Strategies for Engaging, Empowering, Educating, and Enrolling Prospective Students
Changing demographics, technology advancements, and perceptions about the value of a college degree have dramatically altered the higher education landscape. College enrollment has been in steady decline since 2012 — with the slide in the college-bound rate since 2018 the steepest on record, according to Fortune, citing data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The high cost of a traditional four-year, on-campus college degree, rising wages, and a robust job market have led many potential degree seekers to delay or even opt out of college. Taken together, these factors have stoked fears among higher ed institutions and enrollment managers of a looming enrollment cliff.
But the news isn’t all bad. The growing acceptance and maturity of online learning is making college more accessible and affordable to a broader population of potential students — notably adult learners — and has increased institutional reach by eliminating geographic boundaries. Indeed, higher ed institutions that have pivoted to a digitally driven, outcome-focused business model are seeing their enrollment numbers rise.
The enrollment management team at Archer Education leverages a combination of people, processes, and technology to connect with prospective students. Our admissions advisors and student success team shepherd prospective students along the entire student journey to overcome obstacles, boost enrollment rates, and generate positive student outcomes.
What Are the 4 E’s of Enrollment Management?
Our approach to enrollment management comprises four distinct parts: engage, empower, educate, and enroll. To increase retention through the admissions process, Archer uses a high-touch, high-tech strategy supported by our admissions advisors and our proprietary engagement platform Onward to keep students on track toward enrollment and, ultimately, graduation.
While Onward provides immediate, personalized digital engagement to students and valuable information about prospects to our admissions advisors, one-to-one conversations (whether by phone or video chat) are a critical component of our enrollment strategy.
To meet prospective students wherever they are in their student journey, we look to engage with them in the best way possible. That involves adapting our recruitment strategy to whatever mode of communication students are most comfortable with. For example, while many young, digitally native students may be “phone averse,” adult learners often prize one-on-one phone conversations. With that in mind, our admissions advisors use a mix of phone calls, text messages, and emails when making that critical initial contact with a prospect.
Before picking up the phone, an Archer admissions advisor typically already knows a lot about a prospect from information gathered by our Onward platform, including what degree program they’ve expressed interest in, their preferred start date, challenges they may be facing, and their educational background. Onward enables informed and relevant conversations with prospects from the very first contact. And if the student doesn’t want to connect by phone, we can still send them relevant information via text or email — whatever they’re most comfortable with.
The empowerment phase of the enrollment management cycle is all about making prospective students feel confident moving forward. Often prospects have fears about committing the time and money it takes to earn a college degree. That’s especially true for adult learners who have been out of school for a while or may not have had a successful higher ed experience the first time around. Life-work-school balance is a big concern for adult learners who wonder how they’ll make time for school when they have jobs and families that also will demand their attention.
The job of an admissions advisor is to address and allay these concerns and help students feel assured that they’ll be able to succeed in the program. At this stage in the process, one-on-one conversations are an opportunity to ask and answer students’ questions, discuss how school will fit into their lives, and ensure the selected program aligns with their interests and goals. The last thing an admissions advisor wants to do is enroll a student in the wrong program or not have set them up for success.
The educate phase entails providing prospects with detailed information about their chosen school and degree program. This may include providing materials via phone, text, or email or directing students to admission prerequisite, course description, and credit-hour requirement pages on the school website. It also includes providing any necessary support and resources that students need to complete the application process.
This is also the time to demonstrate how the chosen program aligns with the student’s expectations and desired outcome. Adult learners, more so than graduating high school seniors, are laser focused on outcomes and the return on investment a degree program provides. The educate phase, ultimately, is about getting the student to say yes to pursuing a degree at your school.
The fourth of the four E’s, enroll, is where our admissions advisors pass the baton to the student success team, which focuses on ensuring students are prepared to succeed once classes begin. This team works with each student on creating a long-term plan that leads to graduation.
At Archer, student success team members are dedicated to a partner school and, at institutions with very large programs like nursing and education, even specific degree programs within a school. These student services experts are deeply knowledgeable about each partner school and its programs so they can easily respond to students’ questions during a phone call or video conference.
To guard against surprises once classes start, student success advisors help guide students through the registration process, with the goal of creating a manageable course load that won’t overwhelm them but will still advance them toward graduation in a timely fashion. For adult learners who’ve been out of school for years, advisors introduce them to online learning management systems like Canvas and other tools that may be new to them. This high-touch hand-holding extends to advising enrollees about the study time needed for particular classes and developing a game plan to fit studying into a busy schedule.
Let Us Optimize Your Enrollment Management Strategy
Higher ed institutions looking to boost their enrollment numbers will want to explore Archer’s high-touch, technology-enabled approach to enrollment management.
At Archer Education, we use people, processes, and technology to get amazingly favorable results for our academic partners and, more importantly, for their students. Contact us to request more information about Archer’s full-funnel enrollment management strategy and digital student experience technology.