The recent decline in college enrollment across the country cannot be pinned on a single factor, but rather it represents the accumulated effect of multiple interconnected problems.
With ongoing perceptions of mistrust in the efficacy of higher education, rising higher education costs, a robust job market drawing current and prospective students away from a college education, and the growing popularity of alternative educational opportunities, it’s clear that institutions of all levels have their work cut out for them in terms of attracting and retaining students.
While overall college enrollment might be down, institutions are experiencing a more than 20 percent increase in the number of applicants as more students “shop” around. More than ever, enrolling and retaining students requires an in-depth, data-driven look at the needs of the individual learner, making the value proposition clear throughout their journey and mitigating obstacles that might prevent them from reaching their goals.
Data-driven personalization is key.
Looking at trends in higher education is a good starting point for institutions seeking to focus their recruitment and retention goals–however, colleges must also consider investing time and money into data-driven outcomes. Institutions already have access to millions of learner data points on how and what students want to learn, how they best engage, and their personal needs and wants. Tapping into these rich insights in a meaningful way with personalized engagement strategies along a learner’s journey is critical to keeping them on track.
Forward-thinking institutions should be able to provide data-driven resources throughout students’ academic journeys that motivate them to stay the course. For instance, an academic and career preparation map based on course performance and participation in extracurricular activities can provide students a clear view of where they are headed in their academic journey and beyond.
Now more than ever, students are focused on career outcomes.
The robust labor market is a significant driver in colleges’ enrollment and retention issues. Positions that do not require 2- or 4-year degrees are becoming more lucrative, and an increasing number of traditional and adult learners are choosing to tap into these opportunities, putting plans to obtain a higher education degree on hold.
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