New Strategies for Reaching Enrollment and Student Outcome Goals

By Frank HealyMarch 9, 2017

Student success continues to be a top priority for high education leaders. A University Business survey shows student success activities – such as access, retention and career preparation – are taking precedence at schools over areas like cost containment. And this steadfast focus on outcomes – combined with changing student needs – has brought new programs to the marketplace.

New Recruitment Tools
The cost of postsecondary education has long been a point of concern for prospective students. To address this, many schools – even top private universities – are offering alternative, cost-effective pathways to degree completion.

Blended degree programs are one such example. MIT, for instance, is now offering a MicroMasters certification in supply chain management. The certification costs $1,350, which is quite a deal considering the traditional program runs nearly $68,000 for one year of tuition. And while not a traditional graduate degree, major employers like GE and IBM are taking MicroMasters into account when making hiring decisions. In addition, many schools allow students to use certifications toward completing full graduate degrees. For MIT, such students are required to fulfill a semester on campus at normal costs. There are many benefits to the blended approach: It lowers the barrier to entry for students, and it is a strategic way for schools to identify and enroll the most qualified students.

Dual enrollment is another opportunity for students to get more for their higher ed dollar. Such programs mean students can complete more than one degree program within an expedited timeframe. It usually takes an extra year than what it takes to complete a traditional bachelor’s degree and students can often take advantage of steep discounts. In fact, more than half of institutions discount tuition for such programs. Many schools use dual enrollment as a recruitment tool and 90 percent have found it provides greater access. The tactic has been largely successful: The industry saw dual enrollment increase 75 percent between 2002 to 2011.

Some schools are further reducing the barrier to entry by making the initial admissions process easier. Austin College, for example, went “test optional” and will accept a “graded expository writing paper” in lieu of ACT or SAT tests. However, Idaho’s direct admissions program provides one of the best examples: In 2015, all high school seniors in the state were automatically admitted to its public colleges and universities. No applications required. Enrollments from resident freshmen rose nearly 7 percent.

New Retention Strategies
Personalized learning opportunities — like guided self-placement programs — often bring greater engagement and retention. Guided self-placement often begins with a free placement test, and the results help determine the best math and English classes based on individual needs. This is important as studies show students are more engaged if they’ve had a hand in selecting their course curriculum levels, and self-placement can set them on a personal path for success.

Registered apprenticeships also provide students with a personal path. A specific type of business-university partnership, employers offering apprenticeships provide a fair minimum hourly wage, yearly raises and cover the student’s tuition. It’s an effective way to gain personalized skills and reduce the financial burden of higher education. Apprentices earn a degree and widely recognized industry credentials. Not to mention, 87 percent of participants secure employment post-graduation, leading to overall better student outcomes.

New Approaches for Attainment
With nearly one in four students completing their degree at a different college or university, positive student outcomes often hinge on a successful college transfer. A streamlined process is key. Many four-year schools recognize the increase in student transfers and have developed articulation agreements with community colleges to provide a more seamless transition. The two institutions often work together from the beginning of the recruitment process. Some four-year schools even allow community college students to take part in university clubs, meet with their academic advisors and peer mentors, and truly become a part of the college community from the start.

Another important transition in the higher education journey is the jump from education to occupation. With governing bodies honing in on attainment rates and job placement, schools are placing greater emphasis on student career planning. Colleges are also creating new opportunities — like guaranteed internships — in an effort to help students secure jobs after graduation.

A recent study showed that the national six-year completion rate has grown to nearly 55 percent and the data reveals an upward trajectory. And considering the innovative new strategies for enrollment, retention and attainment, student success is sure to follow suit. 

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