For higher education, private and independent institutions, enrollment is not guaranteed the way it is for public K-12 schools. When students and parents have a great deal of choice in institutions, the landscape quickly becomes competitive. Considering that college enrollment is down for the eighth consecutive year and that private school enrollment dropped 14 percent from 2006 to 2016,1 higher education institutions and the like are looking for ways to stand out and secure recruitment and retention.
A key factor many higher education, private and independent institutions may overlook is the state of their facilities, which has a lot more to do with enrollment than you may think. Consider this:
71% of students agree that the look of a campus is important2
Surveyed students report that the physical campus is 32% more important than the institution’s reputation2
Renovation and upgrades to facilities increased freshman enrollment by 10% at the University of Maine3
Insufficient facilities is listed as a top threat to the success of higher education4
Ever turn on HGTV and binge ten episodes of House Hunters? By the third episode, you’re probably mentally weighing in on which house is best, even before you get the inside tour. Why?
Two words: curb appeal.
Curb appeal is a language anyone with sight speaks. It’s human nature to assess a place by the way it looks, and you likely did it when you bought your home. You pulled up to it for the first time and instantly had a feeling about it based on the outside appearance. First impressions like this matter, and they don’t just happen when buying a house. Many students and parents report making a decision about whether a school is right for them or their children within the first two minutes of being on campus.
Curb appeal matters everywhere. That overgrown landscaping, the potholes in the parking lot, the faded paint or letters chipping off signage, it all sends signals to potential students and their families. That sign is: If they don’t take care of their facility, why should I believe they’ll take care of me?
The state of your facilities doesn’t just impact recruitment; there’s also the matter of retention.
Particularly on higher ed campuses where facilities become students’ home away from home, the quality of time spent in facilities plays a huge role in how happy the student will be at that institution.
If that classroom a student has to be in every morning is always hot, if the lights in the hallway are always out or flickering, if the sink keeps spitting out dirty water or a dorm room window has been broken for weeks, now we’re not just talking curb appeal — comfort and security are being affected. You can bet that if maintenance issues like this become a recurring problem, you’ll start to see the effect in your enrollment numbers, and with good reason.
In today’s competitive education landscape, don’t let the state of your facilities be the reason your numbers are dropping. While there are no easy fixes, your facilities are a highly manageable aspect of your operations that can have significant influence on recruitment and retention, and investment in this area matters.
1 – https://www.wsj.com/articles/losing-students-private-schools-try-to-change-1514557437
2 – https://www.e-arc.com/blog/modern-and-well-maintained-campus-facilities-influence-higher-education-campus-enrollments/
3 – http:www.nebhe.org/thejournal/another-brick-in-the-wall-increased-challenges-face-the-physical-campus/
4 – Research conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Developpement