Private Press Panel: Adjusting to the Demographic Pothole in College Admissions - Resources

Private Press Panel: Adjusting to the Demographic Pothole in College Admissions - Resources

Key takeaways, top quotes, images, story ideas, raw footage, transcript

Here is the full transcript aligned to the video. The text-only version of the transcript is attached.

TOPIC of the panel hosted by Othot on Wednesday, January 20, 2021 2:00-2:10 p.m. EST. Just as colleges and universities are recovering from COVID, a sizeable demographic pothole is waiting. According to data from WICHE and the Dept. of Education, in 2025, the number of high school graduates will start to recede, choking the pipeline of traditionally aged college students at an especially vulnerable time. Estimates are that high school graduations will fall by double-digits over the decade between 2025 and 2035. Some colleges are better prepared than others but the consequences could be significant especially for private and small colleges, many of which fill a critical gap in higher ed, giving a pathway for underserved and at-risk populations to earn a college degree. Four university admissions officers and an expert in analysis of admissions and recruitment data took questions from the media in a private panel on January 20, 2021.

Interesting takeaways and potential story angles:

  1. Ashland University has the largest correctional education program in the country. It's entirely virtual with 3,500 students.
  2. All of our panelists said that students are staying closer to home to go to school.
  3. Advanced analytics is being applied throughout the recruitment, admissions and graduation lifecycle with Othot being the leader in this space.
  4. Universities are being creative looking to corporate partners, students who failed to complete degrees, and graduate studies for new pools of students.
  5. Programmatic changes are also draws, such as a marine science program being considered at St. Mary's College of Maryland.
  6. Going test optional (no SAT or ACT data) means colleges have less data to know about their applicant pool.

Notable quotes:

"Unfortunately, this is our first experience for all of us recruiting entirely through one full cycle in the middle of a pandemic when we can't use our traditional techniques and strategies for recruitment."  - Keith Ramsdell, Ashland University (10:10)

"We can all go out and drive applications. But it's working those students through the funnel and kind of that second level of engagement, is where we're really focused on right now." - Dr. Blake Bedsole, Arkansas Tech (12:22)

"I've taken a closer look at our in-state versus out-of-state applicant pool, and what we're seeing and we've heard this I think four months now, that our applicant pool is definitely making decisions to stay closer to home." Keith Ramsdell, Ashland University (16:15)

"And what the algorithms can do is say, okay, we understand this individual. And they're more driven by relationship than they are driven by money. So you're much better off, focusing on that visit or that telephone call rather than seeing how much money that we can get that individual." - Andy Hannah, Co-Founder of Othot (20:45)

"But we have been using analytics as part of that digital campaign to be targeting parents specifically, to be targeting counselors specifically, as well as students specifically in the digital worlds that they live." - David Hautanen,  St. Mary's College of Maryland (25:51)

"And as we think about that shift in messaging, the St. Mary's way, what it's really doing is responding to the empathy. That we, as institutions need to be showing our students understanding the challenges that they have, and that we're going to meet them and join them in those challenges for their success." - David Hautanen,  St. Mary's College of Maryland (29:35)

"But also adding additional programs at the graduate level, adding programs that would target primarily ... or not target, but certainly serve the degree completer, or through our corporate partners, we have opportunities for those populations to come back and to complete either an undergraduate degree or to pursue a graduate degree." - Keith Ramsdell, Ashland University (33:19)

"And so we're already a campus that's 11% Hispanic, what do we need to do to make those students feel more comfortable and choosing [Arkansas] Tech as a destination; either for right out of college as traditional students or on down the line." -Dr. Blake Bedsole, Arkansas Tech (39:06)

"And I'd say that gets even more complicated, because as we move to more of a test optional environment, we may know less about students than we did a couple of years ago. And so how do we know more about them as individuals when we're actually getting less data?" - Andy Hannah, Co-Founder of Othot (44:31)

"...remember gen Z has been taught that everything should be personalized, right? The way that they consume their music, Spotify, Amazon, Netflix, you name it. The way that they consume, is everything's been personalized to me. We need to start to really think about that from an educational and institutional basis, so that we're matching what they're expecting as they start to look at colleges and universities." Andy Hannah, Co-Founder of Othot (45:01)


  • Keith Ramsdell, VP of Enrollment Management at Ashland University
  • Dr. Blake Bedsole, VP of Enrollment Management at Arkansas Tech
  • David Hautanen, Jr.,  Vice President for Enrollment Management at St. Mary’s College of Maryland
  • Andrew Hannah, Adjunct Professor of Analytics at the University of Pittsburgh, co-founder of Othot
  • Note: Kishan Zuber, VP of enrollment management & marketing at Wilkes University was unable to attend but is willing to take questions via email.
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