Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Baby boom/boomlet demographics. Why this could get ugly.

When you look at the rise of SIU, you can see it is all about the times. Many universities were built up starting with the post WW2 GI Bill and continued to grow to serve the baby boomers attending college. SIU was built for these two demographic waves. At the end of the baby boomer growth era, SIU was the second crown jewel of Illinois University system.

As the numbers of kids went down and the baby boom died down, the student numbers stayed pretty high because a much higher percentage of kids attended college. SIUC did pretty well in these years. It was the second best university in the state for most of it, it was the cheapest place to attend a university (maybe in the country) and it was on the train route from Chicago.

We currently are heading into the end of the baby boomlet (the children of the baby boomers). The numbers of kids attending some form or college is way up, both in total numbers and percentages.

The junior colleges are offering college credit with super low tuition, paid for by property taxes. You might be able to get a quality eduction from a junior college, but it looks like they have no standards and are passing everyone. This combination is very attractive to the baby boomlet students who historically would never have gone to college.

SIU is no longer the second best university in the state. There is a reasonable argument that for undergraduate education it is 4th or 5th among the public universities in a beauty contest. In addition, every student has a car so the train doesn't matter much, SIUC has raised prices to not be cheap anymore, and there is no reasonable student work in Southern Illinois.

The numbers don't lie. SIUC is going down in undergraduate enrollment, while the total number of students going to some form of college in Illinois is up. This is a bad sign, but it gets worse.

The baby boomlet is coming to an end. The total number of college students in Illinois is going to flatten and might go down a lot. The population in Illinois certainly isn't keeping up as more Americans locate near a coast and in states that are corrupt.

If SIUC continues to perform this poorly and doesn't harvest its fair share of students, the numbers could get grim. I think that SIUC is going to earn a 5 to 10% reduction in students in the next 5 years and a 20% reduction in the next 10 years. The students that SIU seems to be losing are the top students, not the middle or bottom (also a very bad sign). If the administration gets better at executing the business model, things could be different. There is no sign that changing the person on top will improve anything, the whole administrative structure of SIUC looks to be corrupt. I figure just 5 to 10 firings of key administrators and managing the new people right could turn it around, but we haven't seen anyone with the stomach for doing the right thing at SIU in over 30 years.

Poshard and Wendler, are they really different then all the others that have come and gone here since Morris left? I guess time will tell. It is a shame when a good thing is wasted.


Jonathan Bean said...

All true except SIUC missed out on the boom in student enrollment of the past 15 years. If we perform poorly in a Great Bull Market, then what happens when the Bears roar in?

Demographics is going to be deadly to most subsidized gov't programs but less so for the students -- multiple votes bought at once (parents, student, who is a "first-time buyer" of political goods and a prize for politicians). Ever wonder why all politicians want to be "the education governor, legislator, dogcatcher, etc.?

Peter in Carbondale said...

Sorry, I thought I wrote that SIUC didn't get their share of students and would get hurt more going forward. Clearly, if you are down and want more students today, you are in deep trouble going forward.

At the moment, universities all over the country are getting their state support cut. It is K-12 where the money is used to buy votes.