How four schools avoided enrollment melt

American Council on Education members share successes

Demographic changes and a fluctuating economy have threatened college enrollment in recent years. But the outlook is not as grim as it appears. Schools representing a range of types and missions have implemented innovative recruitment, engagement, and retention programs to drive enrollment and student success, reports the American Council on Education. Learn the strategies that helped four schools succeed at recruitment and yield.

North Carolina Central University

Analyzing target markets. The school reviewed its approach to attracting first-year students, transfer students, and "stopouts" (those who want to reenroll in higher education after taking a break), and developed an aggressive plan to attract more students from those groups.

Read EAB's study on tomorrow's target markets: Future students, future revenues

Going mobile. A national advertising campaign across digital platforms including social media—especially Twitter—helped student applications break the 10,000 mark by January 2014. "Using a highly interactive communications tool helped us reach students where they are: the virtual environment online," says Chancellor Debra Saunders-White.

Expanding the net. A task force focused on transfer students developed strategies to increase applications, including improving existing relationships with state community colleges. One such initiative consisted of a dual-enrollment, transfer-admissions program.

Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC)

Limiting operation expenses. The institution cut its per-credit price lower than it was in 2006 by flattening their organizational structure and by using space more efficiently.

Supporting student success initiatives. GGC reached 70% retention rates by investing several million dollars per year on such supports as weekend and evening classes for part-time students and special advising.

Centralizing student support services

Focusing on student engagement. GGC decided that the ability to engage students would factor heavily into faculty recruitment, evaluation, and rewards. Instead of holding office hours, each faculty member received a cellphone from the school and gives that number to students.

Dickinson College

Engaging students pre-orientation. Dickinson brings students together before school to foster friendship and a sense of school affiliation. Additionally, before school starts, freshmen select First-Year Interest Groups ranging from entrepreneurship to spirituality. Once on campus, the groups are led by faculty mentors and help develop layers of support to improve retention.

Developing pre-orientation programs.

Building personal connections. Each incoming student receives a phone call from a faculty member to guide them through course selection for their first semester, tailoring selections to the student's needs.

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Collaborating across divisions. Faculty and staff bridge department divides to provide a seamless experience for students. For example, the New Student Planning Committee includes representatives from all parts of the college.

Lawrence University

Bridging the preparedness gaps. A three-week program, the Freshmen Academic Institute, emphasizes discussion, close reading, essay writing, and study strategies to prepare students for the rigors of a college workload.

Mentoring new students. The peer-to-peer CORE program helps incoming students adjust to campus life by helping lowerclassmen develop study habits, work with faculty advisors, and make smart social decisions.

Bulking up academic resources. Each year, a workshop brings experts to campus to train faculty advisors on student support strategies. Additionally, Lawrence strengthened resources in the Student Academic Services office (Saunders-White et. al, American Council on Education, Winter 2015).

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