Higher education institutions have always had strong competition for a limited pool of prospective students. There is more pressure now than ever before on school recruiting and admissions departments to hit enrollment numbers. What are some of the biggest hurdles schools face today?
Competition between schools for the same pool of applicants has never been higher. Technology has played a big part in this; with websites and apps facilitating the application process. No longer do students have to fill out individual applications for each school; they can use a service to complete one application and submit to multiple schools at the click of a mouse. In fact, 30% of high school students are applying to seven or more institutions. It has become more difficult for schools to do personal outreach to each prospective student when there are so many applicants; and students are less invested in each individual school.
For decades, a college or university degree has been the goal of a vast majority of high school students. With societal changes toward increased emphasis on trade schools and other specialized education, fewer students are enrolling in traditional four-year schools. In fact, enrollment at colleges and universities has fallen for the 8th year in a row.
On a positive note, Generation Z, the first all-digital generation, is a huge group, and most are yet to reach college age. 61% of Generation Z is still in high school; schools that can reach this social generation through their preferred methods of communication, and on their time, will reap the rewards.
Lack of Available Staff Resources
No school is immune to limited budgets; higher education institutions have been dealing with this issue for decades. Yet in a digital age where the traditional methods of outreach, phone calls and emails, are not as effective, it can be cost-prohibitive for schools to completely shift gears. As it stands, admissions staff have reported feeling overworked and underpaid. In a major study, 85% of respondents said they have considered leaving the education sector altogether. This sentiment leads to high turnover, and makes it harder to provide a positive experience for prospective students when the staff they interact with are always so new.
With the difficulty of attracting and retaining quality staff in university admissions and recruiting, schools need to find new ways to provide a consistent, real-time experience high school students expect. Automation and technology are two ways higher education institutions have found to solve this problem.
Lack of Financial Support for Students
College has always been an expensive proposition, but costs have skyrocketed in the last few decades. In fact, the tuition for private four-year and public four-year schools has more than doubled since 1990. This has prompted many students to seek other options, including online schools, two-year community colleges and specialized trade schools. This rise in costs has resulted in a proliferation of financing and loan options for students, many of which have complicated application processes. Students are now asking more questions about financial aid than ever before. School websites are often complicated to navigate and financial aid offices are not staffed 24 hours a day.
Higher education institutions that can engage with prospective students in a conversational manner (their preferred method of communication by a wide margin) and on their time (most students are not researching school options between 8am and 5pm) will have a decided advantage when it comes to student recruitment and enrollment. Chatbots, for example, are proven to increase inquiries and grow applications and convert better than web forms or live chat.