Community College Blog

Experienced summer melt this year? Here's how to fight it.

by Viktoria Guentcheva

Much of EAB's work with community colleges focuses on demystifying the enrollment process—and with good reason: Students that enter community colleges face an uphill battle from the start.

Lengthy applications, unclear follow up, and conflicting advice are just a few of the obstacles that community college students—many of whom are new to higher education—must navigate when attempting to enroll. These difficulties can create summer melt—when admitted students fail to show up on campus come fall. Already just a few weeks into the fall semester, we’ve heard from colleges who have experienced significant drop-off on day one of class.

To make matters more difficult, today’s Generation Z student customers are fickle. Eighty-one percent are willing to switch from their favorite brand if they find a similar product at higher quality. In this environment, community colleges stand to lose out on good-fit enrollments to both their 4-year competitors and the local workforce.

To combat summer melt and keep students engaged throughout the enrollment process, progressive community colleges roll out strategically timed text nudges. We’re not talking about a generic campus alert text system—these campaigns are specific and geared toward moving students through the enrollment process. The fall semester presents a great opportunity to ramp up your text messaging efforts as you prepare for Spring 2019 recruitment.

To create your own successful text message enrollment campaigns, keep these four general rules in mind:

1. Send messages around key enrollment milestones

Effective nudge campaigns target onboarding milestones and aren't sent at random. Contact students near application and financial aid deadlines, placement test dates, and before course registration opens. Focus on one enrollment milestone at a time to keep students on pace without overwhelming them.

2. Content is important—and less is always more

Once you’ve decided on a text topic, you need to craft content. Texts should be short, but not at the expense of relevant context. Open with the student's name and sign off with a contact name to keep the message personalized. Keep messages to one key point (no more than a few short sentences) to ensure that students can digest information quickly.

3. Adjust the frequency of messages and provide an opt out

We recommend sending between two and five programmed messages per month. Don’t forget to let students know that they always have the option to stop receiving messages.

4. Leave room for "what's next?"

While brevity is important, concrete and actionable next steps are necessary if you want your messages to lead to actual results. Provide links that lead students to the appropriate resource or function when clicked. Innovative schools have even prepared responses for the most common or anticipated student questions, saving staff time to deal with more nuanced inquiries.

Nudges in action: Increased enrollments with a small investment

A great thing about nudging campaigns is that colleges stand to gain enrollments at a low cost of investment and employee labor.

Data analyzed by the Rhode Island Pipelines to College and Career Research Partnership revealed that text message nudges were linked to increased college enrollments, especially for low-income and first generation students. Among low-income students who received text nudges, 73% enrolled in college, compared to 66% that did not receive nudges. Similarly, 71% of first-generation students who received nudges enrolled in college, compared to 63% who did not receive nudges. And the cost to these institutions? Roughly $5 to $10 per student.

During your next big enrollment push, remember that engagement with the student doesn’t have to end after they apply. Text your enrolled students and increase the chance they show up to campus on the first day of class.

Help ease the onboarding process with dual enrollment programs

A great way to make new students comfortable on campus? Have them already familiar with it.

Learn how you can partner with K-12 schools to maximize the value of your dual enrollment program and demonstrate a clear pathway between high school, college, and careers.

Download the Free Toolkit


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