The independent news organization of Duke University

College enrollment falls with economy

A higher percentage of universities in the United States will see decreased enrollment and tuition revenue in the 2013 fiscal year, according to a survey released in January by Moody’s Investors Service.

Of the nearly 300 universities surveyed, nearly half reported enrollment declines for Fall 2012. One-third expected net tuition revenue growth below the 2 percent national inflation rate in the coming year. Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Christoph Guttentag does not feel, however, that Duke has experienced the conditions listed in the report.

“For the purposes of this report, we are not the sort of institution that they are talking about,” Guttentag said. “However, our job is to make sure that we remain in a position where these sort of things don’t effect us.”

The survey indicated that these trends are not universal but differential for higher education institutions across the nation. Smaller, tuition-dependent universities with a more regional applicant pool are more vulnerable than those with high financial and academic rankings and a broad applicant base.

Jacob Vigdor, professor of public policy and economics, said the economic downturn in 2008 affected some schools more than others based on a university’s location and size.

“If you break down the U.S. into regions, some areas are doing awfully,” Vigdor said. “If you are running a small private college in Michigan, the fact that the economy is really hurting is bad news for you.”

Additionally, some students’ family backgrounds may have played a role in the University’s success during this financial downturn, said Charles Clotfelter, Z. Smith Reynolds professor of public policy and professor of economics and law. He noted that many families who send students to Duke have done well financially and have not been affected by the recession in the same way as other American families.

Admissions at Duke have seen a significant increase in applications, going from 20,337 for the Class of 2012 to 31,750 applicants this year. Guttentag credited a wide array of recruiting tactics, such as reaching out to international students, as a cause for these rising application numbers.

Clotfelter expects Duke’s general success in the recovering economy to continue, assuming the administration avoids major tuition hikes in the near future.

“As long as Duke’s tuition increases stay in line with the dozens of institutions it is competing with, I don’t see any red flags,” he said.


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