Excerpt take from Business NH Magazine, Sep 14, 2021
Shrinking Applicant Pool
Based on data prepared in 2017 by then chancellor of CCSNH, Ross Gittell, high school student populations in the U.S. are expected to decline 5% by 2032, while the Northeast is expected to see a 12% decline. New Hampshire is projected to see a decline of 26%.
The graying of NH has been driven in part by demographics, as many baby boomers find NH a desirable place to retire and in part by policies that have discouraged housing for young families, leading to steady declines in school enrollment.
New Hampshire is also exporting nearly 60% of its current high school graduates, says Morone, making it first in the nation for the percentage of high school students who leave the state for their college education. “From the perspective of an employer, that’s exactly where we don’t want to be because it’s a lot harder to recruit them back,” he says. “As the pool of students shrinks, competition among schools becomes more severe, leading to an out-and-out price war in the form of escalating offers of financial aid.”
Michele Perkins, president of New England College, with campuses in Henniker and Manchester, says changing demographics are no surprise.
“We have seen this coming for some time and began marketing and recruiting to places outside New England. We still draw most of our students from New England and the eastern seaboard, but we have also developed markets in Florida, Texas and parts of the South and the Southwest where population is actually growing,” says Perkins. “The bulk of that population growth is in minority populations, specifically Hispanic. We have the highest percentage of students of color in New Hampshire at 36%.”
Diversifying its student base and attracting students outside of its usual geographic reach has allowed New England College to maintain and grow its enrollment, while offering a robust and quality academic program, says Perkins. She admits it is not easy to establish a presence outside the region without the name recognition of Harvard or Middlebury.
She says the diversity of NEC works in its favor. “When we do attract students of color from other parts of the country and they visit the campus, they see there are a lot of other students like them,” Perkins says.
She says even though the net price for private school tuition has not changed much over the past five years, that doesn’t mean it is cheap, especially for families that have lower income or first-generation students. “We have a very generous scholarship grant program; we give out over $25 million a year to our students so that they can afford to attend New England College.”