Ways Colleges Can Keep Students Enrolled

Customers have the power, so businesses must accommodate. Higher education (though we may not think of it as such) is a business. Colleges and postsecondary education schools must adapt to the needs of prospective students (read: their customers). This is especially important because of the increasing dropout rate among college students. Why do they drop out? What can schools do to curb this?

Time for school – or is it?

Timing is everything – not to mention unpredictable. This has become very true in higher education. Yes, high school seniors attend Open Houses, school fairs – and they even apply. But many change their minds. This is common among high school graduates who have second thoughts during this transition, known as the summer melts. Equally noteworthy, however, is the number of students already in college who wind up dropping out. How great is this number? Late last year, Natalie Schwartz, writing for Education Dive, cited findings from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center which concluded that approximately 36 million students had discontinued their college education.

What to choose? School or job?

Why do these students decide to give up on higher education? Two main reasons are limited finances and time, which requires the balancing act of holding down a job while trying to keep up with classwork. Even though they may receive financial aid to attend school, they still have to pay the rent and put food on the table, which makes holding down a job and attending school overwhelming. The need to support themselves takes priority over the desire to enhance their education, so it’s “goodbye to school” for certain students.

And then there is parenthood.

And what of those students who, in addition to trying to juggle a job and school, are also raising children? This can truly stack the odds against pursuing an education. As Jenny Anderson points out in Quartz, approximately 22 percent of students who enroll in either two- or four-year colleges have young children. And 53 percent of student-parents wind up dropping out. What can schools do to curb or reverse this statistic?

Some answers and solutions…

In attempts to bring students back to class, or from dropping out in the first place, some schools are implementing the following changes:

  • Hiring, followed by higher education.

    This developing trend allows a prospective student to get hired for a job and then enroll in a college program where he or she will be sponsored by their employer. Brandon Busteed, President of Kaplan University Partners, predicted in Forbes for this to be the biggest disruption to the history of higher education. An example of this, as Ms. Schwartz mentions in Education Dive, is how students will consider reenrolling in school through benefits packages offered by their employers, some of which (such as Walmart and Chipotle) are including discounted or free tuition programs.

  • Rise in online learning and other resources.

    Flexibility and accommodation are key when it comes to keeping students in class. This includes giving them the choice of online courses which allows them to study when and where they are able. Doug Lederman states in Inside Higher Ed that although the pace of online education has slowed in the last year, it “remains the main driver of growth in postsecondary enrollments.” Student advisement services and other forms of support are also being strengthened. The overall message is that schools want students to know they have help, support, and the chance to learn on conditions that are best-suited to their needs.

  • And for student-parents…

    In her article for Quartz, Ms. Anderson states that one solution to keeping student-parents in school is by providing free childcare to those who qualify. One case in point is Monroe College, located in Rochester, NY, which has a free childcare center on campus. The majority of student-parents who use this resource tend to graduate or go on to a four-year college. Another noteworthy example is Massachusetts-based Endicott College, which offers the “Keys to Degrees” program. This program offers one-child housing and a meal plan where children can eat free-of-charge, along with childcare, and support for student-parents.

  • Narrowing down selected skillsets and making the most of an education in a short time

    Another change some schools are adapting to is providing an education where students will learn and earn their degrees within a relatively short period of time. Digital Marketing Institute refers to this as the “unbundling of education.” Some traditional two- or-four year degree programs are being streamlined to the basics of what students need to know in order to perform their intended jobs successfully. Even the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has adopted this option to attract and retain students who will learn specific, job-ready skills which can be readily aligned and applied to their chosen careers. Competency-based programs are being developed which feature shorter degree sessions to help students earn professional certifications upon completion.

So, as stated, schools will have to adapt – and educate themselves – to the available resources for helping students stay the course in completing their education.

EGC Group has solid experience in enrollment marketing. If you work in enrollment marketing and are concerned about a loss in student retention rate, or wish to increase your school’s visibility, let us know. We’d be happy to teach you.

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