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Highlights from Higher Ed: Spending to Increase, Student Support Gap Continues, Retention in Decline, Higher Ed Staffing on the Rebound

David Art
Jul 19, 2021

Digital and IT Spending to Increase

According to a recent Gartner survey, 82 percent of chief financial officers plan to increase investment in digital capabilities in fiscal year 2021 compared to 2020, and 70 percent intend to increase their spending on information technology. Alejandra Lozada, senior director analyst in the Gartner Finance practice, noted that “CFOs also view technology as a competitive differentiator that can widen the performance gap between their businesses and those of their peers.” The investment in digital and IT beat out a number of other priorities, including people and culture development (59 percent plan to increase investment), staff/hiring (35 percent) and legal, compliance and risk management (30 percent). Notably, 43 percent of respondents said they plan to decrease investment in property and facilities.

Source: Campus Technology

Student Support Gap Continues 

Nearly 80 percent of students considering discontinuing their studies believed their institution can do more to keep them enrolled, according to a survey from Blackboard Inc., conducted in consultation with Qualtrics. The study indicates a significant gap in critical student support services for at-risk and minority students at their institutions. “Real gaps for at-risk and minority students emerged in the survey results,” said Richa Batra, Vice President of Student Success at Blackboard. At-risk students were nearly half as likely to feel confident they could find academic/tutoring support (32 percent vs 60 percent) and students of color were 13 percent less confident they could find academic/tutoring support than their white peers. Students indicated they valued round-the-clock availability and support that was faster and easier to find. 

Source: eCampus News

Persistence and Retention in Unprecedented Decline

According to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, of some 2.6 million students that started college for the first time in the fall of 2019, only 73.9% of them returned the next year. That’s two percentage points lower than the prior year (75.9%), marking the single largest drop in first-year persistence since the Clearinghouse began tracking with the 2009 student cohort. Severe racial and ethnic disparities continued in 2020. Nearly 87% of Asian students persisted into their second years in the fall of 2020, compared to around two-thirds of Black and Latinx students. Retention rates also suffered, falling 0.7 percentage points to 66.2%, another “unprecedented” decline, according to the report. 

Source: Higher Ed Dive

Higher Ed Staffing on the Rebound

Since the beginning of 2021, higher education has recovered a third of the labor force it shed in 2020, according to preliminary seasonally adjusted estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Between February 2020 and December 2020, a cumulative net of 660,000 workers were laid off or left the workforce that supports higher education. The net loss in jobs was so large that it erased more than a decade of job gains within the industry, with higher ed’s workforce decreasing to the size of February 2008. These rates parallel those of the wider economy, where the overall unemployment rate for June 2021 came in at 5.9 percent, down from a high of 14.8 percent in April 2020.

Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education

David Art

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Over the last three decades, Liaison has helped over 31,000 programs on more than 1,000 campuses more effectively manage admissions through its Centralized Application Service (CAS™) technology and complementary application processing and support services. The higher education technology leader supports its partner institutions’ total enrollment goals by pairing CAS with its Enrollment Marketing (EM) platform as well as the recently acquired TargetX (CRM) and advanced analytics software Othot.