Where do you want your campus enrollment to be five years from now? Ten years from now?
Whatever your answers to those questions might be, you have to take into consideration the sizes of upcoming high school senior classes in your target markets and what percentage of those markets you can expect to capture. The difficult news, however, is that for more than half of the states in the US, the number of high school graduates is projected to decline in the coming years. (See Knocking at the College Door from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education for projections to 2022.)
These changes will likely lead to greater competition for students. Your traditional markets may shift dramatically as demographic shifts and increased competition alter the supply of students. Even if you only hope to maintain your current enrollment levels, you will need to be more strategic and precise in understanding where your potential student pools exist.
One initial step that campuses can use is the projection of high school enrollment numbers at the county level. Whether states are projected to decline or increase in the number of high school graduates, not all of these changes will be spread evenly throughout the state. Furthermore, most colleges and universities don’t draw students from entire states, but rather from specific regions within their state or neighboring states. Consider one of the projected growth states, Texas, and how much these projections vary from one county to another:
With existing enrollment data in hand, your campus can see trends in enrollment and use this data to make enrollment projections. This gives campuses a much more detailed understanding of where the shifts are occurring in a given state.