The US sector is assailed on a number of fronts. The most serious is the projected decline in domestic undergraduate enrolments as a result of a significant demographic shift across many US states that will see the number of 18 year olds available to go to university or college drop by as much as 15% over the coming years.
Birth rates dropped from 4.3 million in 2007 to 3.7m in 2021 so this demographic shift will herald a marked decrease in the college age students. States such as New York, Ohio, Michigan Wisconsin and Illinois are set to see enrolment decline by 15% and across other states in New England the mid-Atlantic Texas and Florida there will be a 7.5% decline.
The usual answer to a higher education sector in trouble is to push hard for increased international student recruitment, and many US institutions are doing just that. However, in this case international student recruitment alone will not be able to solve the universities’ problems.
While the overall level of international student numbers in the country have recovered to over pre-pandemic levels over the last couple of years, there have been some significant changes in the way students are distributed across the sector.
Chinese students are increasingly focusing applications on the Ivy League and large state universities. Indian student numbers are growing quickly but again they are focusing on large general state universities.
We also need to consider the political issues that are playing an increasing part in the US higher education sector. There are growing tensions particularly between Republican state governments and their university systems.
There is a growing movement to curb the freedom of state universities in Republican states. The next presidential election is less that 12 months away, and its outcome could have further significant ramifications for the HE sector.
All the above means the US universities are going to need innovate to survive. In particular liberal arts colleges and second-tier US state universities will be under particular pressure. CCG has been working with a number of these universities to look at ways transnational education and international partnerships can support them in maintaining enrolment.
These partnerships are aimed at diversifying reliance on particular markets, and creating sustainable partnerships that will see students transferring to US institutions for part of their programs.
One of initiatives that CCG US clients have adopted is to create a partnership with a UK university to offer PG courses. This innovative model is described as a Graduate Hub partnership.
The model uses collaborative provision where the faculty of the US institution deliver in partnership with the UK university a number of postgraduate courses that map to the most popular undergraduate courses at the US institution.
This allows the US institution to quickly launch a number of high quality one-year master’s programs, and to recruit their own undergraduates to stay on campus for an extra year to receive a UK postgraduate degree.
We have six of these partnerships under development, with most planning to launch in September 2024.
We have already seen from the partnerships we have already created that there are also a range of other opportunities for the US partner to link into the existing extensive international networks of their UK partner.
We are also working on the development of a range of international partnerships that will see high-quality international students feeding in to the programs of US liberal arts colleges and state universities, and also working with a number of US institutions who are keen to find partnerships where their courses can be delivered in market.
Times are changing in the US HE markets, and those institutions that recognise that and innovate are those that will survive and thrive over the coming years.
About the author: This is a sponsored article by Charles Cormack. Charles is the chairman of Cormack Consultancy Group a specialist HE Internationalisation consultancy working with HE institutions in the UK, US, Canada and Australia.