by Carole Jurenko Jones, Alpha Delta (U of Alabama), 2019-2021 NPC Chairman
As the new year approaches and the calendar turns to 2020, I am taking this opportunity to write about important work that lies before all of us as we focus on the future of sorority. If our member organizations are to continue to exist, we must enhance our relevance and understand and anticipate what the future looks like for sorority membership.
The NPC Board of Directors and staff are researching and studying changing student demographics, enrollment fluctuation, greater financial need for students and new models for classroom-type learning, and it is clear we need a full understanding of who our potential members will be in order to create conditions for their success and engagement.
Points for all of us to consider include the following:
- The overall number of high school graduates will plateau for most of the next decade – 3,561,051 (2020-21) to 3,298,597 (2030-31). Between now and 2023 undergraduate enrollment is expected to stagnate. The next high point of high school graduates is expected in 2026 with another drop off immediately following. As a result:
- Elite colleges and universities (the top 50 in U.S. News & World Report rankings) will most likely see an increase in enrollment.
- The national schools (the next 50) will see only modest declines.
- Two-year colleges are facing a potential 13% decline in demand from a 2012 baseline.
- The racial/ethnic mix of high school graduates will shift significantly toward a more diverse population.
- The Hispanic population will see the greatest increase in number of high school graduates in the South and West, with the exception of California and Utah where the largest population of graduates will be white.
- There will be a steep downturn of white graduates in the Midwest with strong growth in the numbers of minority graduates, Hispanic being the largest.
- Regionally, the South is the only region of the country that will experience growth in the number of high school graduates. However, the East South Central (Ala., Ky., Miss. and Tenn.) will face a 29% decline. The Northeast will have the least number of graduates.
- Family incomes are expected to stagnate so financial need at institutions will increase. With an increase in students attending college with greater financial need, membership in NPC member organizations may become cost prohibitive, especially on those campuses with large or expensive housing.
What does this mean for the future of sorority? As the race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, national origin and age of college students change more dramatically than ever, all of us – College Panhellenic women, Alumnae Panhellenic women, NPC member organizations and NPC volunteers and staff – must focus on marketing and reaching out to more women, including those who may not be considered likely joiners, to share the story of the sorority experience.
As I have said before, we are the best public relations we have. We are all responsible for sharing how we have benefited from sorority membership so more young women have heard about our organizations long before they enter college and are eager for the opportunity to join us.