Myths vs. Facts

MYTH 1: American universities, especially those in the Midwest, face an unavoidable "demographic cliff" beginning in 2026.

FACT: Nathan Grawe coined the term "demographic cliff" in his controversial book, Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education. Grawe projected a decline in a white, middle-class student base on which MU has traditionally relied. But, his model, based upon a national survey last taken in 2002, is only one model among many and does not account for post-pandemic recession or the growing internal migration in the U.S. caused by climate change. Demographic forecasts of enrollment drops in the 1980s and 1990s turned out to be wrong because the models were based on false assumptions. As faculty, it is impossible for us to interrogate these assumptions and how they apply to Marquette, because the administration has not made their internal models available. In fact, Grawe's projections are a roadmap for growth, not cuts! They do not include students of color, to which MU has repeatedly stated commitments to recruit and retain, including its initiative to become a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) and President Lovell's September 2020 commitments to the MU Black Student Union.

MYTH 2: The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the budget timeline of the "demographic cliff."

FACT: MU's recruitment (a 10-20% loss) this fall 2020 underperformed a national decline of 2.5%. This is not because of our Midwest location or COVID-19. It stands in stark contrast to banner enrollment years at Madison, Xavier University, Stevens Point, and Wisconsin Lutheran. Why is that? What can the administration do to change, to serve, and to recruit our students rather than displacing blame onto years-off controversial projections?

MYTH 3: There is no way for MU to regain the lost revenue caused by the coming demographic cliff. Marquette must shrink to survive.

FACT: MU can, but is so far unwilling to change its revenue model. Grawe's book and other analyses of the demographic landscape suggest multiple avenues for rebalancing university revenue in the Midwest, including recruiting diverse and nontraditional student populations of the kind the administration claims it is seeking. MU could shift recruitment energy to nearby states like MN less impacted by projected demographic changes, students from smaller institutions that had to permanently close, and direct fundraising to scholarships for our students of color rather than new buildings.