Colleges could see lower enrollment due to Great Recession

December 16, 2019 GMT

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Universities in Washington state and Idaho fear there may soon be fewer students to fill their classes due to a national decrease in births during the Great Recession, officials said.

Children born during the economic recession that started in December 2007 will begin graduating from high school in five years, but the recession caused many people facing financial difficulties to delay having children, The Spokesman-Review reported.

Universities and colleges in the inland Northwest are adjusting strategies to recruit and sustain enrollment from a smaller pool of prospective students, officials said.

The annual number of live births in the country fell from 4.3 million in 2007, the year the recession hit, to 3.9 million in 2013, a decline of about 9%, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

A recent report by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, a consortium of public college systems in 15 states, projected that by 2030 “the annual number of public high school graduates is expected to decline by about 120,000 compared with 2013.”

That 4% decrease could primarily result from the decline in birth rates, the report said.

Eastern Washington University is focusing recruiting efforts on Hispanic and Latino students, who are underrepresented at many institutions, officials said.

Washington State University receives many transplants from other states and expects to experience a net increase in its enrollment by high school graduates over the next decade, officials said.

The University of Idaho hopes to attract older adults, including people who never attended college or want to enhance their job skills or switch careers.

Dean Kahler, vice provost for strategic enrollment management, anticipates heightened competition among schools in neighboring states.

“We’re certainly going to be very sensitive to this because we recruit in more than just Idaho,” Kahler said. “But there’s a lot of states that are going to be hit a lot harder than our state is.”

Gonzaga University in Spokane will stop recruiting in the Midwest and boost its marketing efforts in states like Utah, Arizona and Washington, said Julie McCulloh, associate provost for enrollment management.

“We’re keeping an eye on those areas where growth might occur in the next decade,” McCulloh said. “We’re trying to be very aware of the changing demographic and business requirements.”