Independent Sector Enrollment and Workforce Trends Portend Risks for Students, Jobs and Communities Across New York

News Date

Early trends a “canary in the coal mine” for higher education in New York. Colleges and universities where New Yorkers are at least 65% of the student body see enrollment declines and job losses.

Investment in the state’s vibrant higher education ecosystem is critical for students, employees and regional economies.

ALBANY – Private colleges and universities whose student body is made up mostly of New Yorkers reported a sharp decline in undergraduate enrollment in fall 2017 compared to the same time a year ago, particularly among their core group of students. In the same period, those institutions also shed a significant percentage of their workforce.

An analysis of fall 2017 enrollment data conducted by the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (CICU) indicates that of 48 institutions who are majority New Yorker-serving – with student bodies made up of 65 percent or more New York residents – 30 institutions reported enrollment declines; their overall enrollment of first-time freshmen from New York was down eight percent. From 2006 to 2016, enrollment at that same group of 30 institutions was up two percent.

Private, not-for-profit colleges and universities do more than educate New Yorkers, they also employ New Yorkers. Of the 406,000 jobs supported by New York’s private, not-for-profit colleges and universities, 41 percent are upstate. The 48 New Yorker-serving institutions surveyed shed 3,200 direct, indirect and induced jobs since fall 2016, a six percent reduction in their direct workforce.

“Tens of thousands of New Yorkers rely upon private, not-for-profit colleges and universities for higher education and the career and social mobility benefits that come with it. These enrollment and employment trends foreshadow risk for the entire higher education ecosystem in New York. There is no region in the state that is exempt from these impacts on students, employees and communities,” said CICU President Mary Beth Labate. “In order to preserve the state’s balanced higher education ecosystem and protect the $80 billion in economic activity generated by New York’s private, not-for-profit colleges and universities, students and institutions need sustainable support from the state.”

Private colleges and universities in New York offer students more than a degree, they give students the chance to join a community of scholars and alumni upon which they can build their careers. New York’s private, not-for-profit colleges and universities serve diverse populations of students and are committed to affordability for all students. Despite flat net tuition revenue over the past several years, they have increased student aid every year, giving $5.4 billion to students in 2015-16. That aid means the average four-year student pays $26,336 for tuition, room and board, far less than the published sticker price.

“We are heartened that the Governor and the Legislature are focusing on improving the higher education landscape, but private, not-for-profit colleges and universities must be meaningfully included in their efforts,” Labate said. “All students deserve to be able to choose the college or university, public or private, that best meets their needs and goals and all students should be treated equally when it comes to state aid.”

A majority of New York’s private, not-for-profit two- and four-year colleges and universities make up their enrollment with 65 percent or more New Yorkers. The results of this initial enrollment and employment survey portend great risk for those institutions, and the jobs and communities they support, unless carefully considered steps are taken to mitigate that risk.

Click here to read CICU's full report on fall 2017 enrollment and workforce trends in Independent Sector colleges and universities.