How colleges fight summer melt

Enrollment is a delicate calculus; sudden changes late in the game can have a big impact on college revenue.

That's why summer melt is such a challenge for colleges, Douglas Belkin reports for the Wall Street Journal. It can cost colleges up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in lost revenue.

Some high school seniors are accepted to institutions and pay a deposit to reserve their spot, but simply don't show up for classes in the fall. Summer melt happens with about 40% of students every year, according to Lindsay Page, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education who has done research on the issue.

Help prospective students complete enrollment with email nudges

Colleges and universities are experimenting with a range of solutions to the problem, Belkin reports.

For example, Temple University has changed their two-day freshman orientation into huge celebrations that include gifts of university-branded merchandise. The orientations are spread across the summer to try to get as many incoming students to visit campus as possible, Belkin reports.

The State University of New York at Oneonta has 15 faculty members call students directly to ask about any anxiety they are experiencing and talk in detail about the students' academic schedule, Belkin reports.

And at the American International College (AIC) in Springfield, Illinois, admissions staffers drive to students' homes to help students with paperwork. They also emphasize that the student made the right decision about enrolling at their institution, Belkin reports. With this and other initiatives, summer melt rate has been reduced from 18% to 11%, according to Jon Scully, director of undergraduate admissions at AIC.

'Nudge' students toward better academic choices

Georgia State University has started using similar technology, communicating with students via a chat bot. According to Scott Burke, the assistant vice president for undergraduate admissions, the initiative has helped summer melt decrease from 18% to 14% (Belkin, Wall Street Journal, 8/11). 

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