The economic downturn in 2008 has been widely blamed for a decline in domestic birth rates. In a few years, the number of high school graduates across the country will begin to drop, creating an “enrollment cliff” for colleges and universities. 

At Penn State Smeal, our applications and enrollments are as strong as ever. In fact, we received close to 18,000 applications last year — an increase of more than 20 percent over the previous year — and more than 900 students accepted our offer of fall admission to Smeal at University Park.

While a school of our size and stature expects to be insulated from the harshest effects of the enrollment cliff, college leadership and the Smeal Board of Visitors remain focused on how this demographic shift will impact the future of business education.

We must continue to attract high-achieving high school students and offer a foundation for exceptional future business leaders. That begins with renowned educators; helping students develop critical thinking skills and the ability to present, write, and persuade; and offering experiential learning opportunities. These are the keys to success in the 21st century.

We must also foster a lifelong thirst for knowledge.

Twenty-five years ago, students graduated from Smeal confident that they had the tools they needed for a successful career. Today, rapid technological advancements can make those tools and skills obsolete in a much shorter period.

Charles H. Whiteman, John and Karen Arnold<br />

Charles H. Whiteman, John and Karen Arnold Dean

Here are two ways Smeal is building upon its commitment to lifelong learning and engagement: 

1. A continuum of programs for all career stages

The new executive doctorate in business administration, which will launch this fall, is the next step in our evolution, bringing late-career learners into the fold. Next, we’ll invest in market studies to ensure we offer the broadest range of concentrations while cultivating opportunities to serve early-career professionals.

2. A broader, more flexible set of learning options

These include credit and non-credit programs in which learners may participate in the classroom or from their home or office via live synchronous instruction.

At Smeal, we want to be your lifelong learning partner. We’ll work hard every day to ensure that the programs and opportunities available to all our learners, from undergraduates to late-career professionals to business executives, remain at the forefront of business education.