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Preliminary Report on Enrollment Projections and Degree Estimates

by Tod Massa 17. July 2015 18:38

(I will present this to report to SCHEV's Resources and Planning Committee on Monday, Jul 20, 2015.)

Presentation Visuals as a pdf.

This is a preliminary report written prior to the initiation of the six-year plan meetings with public institutions and representatives from SCHEV, Senate Finance, House Appropriations, Department of Planning and Budget, the Secretary of Finance, and the Secretary of Education. These meetings could very well result in changes both up and down in the magnitude of these projections. When staff presents the full package of enrollment projections and degree estimates to the Council for action, we will provide full institutional detail, but for the purposes of this report we will report only on the highest levels of aggregation.


Enrollment Projections

In fall of 2014, total headcount was 443,447 undergraduate students.  As currently submitted, these projections represent a total undergraduate headcount 479,354 students in the fall of 2021. If we include estimates for the four missing institutions based on their submitted headcount this past fall, that number increases to 480,045. 

In preparing materials for the Virginia Plan for Higher Education, staff developed a variety of annual checkpoints to gauge progress toward specific goals. One of these is fall enrollment and it assumes no change in current degree production/completion rates. The matching checkpoint for fall 2021 is 497,803 students, a difference of 18,000 with respect to the current projections provided immediately above. On its face, this would generate concern. However, as has been true for a number of years now, the guidance to the institutions, particularly the public institutions, has been to be conservative in these projections. The reason for this is primarily because of the Institutional Performance Standards and the requirement to meet at least 95% of those projections for in-state undergraduates. The difference between the projections and the checkpoint for 2021 is approximately four percent and thus it is quite possible there is no cause for concern at all. Conversely, these projections could very well represent institutional concerns about the availability of institutional funding and the funding of student assistance at the state and federal levels.

There is an area of concern to staff. The enrollment projections submitted to SCHEV include projections of new student enrollments, including first-time in college (FTIC) and the estimated percentage of those that are Virginia residents. When comparing these totals to a combination of the projections of high school graduates produced by the Western Interstate Compact for Higher Education (WICHE), and the recent trend in the proportion of FTIC students that were recent high school graduates, we find that the projections typically exceed our expectations by two to three thousand students. For example, in 2021-22, the last year of the full projection model, the institutions project 68,482 in-state, FTIC students where we project 53,674 recent high school graduates enrolling (based on historical participation rates) combined with 13,361 FTIC students that are not recent high school graduates for a total of 66,996 students. 

This may not be of great concern as there have always been at 77,000 high school graduates each year in Virginia since 2002 and WICHE projects up to 93,000 in 2024-25. It would seem there are plenty of opportunities to attract new students that have taken a year or five after high school graduation to pursue other opportunities and perhaps mature. There are also opportunities to reach beyond the traditional pools of high school students to expand college access. These steps may be particularly needful if the projections of first-time students are also on the conservative side as we believe the overall enrollment projections and degree estimates to be.


Degree Estimates

Over the course of the projections, Virginia institutions estimate that in 2021-22, they will award 75,208 associate and bachelor’s degrees, as part of 122,818 total awards. This represents approximately, respectively, a 5,000 and 10,000 increase in awards from 2013-14. As with the enrollment projections, we advise the institutions to be conservative and thus we anticipate that these may only be about 95% of what the institutions expect to do. This is an important consideration when addressing the whether or not we are on track to meet the target of 100,000 cumulative additional undergraduate degrees to in-state students. 

If we take the degree estimates as submitted, it appears that the public institutions will fall well short of the goal and the number of cumulative additional degrees will be slightly over 75,000. However, if we assume the projections represent only 95% of what will happen, the total will be just over 101,000 degrees. If it seems odd that a five percent difference in annual awards would create such a big difference, keep in mind that the goal represents a sum of marginal increases against a base year. Over the span of the remaining decade, these changes add up, particularly if the earliest years of the projections are the most conservative, which we expect to be that case as the institutions will not have the opportunity to change those after adoption by Council and they become the baseline for IPS measurement in 2016.

The Virginia Plan for Higher Education sets a degree attainment target of 1.5 million additional degrees and workforce credentials by 2030. To achieve this goal will require sustained and increased effort over the next 15 years. As with the enrollment projections, staff has developed annual checkpoints to determine progress in meeting the goal. These checkpoints assume a straight-line growth and are fully integrated with the projected enrollment checkpoints. Also, for the first time we have asked the institutions to provide long-term estimates (an additional seven years out to 2030) of both enrollment and degree awards. These estimates are very simple and less detailed than those that are part of the six-year planning process. They are provided as a range of low and high values. In the attached chart we have provided the most recent actual degree awards, the projections through 2021-22, the long-term estimates of 2023-2030, and the annual checkpoints to achieve the 2030 goal.

It should be apparent in the chart that the in first years of the projection, the degree estimates track very closely with the checkpoints and then begin to fall off about 2019-20. From 2022-23 through 2029-30 the high value of the long-term estimates slightly exceeds the checkpoints, the low end is well below (5,000 to 8,000 degrees). If we again assume the degree estimates are conservative, then there is no cause concern. Our suggestion is that no decision needs to be made immediately, but the next critical point will during the 2019 projection cycle if there no identifiable concerns in 2017. 




title slide

informational slide about status of projections: Enrollment Projections & Degree Estimates 2015-2022

Chart: Fall Headcount, Enrollment, All Institutions

Chart: Fall Headcount, Public Four-Years

Chart: Public Two-Years, Total Fall Headcount

Chart: Historic & Projected HS Graduates

Chart: Degree Estimates, Undergraduate

Chart: Degree Estimates, Public Institutions

Chart: Degree Estimates, Publics, In-State

Chart: Degree Estimates, Public Four-Years

Chart: Degree Estimates, VCCS



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