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6 Ways for Music Colleges to Boost Enrollment & Degree Value


Chart Showing US Undergraduate Enrollment, 1985-2020“From 2026 to 2031, the college-age population in the U.S. will drop about 15% due to the reduced birth rate during the Great Recession.”
-Gerald Klickstein
Enrollment Growth Amid a Shrinking Student Population,”
College Music Symposium, Vol. 63, No. 1, May, 2023

Aspiring musicians often depend on music colleges and conservatoires to provide high-level training (I’ll refer to them as “music colleges” going forward).

Communities, too, benefit from the performances and other public services offered by music colleges.

Even so, such institutions sustain themselves by enrolling ample numbers of full-time students. If enrollments fall below critical levels, schools have to shut down.

It turns out that enrollments are so severely threatened that many music colleges could soon be shuttered, unless they take urgent action.

Enrollment Growth Amid a Shrinking Student Population

In May of 2023, the open-access, peer-reviewed journal College Music Symposium published my article, “Enrollment Growth Amid a Shrinking Student Population.

I wrote that article to help music colleges improve their programs and operations so they can bolster their enrollments, and their graduates can thrive.

In fact, two key factors are threatening the existence of college music programs.

The first stems from changes in enrollment and population. I cite data showing that the population of college-age students will soon drop and that multiple forces have already caused undergraduate enrollment to contract sharply since peaking in 2010, as shown in the chart above.

The second factor pertains to declines in the economic value of applied music degrees, which will dissuade college-bound students from majoring in music in the future. I share data showing ways in which 21st-century applied graduates are significantly disadvantaged compared to their 20th-century predecessors, and I point to surveys proving that graduates typically glean meager earnings.

In response to those threats, I propose six evidence-supported strategies for music schools to boost their enrollments and the economic value of their applied degrees.

“Two key factors are threatening the existence of college music programs.”

Six Ways for Music Colleges to Boost Enrollment & Value

  1. Track and Improve Outcomes
  2. Renovate Curricula
  3. Expand Programs
  4. Increase Retention of Freshmen
  5. Recruit New Students Efficiently
  6. Hire & Train Wisely

In my article, I outline specific steps for music colleges to implement all six strategies and monitor their effectiveness.

Music students, too, can use the information I supply to make informed choices about which schools they attend and fuel their professional development.

I invite you to read more in College Music Symposium. The journal is freely available online – no login, purchase or membership required.

The Musician's Way book cover*  *  *

The Musician’s Way is the only book to guide undergraduate musicians to build the competencies of professional performers.

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© 2023 Gerald Klickstein

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