The threat of inflation pricing out more college students, especially those who attend community colleges, is an increasing concern for higher education leaders, according to a new report, which notes that administrators at two-year institutions are the most concerned about inflation with 98% agreeing it is a problem.
The fall 2022 installment of the Digital Learning Pulse Survey found that more than 80% of administrators, faculty and students across two- and four-year institutions agree that the cost of education is becoming financially out of reach for students. An even greater percentage of faculty (93%), administrators (94%) and students (84%) say rising inflation poses a problem.
Nearly nine in 10 (88%) of higher ed administrators are concerned about future enrollments, with nearly half (47%) of two-year college administrators saying they are “very concerned,” the report says.
The new research comes from education technology provider Cengage, Bay View Analytics and industry partners, including the Association for Community College Trustees and Phi Theta Kappa. More than 3,600 responded to the survey across two-year and four-year institutions, including 1,252 faculty and administrators and 2,358 students.
On the plus side
Despite the financial challenges, most students feel their education is worth the cost. Three-quarters of two-year students and two-thirds of four-year students say their education experience earns an “A” or a “B” grade in terms of value for money.
The figures weren’t quite as high for students’ views of programs. Forty-nine percent of two-year students give their courses an “A” for meeting their educational needs, compared to 54% at four-year institutions.
The survey also gauged how colleges are changing to meet students’ demands and to serve them better. Accelerated by the changes brought on by the pandemic, the bulk of colleges and universities have amped up efforts to offer more flexible online and hybrid courses, microcredentials and marketing to new demographics to increase enrollments, the report notes. Nearly all (92%) of surveyed colleges are redesigning programs for student retention and revising existing programs to attract more students (90%). Greater numbers of two-year colleges than four-year colleges have already put in place or are planning to put in place measures to address enrollments.
“While enrollments are certainly a substantial concern for administrators, there is a strong underlining of good news as students continue to see the value of higher education even if they want it delivered in new formats and on their terms,” Jeff Seaman, lead researcher and Director of Bay View Analytics, said in a release.