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5 Strategies to Target, Recruit, and Retain College Students

by NSC Blog | May 26, 2021 | Research Reports, Research Services, StudentTracker |

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on college enrollment in 2020, and its impact is still being felt in 2021. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, spring undergraduate enrollment is down 5.9% nationwide with an even greater decline of 11.9% in community college enrollment. This is the steepest decline in undergraduate enrollment since the beginning of the pandemic.

Potential undergraduate students have deferred enrollment for a variety of reasons, but the most severe impact has been seen amongst low-income students and communities based on preliminary data.

Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of the Research Center, recently said to CBS News, “the (enrollment) decline is larger than anything we’ve seen in years. I think a lot of families were struggling with just paying rent and buying groceries, and the idea of adding on college tuition was just too much.”

According to a recent Higher Ed Dive article, the outlook for undergraduate enrollment is likely to follow this trend into the fall semester, which has some colleges and school districts concerned about what they can do to proactively improve enrollment levels.

Discover five strategies to address your enrollment challenges:

1. Speak with Students to Provide Better Support

School districts and colleges can address decreasing enrollment rates by directly engaging students and listening to the barriers or root causes for the post-secondary education decisions. Counselors with the Riverside public school district are calling every 2020 high school graduate who did not enroll in college this year to ask what kept them from doing so.

Many students found that with campus closures, their access to community college advisors was severely limited and failed to provide them with the right guidance that may have resulted in enrollment. During the year, students were left to make decisions without proper support from their institutions.

2. Emphasize A Personal Touch with Students

While technology has had a positive benefit as a stopgap measure for remote learning, students are experiencing tech fatigue from a lack of real human interaction. Students respond positively to a greater personal touch. While in-person meetings are not always possible, one-on-one phone calls can help students through the matriculation process or finding access to funding options.

3. Marketing Matters

According to a recent Brookings’ analysis, public colleges spend $14 per student on advertising when compared to private, non-profits at $48 per student and for-profit colleges allocate $400 per student. Rufus Glasper, president and CEO of the League for Innovation in Community College, thinks that if community colleges hope to bring students back in the fall, they will need to market themselves to students, like a business.

4. Demonstrate the Value of a Degree to Prospective Students

Because of an unstable job market and economic turbulence, more students are questioning the value of a college degree. Students need to know their degree will lead them to better career options to maintain confidence in their enrollment decisions. The job market will evolve in a post-COVID environment and institutions need to provide evidence that their graduates will face a more optimistic outlook aligned with emerging careers.

5. StudentTracker As a Resource for Admissions’ Staff

Besides these strategies, colleges can use StudentTracker to improve an institution’s ability to target, recruit, and retain students — quickly, easily, and affordably. StudentTracker is the only nationwide source of college enrollment and degree data. Nearly 3,600 colleges and universities — enrolling over 97% of all students in public and private U.S. institutions — regularly provide enrollment and graduation data to the Clearinghouse.

“…colleges can use StudentTracker to improve an institution’s ability to target, recruit, and retain students — quickly, easily, and affordably.”