The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

3 Steps HR Can Take Now to Help Address Declining Enrollment

A perfect storm is brewing. The “Birth Dearth,” wary international students, a decline in state funding, tuition pressures, low unemployment, and changes in major employer hiring standards are all contributing factors to a sharp drop in enrollment anticipated to occur as early as 2025. In fact, many institutions are already wrestling with declining enrollment. So how can HR help?

In a recent CUPA-HR webinar, John Whelan, vice president for human resources at Indiana University, shared excellent advice on this topic, including three proactive steps HR can take now to help lessen the impact of the enrollment cliff.

Learn About Key Issues at Your Institution
Read articles and reports, subscribe to online communities and daily information feeds, and meet with your enrollment and finance colleagues. Gain credibility with institution leaders by taking time to understand how the enrollment process works and learning more about the business side of the institution. John cautions against pushing an HR agenda when participating in conversations about enrollment. Instead, use the opportunity to listen and ask questions.

Be Positive and Focus on Solutions
It’s easy to be negative in light of the challenges, but you’ll have the most impact if you position HR as a department focused on solutions. For example, admissions counselors are at ground zero in this effort. This might be a good time to ensure continuity through increased retention efforts. Is compensation for admissions counselors still competitive? What ways can HR boost morale and create stability among admissions employees? Explore ways to cultivate talent from within. Think about how you can attract external candidates and what measures are in place to retain new hires.

Collaborate With Others in Higher Ed HR
You’re not alone. Use your professional network to find out how others are supporting their institution’s efforts to maintain and grow enrollment. Look for a CUPA-HR chapter event in your area or connect online through CUPA-HR’s online community of higher ed pros, CUPA-HR Connect.

For more ways HR pros can identify solutions to help institutions survive and thrive during the challenging times ahead, watch the recording of CUPA-HR webinar, “Understanding the Higher Education Enrollment Cliff and How HR Can Help,” with presenter John Whelan.

Related resources:

The Looming Higher Ed Enrollment Cliff (Higher Ed HR Magazine)

Interactive Graphic: The Looming Enrollment Cliff

A New Normal for Higher Ed (The Higher Ed Workplace Blog)

Succession Planning Toolkit (CUPA-HR members-only resource)

Workforce Planning Toolkit (CUPA-HR members-only resource)

Strategic Planning Toolkit (CUPA-HR members-only resource)


The CUPA-HR national office will be closed July 4 in observance of Independence Day.