New research from Higher Education Publications, Inc. indicates the turnover of college administrators during The Great Resignation in fact, is not so “great.” Our data shows that higher education administrators are not leaving in any remarkable numbers, with overall turnover trending slightly lower when compared to pre-pandemic/great resignation levels.
Analysis of our HEP Directory Data Extracts tracked administrators at accredited colleges and universities in two-year increments from 2013 through January of 2022. The higher education database consists of over 90,000 self-reported administrators; ranging from presidents to directors of alumni through deans in academic sectors (such as business, humanities, and law).
When looking at job changes in the database, we found total administrator turnover has fallen to 19.1% in the last two years. Down from a 20.7% high during the 2015-2017 semesters (see charts below).
We additionally targeted higher-level positions for the same semesters. Administrators specifically analyzed were presidents, provosts, chief financial officers, chief of operations/administration, advancement/development directors, chief technology officers, chief HR officers and chief student affairs officers.
Though the data shows that presidential turnover is slightly elevated, it has yet to reach the highest rates seen in 2013-2015 and 2015-2017. We found that presidents and chancellors have changed at a rate of 23.5% in the last two years, up from a 20% low in the 2017-2019 (see chart). The previous four years of 2013-2017 averaged a higher 24.6% turnover overall.
|Presidents and Chancellors|
Provost, admissions directors and directors of development data followed the same trend with turnover ticking up slightly in the last two years.
Provosts trended up from 29.9% in 2017-2019, to 31% in 2019-2022, and admissions directors from 19.5% to 21.1 % (see charts). Likewise, the highest turnover was seen in the 2013-2015 semesters.
|Directors of Admissions|
Development Directors did show an increased turnover rate, up to 15.8% from the previous low of 12.9% in 2017-2019.
|Directors of Development|
Of the specifically selected positions, one showed a discernable decrease in turnover during the covid/resignation years. Chief of Administration/Operations rates fell to 12.9%, down from 14.9% in the 2017-2019 semesters (see chart).
|Chief of Administration/Directors of Operations|
The other four specifically tracked positions remained consistent with a turnover of 1% or less. (Chief information technology officers, chief HR, and chief student affairs officer turnover increased < 1%, CFOs decreased 1%.
In this case, our data suggests relative stability despite the challenges Covid-19 has delivered. When solely looking at the numbers, overall administrator change is down. Any positions that have increased in turnover are only slightly elevated. Though slowly trending higher, they have yet to reach the height of previous years (2013-15, 2015-17).
However, managing a higher education institution is never easy. Administrator turnover impacts student recruiting, marketing, and retention opportunities. The pandemic has exacerbated already-existing financial woes for many institutions and added a slew of public health concerns – keeping colleges under the national microscope. Additionally, a change in college demographics has shifted student bodies away from the common 18- to 24-year-old traditionally enrolled, increasing higher education’s need for robust financial aid and flexible academic programs.
In the long term, many believe this will force a transition to more adaptive leadership styles, allowing navigation through modern challenges. At this moment, however, we have yet to see the substantial number of administrator resignations and new hirings many have forecasted.
***Founded in 1982, Higher Education Publication’s mission is to support the higher education community by gathering, verifying, customizing and presenting meaningful industry information that is valuable to our clients. We employ the latest relevant technology to ensure that our data on recognized, accredited postsecondary institutions is authoritative, timely and accurate. Our information solutions and services are delivered with a premier level of customer service – allowing institutions, organizations, and businesses the ability to target more effectively and increase overall growth.
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