During its weekly telephone town halls, NACUBO is asking its members to respond to flash polls on emerging topics of concern to business officers in light of COVID-19. Results are collected during the telephone town hall and through the week. NACUBO’s April 28 flash poll focused on admissions and enrollment.
Enrollment unpredictability creates myriad concerns complicating fall planning and budgeting. Uncertainty is the specter haunting college business officers as they try to plan for fiscal year 2020-21. The only thing they know for sure is that the fall term is unlikely to be business as usual.
NACUBO received 142 valid responses to the April 28 poll.
Our open-ended question in this poll asked, “What other enrollment challenges or concerns have emerged on your campus since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic?” The responses illustrate the challenges to every aspect of the admissions and enrollment process.
Here are several observations from the responses:
1. Many business officers are concerned that some students and families just won’t have the resources to enroll or return. This will result in even more pressure to increase institutional aid.
“Pell eligible students are not in a good position to return.”
“Students dealing with real life issue[s].”
“Retention given economic challenges to families.”
2. Schools are already seeing the impact. May 1 is college decision day, and the news was not universally good. Some business officers are also slow to assume that deposits are an accurate indicator of enrollment this year.
“37% reduction in fall registration for returning students”
“Fall is down 5% right now”
“Deposits have slowed significantly indicating students are delaying their college decision”
“Many students and families are in a "wait and see" before making decision”
3. The on-campus experience is tied to housing, where there is significant uncertainty. While schools will want to house students safely, and accommodate concerns, housing fewer students will result in less housing revenue. Similarly, social distancing precautions in dining facilities is also likely to result in a loss of revenue.
“Will parents allow the student to come on campus?”
“How will we configure housing to promote social distancing?”
“Housing students as singles in double rooms or more for social distancing”
“We expect to have to offer many single rooms in the fall”
4. There are serious concerns about international student enrollment.
“International students… are not in a good position to return.”
5. Not having fall athletic or performing arts programs could deter enrollment. This is not just a concern for institutions with Division 1 programs.
“The expected decline in enrollment will be tied to athletics for our institution because 60% of our undergrads are athletes.”
6. Social distancing requirements could have a significant impact on academic delivery.
“We are a graduate professional university. Our most significant challenge is attaining appropriate clinical experiences for students.
“We are a hands on technical school, the inability to get students into labs for a continued time frame will [be a challenge].”
7. Even with the ability to offer online learning, there are challenges to overcome.
“Access to internet is a huge barrier to online learning.”
“Decrease in retention especially if we return to remote instruction in the fall”
“Our student want to have in-person classes.”
8. Colleges have to be creative about campus tours and orientation programs.
“We have moved to virtual campus tours.”
“We have had virtual preview day that was very well attended.”