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Trends in Enrollment Management in Higher Education

Despite 2023 being a generally difficult year for American colleges and universities, the fall of 2023 did see a rise in undergraduate enrollment for the first time since the pandemic.

Enrollment in higher education is witnessing a transformative shift as institutions grapple with the evolving landscape of student recruitment and retention. In an era dominated by technology, data-driven decisions, and dynamic student needs, colleges and universities are adapting to stay relevant.

This blog post explores the current trends in enrollment management, shedding light on how institutions are leveraging technology, personalizing their approaches, and embracing innovative strategies to navigate the complexities of student engagement.

Leveraging Technology for Student Recruitment and Retention 

Technology has become a powerful ally in enrollment management for higher education institutions. Colleges and universities are increasingly turning to data analytics in enrollment to make informed decisions. By harnessing the power of big data, institutions can identify patterns, predict enrollment trends, and tailor their strategies accordingly. 

Arkansas Tech University used a wealth of data to influence and support accreditors, students, and institutional leaders. They were particularly delighted to discover that 94% of first-year students who recorded at least one hour of community or volunteer service persisted through to year two — 22 percentage points higher than the retention rate among all first-year students.

The application process has undergone a digital transformation across North America, with online enrollment becoming a norm. Prospective students are now applying from the comfort of their homes, engaging with AI-powered chatbots for answers to their queries. 

These chatbots not only provide timely and personalized information to prospective students, but also automate routine tasks, freeing up human resources for more complex endeavors. Furthermore, technology is enhancing student engagement through virtual platforms, offering a glimpse into campus life and academic offerings.

Personalization and Targeted Marketing 

One-size-fits-all approaches to student recruitment are no longer effective. Institutions are recognizing the importance of personalization and targeted marketing to attract and retain students. By understanding individual students' unique needs and preferences, colleges can tailor their communication and outreach strategies. 

A growing number of higher ed institutions are engaging and converting more students by delivering personalized web experiences to them on their websites. Ferris State University, for instance, increased website clickthrough by 2800% using personalization

Personalized communication, from emails to social media interactions, fosters a sense of connection and engagement. This approach attracts prospective students and contributes to higher retention rates by making students feel valued and understood. 

Embracing Digital Marketing and Social Media 

Digital marketing and social media have become indispensable tools in the enrollment marketer's toolkit. Colleges and universities are leveraging these platforms to connect with wider audiences and create vibrant online presences. Social media platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook, and X, are used for promotional activities and as spaces for student interaction and engagement.

In the realm of enrollment marketing, storytelling plays a crucial role. Institutions are using digital platforms to share success stories, campus updates, and student achievements. This narrative approach helps build a positive image, making the institution more appealing to potential students. 

Collaboration Between Admissions and Marketing Teams

Breaking down silos between admissions and marketing teams is a strategic move that is gaining prominence. Collaboration between these two critical departments ensures a cohesive and integrated student recruitment and retention approach. 

Admissions teams provide valuable insights into the needs and expectations of prospective students, while marketing teams craft strategies to communicate the institution's strengths effectively.

This synergy enables institutions to align their messaging across various channels, presenting a unified front to prospective students. Strategic planning becomes more effective when both teams work together, contributing to a seamless and engaging enrollment experience.

Reflecting on the top ten higher education websites of 2023, you’ll notice that many of them are breaking departmental silos with integrated technologies. For example, Kennesaw State University and the University of Wyoming have integrated Career Pathways and Academic Catalogs with their websites, offering seamless digital experiences to their website visitors. 

Inclusive Enrollment Practices 

Diversity and inclusion have become focal points in enrollment management. Institutions are actively working towards creating inclusive environments that reflect the diversity of their student bodies. Inclusive enrollment practices involve removing barriers that may hinder certain groups from accessing higher education.

Colleges and universities are implementing targeted outreach programs, scholarship opportunities, and mentorship initiatives to encourage underrepresented populations to pursue higher education. These efforts contribute to a more diverse student body and enhance the overall learning experience for all students. 

Use Recruitment Events and Virtual Tours 

Traditional recruitment events and campus tours remain effective, but institutions are increasingly embracing virtual alternatives. Campus maps, immersive virtual tours, webinars, and online events provide a convenient way for prospective students to explore campuses and interact with faculty and staff. 

These virtual experiences, often enhanced with multimedia elements, contribute to effective student recruitment. One example is Ohio Wesleyan University, which more than doubled prospect engagement with campus maps and virtual tours. 

Hybrid Learning Models 

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of hybrid learning models. Institutions are recognizing the importance of flexibility in education delivery. By offering a mix of in-person and online courses, colleges can cater to diverse student needs and preferences.

Hybrid learning models enhance accessibility and contribute to student retention. The flexibility to choose between on-campus and remote learning can make education more accommodating for a broader range of students, contributing to higher satisfaction rates. 

Adapt to External Factors 

Enrollment management is not isolated from external factors that can influence student decisions. The recent pandemic showed us how agile, adaptive, and innovative institutions not only survived the crisis but thrived in it. 

Economic conditions, societal changes, and global events can impact enrollment trends. Institutions that stay agile and adapt to these external factors are better positioned to navigate uncertainties. 

Adapting to external factors involves continuous monitoring, analysis, and a willingness to adjust strategies as needed. Institutions that proactively address challenges and seize opportunities can position themselves as leaders in the dynamic landscape of higher education. 

Want to future-proof your enrollment strategy?

As colleges and universities navigate the ever-changing terrain, the ability to make data-driven decisions, effectively engage students, and create inclusive and flexible learning environments will be key to attracting and retaining a diverse and motivated student body. 

By embracing the right technology specifically designed for higher education, institutions can position themselves as forward-thinking leaders in higher education, ready to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future.

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Karam Singh

Karam Singh

Karamjeet Singh Khosa is a Content Marketing Manager at Modern Campus. With more than a decade of progressive professional experience, he has a thorough understanding of content, marketing, technology and the education industry. Prior to joining Modern Campus in 2022, he worked with leading technology enterprises, like Google, and leading education services and products providers, like Pearson Education. A digital nomad with a Master’s degree in English literature, Karamjeet loves to read, write, travel and trek.

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Last updated: March 11, 2024


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