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The Future of Postsecondary Enrollment

Our research charge and charter

Blueprint for Growth is EAB’s signature, multi-year research initiative on the future of post-secondary enrollment, both undergraduate and graduate, domestic and international. This research makes bold predictions to shape our partners’ future enrollment strategy, based on cross-cutting and holistic market analysis. It goes beyond market sizing alone to uncover hidden risks and opportunities and the changing dynamics of competition, all while helping partner institutions anticipate whether and how they should grow.

Adult and Graduate

Adult and graduate education has been a large and growing market for a long time, but growth (and revenue) is not a given for most institutions. A high tolerance for risk, along with sustained investments in marketing and recruiting, technology and student services, and specialized organizational infrastructure are all table stakes to compete for prospective students.

How Big is the Adult and Grad Ed Market Overall?
Total Gross Annual U.S. Revenue Generated from Adult (25+)
Bachelor’s, Post-Bacc Certificates, and Graduate Enrollment, 18-19

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Master’s Market Represents the Biggest Revenue Opportunity

Despite the projected overall slowdown, master’s enrollments are growing in the downturn.

Degree Completion a High Volume, Low Margin Market

About a quarter of adult degree completers who re-enroll eventually graduate.

Professional Doctorate Revenue Dominated by JD and MD Programs

JDs and MDs account for 68% of total revenue and nearly half of enrollments

Grad Certificates Growing Fast, but the Smallest Market

Double digit growth belies fact that there were 73K conferrals in 2019. The median number of conferrals per program is 4.

EAB is partnering with institutions to align enrollment growth goals with the current market and prepare for future opportunities. We invite you to discover our insights and work with our experts in the coming months.

Quick reads

Longer reads

Master’s Market Competitive Intelligence Reports

These reports provide a snapshot of the competitive landscape for master’s degrees in each state or region.

Executive Guide to Certificate Market Risks and Opportunities

This whitepaper details the market trends that make it difficult for certificate enrollments to take off and profiles six successful certificate programs designed specifically to reach underserved markets, advance regional partnerships, and to continually test evolving market demand.

EAB Market Insights

Whether you’re vetting program ideas proposed by faculty, refreshing an existing set of degrees, or seeking new opportunities for launch, EAB Market Insights offers actionable recommendations and guidance to support continuous growth.

Bring a virtual workshop to your team

Credential Market Briefing and Innovation Workshop

Join our EAB-facilitated experience to educate your team on the certificates market and inform programming decisions.

Blueprint for Growth Amid the Pandemic: Virtual Presentation

Sign-up for a workshop to educate your team on the adult education market, including how to diversify revenues and bolster declining undergrad enrollment.

Access key takeaways from past events

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Hear EAB researchers dive into the past decade of data on program enrollments and degree conferrals, revealing growth slowdowns in the master’s market, a building threat of national competition for enrollments, and increasingly concentrated markets in high-demand fields.

To help guide enrollment strategy, EAB segmented the adult degree completion market to understand student attendance patterns and degree choices. Learn about the adult degree completion market and find out which students are most likely to reenroll, and why.

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Undergraduate

A global pandemic, volatile economic landscape, and looming “demographic cliff” have all significantly disrupted the undergraduate enrollment market and have created a new level of urgency for higher ed leaders. Relying on the latest market intelligence, economic forecasts, and socio-behavioral trends, we’re uncovering hidden risks and opportunities for institutions seeking a sustainable path forward amidst significant headwinds.

Explore our early hypotheses and findings below, and let us know if you’d like to be a part of our ongoing research.

Anticipating the Impact of Increased High School Dropouts and Delayed College Plans
Number of first-time enrollments at 2-year and 4-year institutions, 1990-2025

 

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Estimated range of inputs informing outcome

  • High school dropouts: 1.2M-2M
  • Students delaying matriculation due to financial stress, preference for in-person instruction: 5-40%
  • Long-term decline in attendance due to decreased consumer confidence: 1-3x 2008 recession impact

Which institutions are at most risk?

  • Access-oriented institutions
  • Small student populations
  • Limited remote instruction capability

Which institutions are at least risk?

  • Larger student populations
  • Ability to admit “down the waitlist”
  • Robust remote instruction capability

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The questions guiding our research

What does market concentration in the post-pandemic world look like?

How has the pandemic altered our projections of the demographic cliff?

What current enrollment trends are fleeting, and which are durable?

What are the long-term shifts in student behavior that stand to shape the future of enrollment?

International

Once considered a “blue ocean” opportunity for revenue and enrollment growth—particularly for American institutions—the international enrollment market has seen disruptive shifts in competitive positioning, sociopolitical policy, and student migration due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, higher ed leaders must reexamine their previous assumptions and recalibrate their strategy to grow in an increasingly complex international landscape.

Our team is working with partner institutions to track ongoing shifts within the international student market and identify and leverage competitive advantages.

Intl. Enrollment Decline Behind Comp. Sci, Engineering Slump
Year-Over-Year Change, Master’s Conferrals and Intl. Graduate Enrollment, 2013-19

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The questions guiding our research

What is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the future of international enrollments?

Where should we expect shifts in the competitive balance of power?

What are the post-pandemic risks, opportunities, and threats in the international undergraduate enrollment market?

Meet the team

We have a group of dedicated researchers focusing on the hidden risks, opportunities for growth, the current state of the competitive market, and diving into the true drivers of demand.

In the coming months, we will regularly release new insights from our experts. If you’d like to receive alerts about our latest market intelligence, or if you’d like to speak with a Blueprint for Growth researcher, please let us know.

Managing Director
Senior Analyst
Senior Analyst
Senior Analyst
Senior Analyst

Learn about related EAB services

Grow your graduate and online programs

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Learn more about EAB's Academic Affairs Forum

Get employer-focused market research

Learn more about EAB's Professional and Adult Education Forum

Identify sustainable cost savings

Learn more about EAB's Business Affairs Forum

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