Board of Regents to look at how an age demographic change will affect the U

Regents will discuss population information at the board’s monthly meeting.

Molly Moker

The Board of Regents will look at what fewer 18- to 25-year-olds in the population will mean for the University at their meeting today.

State demographer Tom Gillaspy will present the regents with population information at the board’s monthly meeting.

Regents will also look at state economics that are relevant to the University during this month’s session.

The number of 18- to 25-year-olds in the population will probably decrease in the next decade, Gillaspy said. The decrease will be slow for the first five years, but around 2010, the change will be noticeable.

“This is not a huge surprise – we’ve been expecting it for some time,” Gillaspy said. “Growth has been pretty robust the last couple of years, but the next four or five years will be growing at a slower rate.”

The decline in traditional college-aged students will be a long-running trend and will most likely continue for up to 40 years, Gillaspy said.

But the change will not happen immediately, he said.

“It’s like when a deer jumps out in front of your car,” he said. “You slow down until eventually you stop – hopefully, before you hit the deer.”

Varying age distributions, fertility rates and increasing diversity will contribute to the demographic change, Gillaspy said.

Currently, some minority groups do not attend college as frequently as other groups, he said.

American Indian, black and Hispanic people currently have lower college attendance records, he said. In coming years, the population of the groups will increase, as the country and Minnesota become more diverse, Gillaspy said.

“This could be an area of opportunity (for the University), an area it might focus on to get education,” he said.

Estimated demographic changes come from forecasts, Gillaspy said.

“They’re like economic forecasts, except demographers do longer runs,” he said. “We take existing trends and see what happens when we carry them to the future.”

But the demographic change in age won’t necessarily be a huge threat to the University, Gillaspy said.

“There are always challenges and always opportunities,” he said. “The next decade will mean doing things differently, and not just academic institutions but the government, corporations and other groups.”

Sharon Reich Paulsen, chief of staff to the senior vice president, said these changes are being taken into account by the strategic planning committee.

“I think the University is heavily in the midst of a strategic process right now, gathering all sorts of information,” she said. “All issues will be taken into account and will be advised of.”

Last month, the strategic planning committee presented criteria for setting priorities and reviewing programs and services at the Board of Regents meeting.