Survey Shows Colleges and Universities Are Offering Students More Flexible Learning Pathways

As Enrollment Rates Decline, Financially Stressed Schools Are Exploring New Options and Investing in Technology to Keep Pace With Changing Student Priorities

Boston, MA – October 17, 2022 — A new online survey of college administrators reveals that schools struggling financially due to declining enrollments are innovating, investing in technology, and creating more flexible learning pathways. To address evolving student priorities, many stressed schools are deploying new tactics, such as partnering with local businesses to provide in-demand skills and workforce training, adding more certificate programs, providing non-credit courses, and offering stackable degrees.

The proportion of graduating high school students enrolling in college in the fall has dropped from a high of 70% in 2016 to 63% in 2020. At the same time, college financial aid application renewals were down 12% at the end of March 2022, an event that coincided with an historic level of open jobs. In its new survey, Innovating to Create a More Flexible Path for Higher Education, Jenzabar sought to understand how institutions were responding to these latest trends. The survey found that 53% of institutions polled were partnering with local businesses to provide in-demand skills training or workforce training. This percentage increased amongst schools experiencing enrollment decline (68%).

Declining enrollments also pushed institutions to offer a wider range of education options. The survey revealed that nearly half (45%) of respondents said enrollment had decreased in the past year. Of these schools:

  • Nearly two-thirds (62%) offer or plan to offer non-credit courses.
  • Slightly more than half (52%) offer or plan to offer non-credit certificate programs.
  • Slightly less than half (44%) offer or plan to offer micro-credentials.
  • 60% offer or plan to offer stackable degrees.

Partnering With Businesses Means More Learning Opportunities for Students

According to the survey, many colleges and universities are working with local businesses to provide more opportunities for their students. Overall, slightly more than half (53%) of the surveyed institutions partner with local businesses to provide in-demand skills training or workforce training. These partnerships coincide with an uptick in alternative learning paths.

Surveyed institutions that partner with local businesses (versus those that don’t) are:

  • Nearly twice as likely to offer or plan to offer non-credit courses (71% vs. 40%).
  • Nearly twice as likely to offer or plan to offer non-credit certificate programs (63% vs. 34%).
  • More than twice as likely to offer or plan to offer micro-credentials (51% vs. 24%).
  • Nearly twice as likely to offer or plan to offer stackable degrees (66% vs. 37%).
  • More likely to invest in tech (67% vs. 61%). 

“We’re excited to see the ways many schools are innovating to give learners access to flexible education, but we’re also seeing some institutions, such as those not yet feeling the effects of the enrollment decline, make less headway in providing students with affordable and accessible education options,” said Ling Chai, Founder, President, and CEO of Jenzabar. “We hope that, as student priorities and expectations continue to shift, colleges and universities will be encouraged to implement programs that allow students to more easily find, learn, and live their true calling. At Jenzabar, we remain committed to this endeavor through the Campus Movement, which aims to drive educational equity for learners around the world.”

Technology Spending Is on the Rise

Regardless of whether schools’ enrollment is increasing or decreasing, most schools increased their technology spending last year, and most plan to increase their technology spending again this coming year.

  • 51% of respondents increased spending on their infrastructure/tech stack in the past year.
  • Nearly two-thirds of respondents (64%) expect to increase their technology spending in the 2023-2024 school year.

“Among other things, the continued enrollment decline has highlighted a shift in student priorities. Students need to see a stronger connection between their educations and their career paths. By partnering with local businesses and offering alternative learning opportunities, institutions are finding new ways to provide students with options that work for them,” said Ling Chai. “The survey data shows that institutions, partners, and organizations are beginning to work together to give learners the education and life skills required to help them bridge the education/employment divide.”

Survey Methodology

Jenzabar fielded a nationwide online, invitation-only survey, polling 149 higher education leaders in August and September 2022. The survey consisted of multiple-choice questions to better understand their institution’s technology spending plans for the coming year, their deployment of skill-based programs, and course offerings to unenrolled students.

Eighty-seven percent of respondents were in leadership positions such as presidents, vice-presidents, directors, or deans. To download a full copy of the report, “Innovating to Create a More Flexible Path for Higher Education,” visit

About Jenzabar

Created out of a passion for education and a vision for technology, Jenzabar offers disruptive, innovative software solutions and services that empower students’ success and help higher education institutions meet the demands of the modern student. Over 1,350 higher educational campuses harness Jenzabar solutions for improved performance across campus and a more personalized and connected experience for the student. For further information, please visit or on Twitter @Jenzabar or on LinkedIn.

For Media Inquiries:

Gail Scibelli
fama PR for Jenzabar