Will Colleges Survive the Storm of Declining Enrollments? A Computational Model

PLoS ONE 15(8). 2020

30 Pages Posted: 11 May 2021

See all articles by Oleg V. Pavlov

Oleg V. Pavlov

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) - Department of Social Science & Policy Studies

Evangelos Katsamakas

Gabelli School of Business, Fordham University

Date Written: 2020

Abstract

The approaching decline in the U.S. college-age population, sometimes referred to as a “demographic storm,” has been identified as an existential threat to the future of American colleges and universities. This article conducts a model-driven analysis of three plausible college-level responses to declining applications. It draws on systems theory to conceptualize a tuition-dependent college as a complex service system and to develop a system dynamics model that captures key causal interrelationships and multiple feedback effects between faculty, facilities, tuition revenue, financials, reputation, and outcomes. Simulations with the college model suggest that common solutions such as reducing faculty or adding campus facilities may improve the college’s short-term financial position, but they are insufficient to ensure the long-term viability without the continuous tuition hikes. This model contributes to the research literature on the economics of higher education, and model-driven academic management and strategy. It also provides useful implications and insights that can inform policy-makers and college leaders.

Keywords: college enrollments; demand for college education; model-based management and strategy; higher education; financial sustainability; demographic storm; systems thinking; system dynamics; computational model; college closures; service systems

Suggested Citation

Pavlov, Oleg V. and Katsamakas, Evangelos, Will Colleges Survive the Storm of Declining Enrollments? A Computational Model (2020). PLoS ONE 15(8). 2020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3841287 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3841287

Oleg V. Pavlov (Contact Author)

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) - Department of Social Science & Policy Studies ( email )

100 Institute Road
Worcester, MA 01609
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.olegpavlov.org

Evangelos Katsamakas

Gabelli School of Business, Fordham University ( email )

140 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
3
Abstract Views
58
PlumX Metrics