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The “New Normal Continues” to Affect Institutions

The higher education industry continues to go through changes that it has to manage in very purposeful ways. Several factors have converged to create an almost perfect storm that has taken some colleges and universities by surprise, despite the fact that there have been warning signs for years. Stagnant economic opportunities for families to afford the cost of college, the changing demographics of the nation as a whole, stretched resources, and ineffective funding models for some colleges and universities have created an interesting dynamic in the industry. Higher education institutions are resilient organizations that have weathered challenges before, but the convergence of these factors in a present day context has challenged a number of institutions to reevaluate how they continue to extend the legacies of their institutions. In the summer of 2014, the white paper, “Navigating the New Normal: Financial Imperatives for MSI Effectiveness, and Avoiding Financial Exigency” was published by the Southern Education Foundation. This article is a checkup on the themes noted in that paper to see if anything has changed. This article posits that changes are afoot, but not at a pace that would make boards of trustees and senior leaders feel any relief. The issue of race and diversity has joined the debate as well, and it can no longer be ignored. It is into this milieu that enrollment professionals have to operate, and there are perspectives they have to keep in mind. This article attempts to take the complex and break it down into the simple, to provide a context around which all campus constituents and stakeholders will have to contend in the weeks, months and years to come.

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