Last March, a wave of change rolled through universities across the world. Students were sent home for virtual coursework, and college campuses were shut down indefinitely. At a time where college enrollment rates were already on the decline, the pandemic only made things worse: in Spring 2021, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported a 5.9 percent decline in undergraduate enrollment, with community college falling by almost twice as much at 11.3 percent. Low-income students, first-generation students, and international students were especially vulnerable to scrapping college plans entirely, opting for a gap year, or abandoning their applications in lieu of employment opportunities.
As we enter another uncertain academic year, how can institutions interact with students in an intentional way to recruit, engage, and retain them for the fall semester and beyond?
Institutions need to think strategically about how they move prospects through the learning journey–from recruitment to graduation and beyond. To attract and retain a student body–especially one that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive–institutions should take advantage of new tools like automation and artificial intelligence. Here are three ways they can do so.
Create a 360º view of the student
Gone are the days when mailing informational pamphlets was a compelling student recruitment strategy. Today’s students are digital natives, which means institutions need to ensure their recruiting and engagement practices align with their preferences. Each student has a unique digital identity consisting of data points such as demographic data, academic interests, and extracurricular interests. These data points can be leveraged and analyzed to create a comprehensive view of the student throughout the recruitment process and throughout their time at the institution.
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