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Sorenson Impact Center Releases First-Ever Dashboard to Forecast Future Enrollment Trends in Higher Education

Apr 13, 2023


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New Tool Helps Institutions Plan for Demographic and Enrollment Shifts to Support an Increasingly Diverse Prospective Student Base Nationwide

SALT LAKE CITY – To empower higher education leaders to navigate an anticipated nationwide enrollment decline projected to start in 2025, the Sorenson Impact Center (SIC) today announced the launch of its cutting-edge interactive data tool, the Student Trends and Enrollment Projections Dashboard (STEP).

Created as part of The MAPS Project, a student-centric initiative to chart the shifting landscape of higher education supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the first-of-its-kind STEP Dashboard visualizes historical enrollment and population trends, forecasts future trends and provides insights into student migration flow and online-only education. The Dashboard utilizes data from College Scorecard, the U.S. Census, and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and allows users to drill down to the state level and filter by institution type, year, student race, student gender and more to understand potential areas of opportunity. MAPS stands for Model, Analyze, Prototype, and Share.

The STEP Dashboard can position academic institutions to robustly understand demographic trends and enrollment projections across the United States by toggling various features to generate visualized, specific data insights. Additionally, the tool employs several statistical models to generate predictions based on high, mid, and low scenarios of population and enrollment changes through 2030 and incorporates data from the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in the largest enrollment decrease in decades.

By disaggregating data by student gender and race and visualizing it by geographic area, the STEP Dashboard generates actionable insights into where undergraduate students are attending college, how that has changed over time for different student groups, and what enrollment could look like in the future. Importantly, the tool also visualizes how the relationship between enrollment and population is dynamic and changing – key for leaders to understand as both the number of high school students available to enroll and the proportion of high school graduates actually enrolling are declining in some groups.

This tool is particularly vital for institutions struggling to maintain enrollment rates, which is a growing challenge for less-resourced colleges and universities throughout the country. Recent data indicates that more students are exploring alternative options to traditional higher education as they face rising tuition prices and pressure to work, while others lack the support to navigate an increasingly complex higher education system not designed for today’s students. Since the peak of undergraduate enrollment in 2010, the U.S. system has lost more than 3 million students or 16.7% of enrollment overall, including 1 million students between 2020-2022 alone.

“While many colleges and universities are working to ensure their enrollment strategies meet the needs of today’s students, it’s also important for these institutions to invest in retaining, graduating and positively impacting these future leaders,” said Megan Brewster, Sorenson Impact Center Director. “By leveraging the STEP Dashboard’s data-driven insights, higher education leaders can position themselves to not only attract but authentically support the diverse students of tomorrow so that both students and institutions can thrive in the future.”

The STEP Dashboard is the latest of the MAPS Project’s three dashboards that work to Model, Analyze, Prototype and Share innovative solutions to challenges in higher education. The three-year initiative provides tools that bring high-quality data and historically marginalized voices to decision-makers, serving as a resource for leaders to make informed choices based on cutting-edge data projections focusing on equitable student success.

In addition to the STEP Dashboard, the MAPS Project suite of data tools allows education leaders to:

  • Understand how their institution is already serving different student groups with an equity lens through the Institutional Equity Outcomes Dashboard, which helps institutions of higher learning more easily understand their college or university’s data on enrollment, retention, and graduation with a disaggregated lens that reveals gaps. It aims to address the need for consistent, system-wide metrics to measure equity and catalyze solutions that can be applied to the specific needs of each school and its student population. Board members and presidential cabinet members can quickly see their own data visualized and explore outcomes at peer schools with similar student demographics.
  • Illuminate the financial health of a school with a unique emphasis on student-centricity through the Financial Health Dashboard, which offers a first-of-its-kind visibility into the financial health of more than 3,000 colleges and universities nationwide and the system as a whole. Leveraging sector-specific models, this interactive resource provides decision-makers with a data-driven way to understand their current financial state, learn from peers, and together shape a system where every student can succeed.

The MAPS Project has also worked to create a more equitable and student-centric future through independent research and student storytelling. The latest MAPS publication provides insight into enrollment trends by institution type and student graphics as well as Their latest research, which focuses on the shifting landscape of enrollment trends, seeks to answer why there has been a decline in higher education enrollment and analyze how these trends affect various demographics.


Confluence Partners


About the MAPS Project
A three-year initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the MAPS Project is a student-centric initiative to chart the rapidly evolving higher education system and that works to bring high-quality data and historically marginalized voices to higher ed decision-makers. The MAPS Project aims to Model, Analyze, Prototype and Share innovative solutions to challenges in higher education. Learn more at

About the Sorenson Impact Center
The Sorenson Impact Center helps organizations achieve their impact vision by connecting capital to social and environmental solutions, helping organizations measure, report, and improve impact, and integrating data science and people-centered storytelling into all that we do. Along with our clients and partners, we share a vision of an equitable and thriving world where everyone is valued, communities prosper, and the measured impact of our actions guides decision-making. As part of our mission to train future impact leaders, the Center integrates academic programming and experiential learning into each of its practice areas. The Center is proudly housed at the University of Utah David Eccles School of Business. Learn more at