Many college enrollment leaders and administrators are thinking of engaging in the previously prohibited practice of recruiting students committed to or already attending other institutions, according to a new survey from EAB.
The change comes on the heels of recent revisions to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) Code of Ethics and Professional Practices that liberalized student recruitment guidelines.
Institutions should enhance the onboarding process to strengthen affinity and provide structured early guidance that helps students build momentum toward a degree–tactics that are proven to improve retention through deeper engagement and will be invaluable in an environment where current students may be contacted by competitors, says Madeleine Rhyneer, EAB vice president and dean of enrollment management.
What changes are college enrollment leaders considering?
The survey findings indicate that a sizable percentage of college enrollment leaders are considering significant changes:
• Thirty-five percent of college enrollment leaders said they are considering offering transfer incentives to students they had previously admitted but who are attending another school.
• Eleven percent of college enrollment leaders said they may offer transfer incentives to students enrolled elsewhere, including those who had never applied to their institution.
• Nearly one-quarter (23 percent) said they are considering recruiting rising freshmen who have committed to another institution but who have not yet enrolled.
Additionally, almost one-third (31 percent) of enrollment leaders said they were thinking about increasing the size of their enrollment deposit to discourage committed students from withdrawing. The median increase being considered by survey respondents was 200 percent. However, this may not be a sound strategy.
“A deposit large enough to prevent students from withdrawing would likely also be large enough to discourage some students from depositing in the first place, making a large increase counterproductive,” Rhyneer cautions.
Can students be induced to transfer?
A separate EAB survey of more than 2,000 new college freshmen conducted in the fall of 2019 showed that many students would consider transferring to another institution to which they had previously applied. Students cited cost reduction as the top incentive (34 percent) that might prompt them to consider transferring.
“One of the things that worries me the most is that more aggressive recruiting activity may create more confusion for families,” Rhyneer says. “Gen Z students and their families are already very cost-conscious and 11th hour aid appeals may drive students to accept the lowest-cost option rather than choosing a school they believe in their hearts will provide the best fit and education outcome for them. Those at greatest risk will be families that are the most financially constrained.
Other top inducements included full transfer of credits earned (28 percent) and admission to a program to which they were not originally admitted (18 percent). The survey also indicated that less than half (48 percent) of students are fully convinced they made the right college choice to begin with.
“The conversation really should be about how to keep and support the students committed to or already enrolled at one’s school. Schools need to look at how they can onboard students more effectively to build affinity early on,” Rhyneer says. “Once students are enrolled, focus on helping keep those students happy, engaged and on track to graduate. These are the kinds of conversations I’m having with enrollment leaders right now.”
Material from a press release was used in this report.
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