Policies that may halt enrollment decline at liberal arts colleges

June 4, 2018
  • AACRAO C&U
  • AACRAO Connect
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  • Small Colleges
  • liberal arts
Simplified bar graph with a downward sloping trend line.

Many small private liberal arts colleges have experienced enrollment declines in recent years -- a challenge particularly for those that are tuition-dependent and have limited endowments.

In the latest issue of College & University, authors Robert J. Gitter, Faith MacDonald, and Daniel Greenleaf examined factors that affect the size of the freshman class at such colleges after a decline of ten percent or more. They looked at the impact of various policy changes—such as tuition, financial aid, admissions rates, and sports offerings—on the number of freshmen enrolled one year after the changes were implemented. 

The results differed by type of small liberal arts college. The authors found that top-ranked national schools needed to make few changes, while lesser-ranked ones recovered more fully by offering larger amounts of financial aid and regional schools by awarding aid to more students. 

“While there are changes that can be made, what works varies by type of small liberal arts college,” the authors wrote.

This edition of C&U also includes a feature by Terry Ishitani and Lee Flood titled “Reverse and Horizontal Transfer-Out Behavior at Four-Year Institutions,” as well as the final four articles in the mentorship series.

Other topics covered in this issue include: creating a digital credential strategy; college funding specialists; education in Afghanistan; the impact of financial aid policies and practices on low-income students’ access to higher education; and an annual review of AACRAO research efforts. 

For more information, or to submit an article, please contact Managing Editor Heather Zimar at heatherz@aacrao.org