Line of new students

How to Boost Higher Education Enrollment During a Recession

It doesn’t matter how it happens, when an economic recession hits, it often comes with little warning. The impacts that started with the downturn of the covid-19 pandemic have had a lasting effect on the economy. Institutions are experiencing a form of long-term economic uncertainty and are acting accordingly.

National undergraduate enrollment has seen an 8% drop since 2019 according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC).

To make up for lost revenue, institutions may be forced to raise tuition and rely on adjuncts to a greater extent. They may also put a freeze on hiring and construction projects. Given these potential changes, many wonder what colleges and universities do to encourage students to enroll during a recession.

There are a number of things that schools can do to encourage students to enroll during a recession. One is to offer scholarships and financial aid. This can make the cost of college more affordable for students and their families. Another is to offer flexible payment plans. This can help students who are working while they attend college. Schools can also offer online and hybrid courses. This can help students who need to take courses but cannot commit to being on campus full-time. 

Finally, schools can market themselves as bringers of value. They can highlight student success services that improve engagement, retention, and graduation rates. This can help students and their families see that the investment in education is worth it, even during a recession.

The Current State of Higher Education: Enrollment During a Recession

The current state of higher education enrollment during a recession is troubling. More and more students are finding themselves without the means to pay for college, and many are forced to drop out as a result.

However, there are some ways to boost enrollment during a recession. One is to offer more financial aid and scholarships. Another is to make college more affordable by reducing tuition and fees.

Finally, colleges and universities can do more to market themselves to potential students during a recession. By making the case that higher education is still a valuable investment, they can help convince more students to enroll.

Employers Need Qualified Candidates

The world still turns, even during a recession. People need jobs, employers need qualified candidates, and higher education continues to educate the future workforce. Employers are continuing to recruit but they are also shifting in response to recession times.

When the economy is in a downward spiral, administrators may consider making cuts to campus spending in areas like marketing and advertising, and recruitment programs. There’s a lot to consider before making any cuts, and schools should consider elevating recruitment strategies over axing them. 

The covid-19 pandemic created global challenges. On the recovery end of the pandemic, the world continues to reel from stressors on the supply chain and workforce. On top of it all, recent news suggests we’re in for a recession.

If past recessions have taught us anything, it’s that nurturing a strong recruiting program is essential. Higher education institutions are foundational for society. They serve the important purpose of developing the up-and-coming generations as they step into the workforce and leadership roles that will drive society forward.

5 Ways Universities Can Recruit During a Recession

During a recession, universities and colleges feel the impact. Administrators are faced with many difficult decisions when they try to balance the challenges. The effects of a recession can be wide-reaching and last for years.
Here are some of the ways universities can boost enrollment even during a recession, they are: 

1.) Show the Value of Campus Life

During recession times the government can cut financial aid to public colleges. This causes tuition hikes that result in students’ bills going way up. When students are faced with fears around money it makes attending higher education a difficult choice. 

To continue to attract students even when there is increased tuition, they need to see campus life and success. When a student can see the value in attending the institution the tuition rate is less of a concern. For example, this can be done online in a virtual recruitment event. There are many different ways to pay for school and connecting recruits with the school’s financial services may help ease the burden of figuring it out.  

2.) Show How Students will Be Supported for the Long Term

The financial factor will always be a part of higher education. During tough economic times including recessions, students have a harder time accepting long-term debt. They risk making decisions focused on the short term.
A key driver supporting student enrollment despite the prospect of paying back long-term loans is student success. During the recruiting process, a school can focus on student success centers and supports that are included like access to tutors, writing departments, advisors, and even career counseling. When students can see how they will be supported to succeed it eases the idea of financial burden.

3.) Showcase Graduate Success Stories

Students fear that they’re going for a high degree with few prospects after graduation. Economic uncertainty has everyone on edge. The truth is employers are still hiring and they still want highly educated and skilled recruits. They’re coming to the universities to connect with grads.
Schools can showcase the career counseling and student support centers that ensure graduates are supported to succeed after college life. Schools that highlight student success stories show proof that desired outcomes are attainable. These are great examples from Lower Columbia College. New recruits may see others overcome adversity to achieve great results, and be inspired too. 

4.) Use Technology To Support Students 

Budget decisions during recession times weigh heavily on administrators. Everything feels pressure from enrollment, student activities, courses, and programs. In-person workshops and events are also affected. When schools are faced with reduced funds, they are called on to find ways to meet students’ needs while making ends meet.
Schools can face budget cuts in stride. Technology supports a hybrid approach where learners can access much-needed resources with less impact on the schools budget. Enrollment strategies should include highlighting virtual student services that include workshops and events, tutoring (online and in-person), academic advising and coaching, counseling, a writing center, and supplemental instruction.


A school that has a progressive approach that includes connecting students and faculty through technology enables students to succeed beyond the classroom. New Mckinsey research shows there is a shift to more interactive and diverse learning models that will likely continue. Prospective students want this, and when it comes to enrollment it may be a deciding factor.

5.) Increase Marketing and Outreach Efforts

Another way to boost enrollment during a recession is to increase marketing and outreach efforts. This could involve targeting high school students who may be considering skipping college due to the economy. Colleges and universities can also reach out to adults who may be interested in returning to school or enrolling for the first time.

Many people are looking for ways to save money during a recession, so colleges and universities should offer flexible programs and schedules that allow students to save on costs such as room and board. For example, colleges could offer online or hybrid programs that allow students to take some courses remotely. Or, they could offer evening and weekend classes that don’t require students to live on campus.

With the job market being so tight, many people are looking for ways to improve their employment prospects. Colleges and universities can help by providing job training and career services to students and alumni. This could include offering resume writing workshops, job fairs, and career counseling services.

Key Takeaways

In a recession, universities play an important role in the lives of their students. By providing quality education, universities help students to develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the workforce. In addition, universities can help students to find jobs during a recession by providing career counseling and job placement services. Universities can help students to manage their finances during a recession by offering financial aid and scholarships.

During a recession, school administrators will be faced with budget cuts and restraints. Schools must consider shifting recruitment strategies to continue to enroll new students through economic downturns.

Higher education administrators can take several steps to ensure they are enrolling students even during a recession. By being more flexible with their admissions requirements, providing more financial aid and scholarships, and making a concerted effort to reach out to students, universities can ensure they are weathering the storm of a recession.

Student retention is an important factor for school administrators. One thing that goes hand in hand with recruitment is retention. QuadC’s software enables higher education institutions to connect their students with services outside the classroom – both online and in person. If you’re looking for ideas on how to improve student retention, you’ll want to read our guide, “Everything You Need to Know About Student Success Management Systems.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *