Responding to Enrollment Declines

The article “U.S. Private Colleges Face Enrollment Declines” illustrates the typical, non-Lean way in which schools deal with reduced revenues caused by declining enrollment:

  • Closures
  • Layoffs
  • Cutbacks
  • Mergers
  • Outsourcing
  • Shared services
  • Increase fundraising from alumni and donors

And how they try to improve enrollment:

  • Reducing or eliminating enrollment exclusivity
  • Scholarships for taking a campus tour
  • Recruit elementary school students
  • Recruit students from far-away lands
  • Buy bigger contact lists to market to larger numbers of students

Notice anything missing? How about improving the product offered – higher education!

The Lean academic leader’s first priority would be to focus faculty on improving academic courses and programs via kaizen. This would yield reductions in cost and substantial improvements in quality and value for students and payers.

Administrators would then translate those results into marketing the unique features, benefits, and value of their degree programs in comparison to those offered by other institutions. They will outperform other institutions in enrollment gains because they have addressed that actual thing that needs to be improved.

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