Why College Enrollment is Declining and How SIS Can Help

When colleges and universities were forced to close their doors midway through the spring of 2020 due to the COVID-19 virus, no one anticipated it would have such a dramatic effect on enrollment for the next two years.

In the fall of 2020, the first full semester in the pandemic, undergraduate enrollment dropped by 3.4%. That initial decline was expected as many students opted to stay home amidst fears of the virus. However, with multiple vaccines available and infection cases dropping, most experts predicted that enrollment rates would rebound.

That did not happen.

Enrollment dropped another 3.2% in the fall of 2021. This continued decline marks the biggest two-year decrease in the last 50 years.

While many believe that the pandemic is the primary reason for smaller undergraduate classes, the truth is that COVID only boosted what was already happening. There has been a steady decrease in new students enrolling in colleges and universities across the country. Between 2011 and 2019, student enrollment dropped 11%.

This decline has affected every type of higher-level institution – from community colleges and public state schools to for-profits and private liberal arts schools – forcing some smaller schools to permanently close. However, the schools most affected are two-year community colleges which saw a 14.1% decline in enrollment during the past two years.

Why Are Fewer Students Attending College?

Before the pandemic, the biggest reason for declining enrollment was that the U.S. was experiencing a strong economy. Historically, when there is a recession and unemployment is up, people use that opportunity to get a higher education. When the economy is strong, more people leave college early or postpone it to start working.

However, with the sudden recession brought on by the pandemic, many families found themselves unable to pay for their children to attend college. This resulted in the numbers continuing to decline despite historical trends.

Also, colleges must account for the rise of non-traditional options like online colleges, massive open online courses (MOOCs) and technology bootcamps that offer industry-recognized certifications. These educational avenues are more affordable and oftentimes more accessible to students weighing their options.

And finally, the cost of college is also playing a major factor in the falling enrollment numbers. While there are financial benefits to earning a college degree, rising costs are beginning to take their toll on prospective students. Between 2009 and 2019, the cost of college increased by more than 25% at private universities and almost 30% at public schools.

What Impact Does Lower Enrollment Have on Colleges and Universities?

To put it bluntly, lower enrollment means there is less tuition being paid to the university. This has a direct impact on the school’s operating budget, resulting in cutbacks including, but not limited to:

  • Labor force reductions.
  • Canceled or diminished programs.
  • Postponed or canceled campus improvements.

How An Effective Student Information System Integration Can Help Improve College Enrollment

At some schools, there is little communication or collaboration between different departments or offices. Departments buy competing software tools that serve the same purpose instead of consolidating purchases under a single, effective solution. This makes it difficult for students to apply while understanding admission requirements and course transfer equivalencies.

If institutions wants to improve enrollment, they need to rethink their practices, especially for recruitment, admission and registration. The key is making everything as simple as possible for your prospective students – a one-stop-shop where they can access everything they need to apply.

To do this you need an easy-to-use and effective student information system (SIS) that is fully integrated with data systems across the institution.

By leveraging the full capabilities of your SIS, you can offer your students a fast and easy-to-use solution that allows them to access and handle every aspect of their student journey.

  • Admissions
  • Enrollment
  • Tuition
  • Financial Aid
  • Class Registration
  • Degree Program Planning
  • Graduation

You can also use SIS data analytics to make predictive models based on past and current trends. Used correctly, you can predict future trends in enrollment and adjust your recruitment efforts accordingly. For example, institutions might focus on specific demographics to maximize recruitment in key areas or recruit specific majors based on changes in enterprise, technology, or society. This helps drive traffic and encourages students to begin the steps necessary to admission.

Transfer equivalency software lets prospective students input their previous coursework from dual-credit high school work or classes from another college and immediately see how it applies to their new program course requirements. They can also compare different program requirements so they can determine which requires the fewest additional classes to graduate. This results in quicker graduation and savings for the student.

Academic course tracking software like Ellucian Degree Works provides comprehensive advising and degree auditing that helps students understand which courses to take and when to take them. This helps students understand course requirements, program timelines and course transfer status quicker and easier so they do not waste time and money taking unnecessary or redundant courses.

In addition, a mobile-friendly SIS is the preferred option for students as it eliminates a student’s reliance on their computer to access their degree program or enrollment data. Mobile access allows them to easily upload documents to the financial aid office or send vaccination records to the enrollment office.

Custom SIS Solutions for Your College or University

Columbia Advisory Group’s (CAG) mission is to provide the technology, resources, guidance and support you need to effectively optimize your SIS solution at your college or university. From IT consulting and managed services to ERP, LMS and SIS implementation and management, CAG delivers custom solutions that are flexible, scalable, and cost-effective to help you with your enrollment challenges.

