Chronicle of Higher Education Research Brief: Leaders of Regional Public Institutions Remain Optimistic Despite Challenges

March 8, 2024


Why do leaders of regional public universities feel positive about the future of their institutions, despite shifting student demographics, a lack of public understanding of the value of regional publics, and inadequate funding? The answer can be found in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) survey conducted with the support of AI» (AP) and reported in the CHE research brief, Regional Public Colleges Face Turbulent Times.

The over 400 survey respondents ranged from college presidents and provosts to deans and directors. They pinpointed possibilities to overcome obstacles, which they identified as low enrollment, hiring challenges, low employee morale and fatigue, and inadequate state funding.

The survey’s findings emphasized the significance of adult student audiences. Asked which student populations would be able to help increase enrollment at their institutions, 79% of respondents said adults. Other top responses included online learners (69%) and graduate students (58%).

Respondents also saw opportunities to mitigate current constraints by growing revenue. 69% named “expanding online programs” and 65% pointed to “expanding graduate programs” as viable solutions to increase enrollment by attracting greater interest from mostly adult students. 

University leaders and sector experts also spotlighted the need to raise awareness and increase the perceived value of regional publics among policymakers and other stakeholders by relying on their greatest asset—stories worth telling. Higher education observers advised regional institutions to double down on their historic advantages of being part of the identity of a place, understanding its culture, and serving the specific kind of people who live there.

For more insights from leaders on the regional public university today, read the full research brief here.

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