Jan 18 - Student demand trends remain a key factor for Fitch when reviewing
its college and university portfolio. We believe recent and projected drops in
high school students will create a more competitive environment for most higher
education institutions, further constraining tuition pricing flexibility.
The Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education (WICHE) recently released
the eighth edition of its "Knocking at the College Door: Projections of High
School Graduates" report, which estimates the number of public and non-public
high school graduates hit a peak at around 3.4 million in the 2010-2011 academic
year, will decrease annually by up to 2.9% between 2011 and 2014, and then
remain relatively flat between 2014 and 2020.
Among other initiatives, many higher education institutions are enhancing their
regional, national, and/or international outreach efforts to adapt to changing
demographics. Fitch anticipates that institutions already experiencing
demand-driven financial pressures will likely be further affected by the
continuation of this enrollment trend. The increasing importance of college or
university education to career development counterbalances this trend to some
extent, along with greater college participation.
For the past 20 years, public and private colleges and universities have
benefitted from sustained growth in total high school graduates, primarily due
to elevated birth rates and growth in the immigrant population. According to the
U.S. Census Bureau, more than 30% of U.S. adults aged 25 and older were reported
to have attained at least a bachelor's degree in March 2011, a record in the