CAG helps you create a unique student interface that’s simple, seamless, and branded. We integrate systems so that everything from application to enrollment follows automated admission rules so students do not have to jump through hoops to get accepted.

Using the Banner SIS suite, or your chosen SIS system, CAG can help you provide your students access to an entire suite of solutions that lets them do everything including applying for admission, registering for classes, tracking their progress, and filing for graduation. CAG can help you choose and integrate SUS modules that you can use to create more efficient and streamlined business processes. This helps you focus on recruiting the type of students you want while marketing your school to the right prospects.

To learn more about how CAG can help you improve your SIS solutions to better serve your current and prospective students, click here and let us know how we can help you.

Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative by the US Department Of Justice (DoJ): Everything You Need to Know!

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has officially launched its new Civil Cyber-Fraud initiative. It enacted the legislation to strengthen cybersecurity standards among contractors undertaking government projects and receiving federal funds and other grant recipients such as universities. Such organizations and beneficiaries need to address cybersecurity risks and report breaches to comply with the latest legislation and regulatory guidelines

The new Cyber Fraud Initiative from the US Department of Justice brings together the department’s expertise in civil fraud enforcement, government contracting, and cybersecurity to counteract existing and growing cybersecurity risks to confidential material and safety infrastructure. The Department of Justice is working to improve the resilience of the country and its critical information infrastructure (CII) against increasingly sophisticated cybersecurity threats via new reforms was much needed to ensure the protection of trade secrets, Intellectual Property (IP), proprietary knowledge, trademarks, and copyrights, protecting the privacy of all stakeholders involved, and preventing sensitive and confidential information from falling into the hands of threat actors. This will ensure that taxpayers’ money is used diligently and will also help build public trust in the system in safeguarding their valuable information assets.

Cyber Fraud: Some Key Statistics

According to AtlasVPN, the damages to organizations by cybercrimes from 2019 to the current time have increased by 37.4% with each passing year. Further, the rate of cybercrimes will increase by over 40%.


Some of the vital cybercrime statistics in the US and around the globe shows how threatening and challenging cybercrime has become:

  • FBI’s IC3 reported complaints in 2020 contained over 241,342 phishing, 76,741 extortion, and over 45,000 personal data cyber breaches.
  • Malicious actors attack 1/5th of educational institutions and universities, with 65% of data breaches targeting higher-education centers.
  • 2022 will be the year for misinformation campaigns surrounding cybercrimes, which will become the new attack vector.
  • Cybercrimes are ever-increasing and are estimated to cost $10.5 trillion per annum to businesses by 2025.

The New Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative By The US DoJ

The new Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative will use the False Claims Act to investigate cybersecurity-related misconduct by government contractors and those receiving federal grants and funds. The Act also incorporates the “whistleblower” clause that permits individuals who volunteer evidence pertinent to an inquiry to benefit from any assets seized. The Department of Justice will utilize the FCA (False Claims Act) to hold primary liability for failure to satisfy cybersecurity criteria, including prosecutions for:

  • Offerings and services that aren’t up to par in terms of cybersecurity within the organization or for knowingly providing deficient cybersecurity products or services.
  • Cybersecurity-related information, cybersecurity protocols, and processes that are misrepresented or falsified.
  • Negligence by management or the organization in managing, tracking, and notifying cybersecurity incidents and data breaches.

While the DOJ’s approach is novel, the use of the False Claims Act to compel cybersecurity adherence is not. Still, due to the current Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative, it has become more crucial than ever for institutions to be ready to deal with constitutional issues relevant to cyber intrusions. On a high level, the Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative:

  • Holds the government contractors and grantees to their commitments to protect government information and infrastructure.
  • Ensures that government contractors recognize and develop strategies to comply with contract terms, statutes, and federal requirements.
  • Provides an opportunity for reimbursement of taxpayers’ and governments’ money if there is a compromise at the organization’s end.
  • Drives organizations receiving government grants and funds also work to build a strong cybersecurity posture.

