boosting enrollment

Courageous coaching: How one HBC turned around an enrollment shortfall


Elizabeth City State University, an HBCU in North Carolina, experienced declining enrollment for years. This year, it increased by 72 percent. But how?

There were many factors at play, but one stands out.  Since February of this year, ECSU has provide one-on-one enrollment coaching to prospective students, through a partnership with InsideTrack. Through structured meetings and ongoing digital communication via video, voice, email and text messaging, coaches help students identify the right program, navigate the enrollment process and prepare for a strong start.

The coaching program ensures that students make informed enrollment decisions, based on their career ambitions and the realities of the marketplace. It also supports students in developing the knowledge, skills, attitudes and beliefs required for long-term success, while generating valuable insights on the incoming student population to support administrators and staff with institutional resource planning.

While executive-style student coaching is best known as a way to improve retention and graduation rates, for more than a decade, institutions have increasingly been using the approach to support their enrollment efforts.

For example, the University of Alabama at Birmingham increased was able to increase yield by 9 percent through coaching admitted students, with even greater improvements among minority admits. Similarly, Penn State World Campus used coaching to increase their inquiry-to-enrollment conversion rate by 46 percent.

Whether focused on access, success or both, student coaching is gaining steam among HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions. ECSU neighbor and fellow HBCU Fayetteville State University has its own student success coaching program, as do Hispanic and Native American-serving institutions across the country, from California State University Channel Islands to Bacone College of Oklahoma to the University of Central Florida.

Another promising initiative, the Optimizing Academic Success and Institutional Strategy (OASIS) led by the Education Trust, is helping to put similar evidence-based practices in the hands of more institutional leaders at minority-serving institutions.

Pairing evidence-based approaches such as coaching with an unwavering commitment to college access and success can help institutions grappling with major headwinds. The key is to stay focused on doing right by each student.

In today’s skills-based economy, education and training beyond high school is still indispensable. Institutions like ECSU are showing that supporting students in pursuing their educational goals can also help the institution thrive.

eSchool Media Contributors
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