already been planning changes. The most common are to focus more on generating and converting inquiries than prospecting (46%), increasing partnerships to maximize their reach (39%), and increasing prospect and inquiry volumes (33%). The majority of colleges reported that they plan to increase travel in the next cycle. Of respondents, 67% plan to visit more high schools, and 54% plan to attend more college fairs. No colleges said they plan to decrease off-campus group, 1:1, or counselor events. Returning to the road appears to be a priority; 82% of colleges that increased high school visits this year plan to further increase them next cycle. The majority of respondents reported that they plan to increase the use of digital marketing, texting, organic social media, and on-campus events next cycle for recruiting. With more students looking for in-person visits, respondents shared that they are planning for fewer virtual events.

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Will Patch

Prior to coming to Niche in 2019 Will served 9 years at Manchester University in roles as an Admissions Counselor, Associate Director for Admissions Operations, Social Media Coordinator, and ultimately as Digital Strategist. Will surfaces tactical insights from user behavior and surveys to help higher ed build recruitment strategies. In addition to the Enrollment Insights blog, webinars, and podcast; Will is a frequent conference speaker and podcast guest. He has presented at NACAC, AACRAO-SEM, AMA Higher Ed, CASE V, EduWeb, and EMA. Will's work has been featured in Forbes, Inside Higher Ed, CNBC, CNN, the LA Times, and The New York Times among other outlets.

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