Industries to be Impacted by The New Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative

The Department of Justice’s Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative may impact almost all private, public, or government organizations receiving government funds or grants, but let’s look at its impact on some of the critical sectors in detail:

  • Health Care and Life Sciences: The Cyber Fraud Initiative would target federal employees and federally funded beneficiaries. Therefore, medical and life sciences organizations that partner with or receive support from the legislative branch may be susceptible to FCA inspection.
  • Educational Institutions: Failure to comply with the Cyber-Fraud Initiative may have far-reaching ramifications for universities and higher education institutions receiving government funds and grants but who lack adequate cybersecurity safeguards. In consideration of federal requirements, every university or college that retains critical or privileged information must carefully evaluate the forms and the efficacy of its security controls and procedures.
  • Banking and Financial Industry: Banking and financial organizations are a significant target for malicious actors because of the scale and sensitivity of data that they store. Following the Cyber Fraud Initiative, all monetary regulators will need sufficient documentation and reporting structures, cybersecurity policies, and incident response strategies since any violation of rules would hold them accountable and liable.
  • Defense Industry: The initiative brings in the DOJ’s expertise and experience in various government procurement and civil fraud enforcement to combat emerging cybersecurity threats and risks. This helps protect confidential and sensitive information and critical information systems. For instance, if a defense contractor misuses trade secrets stored digitally in the form of government intellectual property n, the contractor could become liable, especially if the contractor fails to report the breach.

Risks of Non-Compliance

Non-Compliance with the new Civil Cyber Fraud Initiative opens organizations and individuals to various risks, such as:

  • Increased Liability Risks: The Department of Justice announced that it intends to hold organizations and individuals liable for various actions, including intentionally offering inadequate cybersecurity services, deliberately mischaracterizing their cybersecurity practices or procedures, and knowingly failing to report data breaches and infringements. Contractors may be held liable for failure to cooperate with cyber breach reporting terms in government contracts within the Cyber Fraud Initiative.
  • Penalties on Enterprises and Individuals: NIST 800-171 applies to any organization or agency that deals with Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI). Those who do not adhere to statutory cybersecurity requirements could be prosecuted using the FCA clause in the Cyber Fraud Initiative and face a penalty. Furthermore, besides enterprises, DoJ can hold civilians legally responsible for cybersecurity-related fraud.
  • Increased Litigation Risks: The Department of Justice notably emphasizes relying on whistleblowers to help the government restore order in its announcement. After determining their cybersecurity basis, organizations should consider implementing an internal review with counsel to compare their declarations to the federal government. The FCA cyber-risk exposes the organization to litigation if any disparities with the legal framework are identified.

Recommendations: Here is What Organizations Can Do!

Organizations can protect themselves better and ensure compliance with the Department of Justice’s new law with the help of:

  • Internal Audits and Assessments: Organizations should continue to identify their key information assets and evaluate their readiness for a cyber breach, and internal audits and assessments play a critical role in it. Based on the internal assessment, organizations can prioritize actions and processes to protect their information assets before, during, and after a security incident or data breach.
  • Continuous Monitoring and Reviews: Organizations must implement changes to continuously monitor changes within the technology environment, vulnerability management, and activities to anticipate various infringements with federal regulatory frameworks, processes, and policies. They may use whistleblowers to help with the process.
  • Documentation: Clearly written standards, plans, and policies are essential for ensuring the organization’s compliance with the cybersecurity requirements as per the government. Robust documentation will also help resolve internal issues and potential leaks eliminating questions regarding the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to be followed to effectively identify and address a security incident.
  • Internal Discussions: The Management should ensure that all policy conformity discussions with the government are correctly recorded and readily available. They must also collaborate with individuals who identify issues to analyze risk exposures.

Final Words

The Department of Justice’s Cyber Fraud Initiative seeking compliance with the False Claims Act is the government’s official legal remedy for for cybersecurity negligence and fraud. The strategy raises the bar for adherence initiatives for federal contractors or federal grant beneficiaries, such as universities. The latter are far more at risk concerning adopting essential cybersecurity precautions and deciding whether or not to disclose a violation because of the False Claims Act.

Expect increased FCA litigation against organizations that fail to mitigate the risk of cyber breaches. Attentive cybersecurity compliance procedures will ensure protect sensitive data an minimize the risk of significant fines under the FCA.


  1. Krotoski, M., Baruch, D., & Fan, S. (2021, December 08). Are you prepared for DOJ’s Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative? Morgan Lewis.
  2. Department of Justice. (2021, October 6). Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco announces new Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative.
  3. Gersh, D., Moundas, C., O’Connor, A., Darch, J. & Hardy, G. (2021, November 24). DOJ Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative may impact health care and life sciences companies. Mondaq.
  4. Shaheen, M., Bartle, S., & Trujillo, G. (2022, January 19). Cybersecurity compliance requirements may surprise higher ed. University Business.
  5. Ross, R., Pillitteri, V., Dempsey, K., Riddle, M., & Guissanie, G. (2020). Protecting controlled unclassified information in nonfederal systems and organizations. Gaithersburg, MD: National Institute of Standards and Technology.
  6. The false claims act. (2019, June 17). Retrieved February 20, 2022, from Justice.gov website: https://www.justice.gov/civil/false-claims-act