“Frankly, competition is fierce,” said Cathy Sandeen, chancellor of UW Colleges and UW-Extension. “There’s a big incentive to go after tuition revenue. We’re experiencing competition from institutions that haven’t competed with us in the past, including the four-year campuses.”
Several factors likely contributed to UW Colleges’ early loss of about 3,000 students this fall, she said.
When the economy picks up, enrollment at two-year institutions often declines as more jobs become available, especially for nontraditional students, Sandeen said. The national conversation about affordability, student loan debt and the value of higher education also has been “very negative,” she added. Some new high school graduates may delay college and choose to earn tuition money first to avoid taking out loans, the chancellor said.
Two-year campuses hit the hardest are in counties that have been severely affected by the demographic shift, she said. “We’re in a trough, in terms of the number of high school graduates. We’re at a low point in that demographic, and that’s the demographic that traditionally comes to our campuses.”