Higher-ed institutions search for solutions as the dreaded enrollment cliff looms

In 2026, the high-school aged population in the United States will peak at about 3.5 million students and then decline by 15% in the following 18 years. This is the demographic-driven phenomenon that colleges and universities are calling the enrollment cliff.

The enrollment cliff sparks some questions: If there are fewer and fewer traditional college-aged students, how will universities sustain enrollment? And maybe even more importantly, how will the U.S. labor force continue to be globally and nationally competitive without a pool of educated employees?

Courtney Brown, Lumina Foundation for Education’s vice president of strategic impact and planning, specializes in following and studying data trends within higher education.

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