4 Tips to Improve the Enrollment Process At Your College

Larissa Lewis July 27, 2020 Higher Education

enrollment-process-college

In mid-March, the public-health crisis triggered a jarring transition to remote learning for college students around the world. Students set up satellite classrooms on kitchen counters and living room coffee tables. The pandemic upended more than just the classroom experience, but also suspended student life activities and disrupted access to campus mental health services. The continued rise of novel coronavirus cases is forcing colleges and universities to make unexpected adjustments to their fall semester—and revise all the ways their institution operates. One area most impacted by the pandemic is how colleges handle the enrollment process. 

A study by Davidson College revealed that of the 3,000 U.S. colleges, community colleges, and universities analyzed, only 72 revealed plans for a fully in-person fall 2020 semester. The remainder plan to offer a mixed bag of academic instruction; ranging from the 119 institutions slated to offer a fully online curriculum, down to the 627 organizing a hybrid of online and in-person courses. While 44% of current students fear financial disruptions incurred by COVID-19 will limit their ability to remain enrolled come fall, the prospect of a closed campus is repelling students of the class of 2024 from enrolling all together. 

The pandemic has delivered such a devastating blow, that 86% of college presidents list fall enrollment as one of their most pressing issues. In fact, community college enrollment declined, but has since bounced back with COVID-19.  Faced with a plummet in student population and dwindling revenue, how colleges and universities handle the processes involved in the enrollment phase can make or break the future of their institution. Here’s five ways you can transform your systems to reduce hesitations, eliminate workflow obstacles, and improve your enrollment processes to kick-off a healthy, thriving fall semester. 

1. Improve enrollment processes by bolstering cross-department communication 

Many departments come together to facilitate the enrollment process including financial aid, marketing, IT, and the registrar’s office. When working remotely, it’s more important than ever for your entire team to have a comprehensive view into the workflows that power your institution. When enrollment workflows are so critical to the fall success of your university or college, out-of-sight cannot mean out-of-mind. 

Is your marketing team awaiting final approval on a new video campaign showcasing your school’s pandemic response? Web team unable to open course registration because the registrar has yet to finalize capacity for an online course? Perhaps a critical web content update is languishing in the inbox of an IT member. Students are waiting longer than ever to snag fall spots—are there applications stuck in your system that could use a nudge? With little visibility into the activity of other departments, administrators are left shrugging their shoulders as to why a particular project or process is at a standstill. 

Instead of digging through old emails, scouring an out-of-date spreadsheet, or signing on for a time-consuming Zoom to get to the crux of the problem, your school can aggregate all of your internal processes using a platform like ProcessMaker. On a single dashboard, you can view the progress of a process chain to identify the precise bottleneck. Quickly see who is responsible for the next task or review.

2. Use Agile Decision-Making

Many areas of the enrollment process simply were not ready for the sudden shift to digital—administrators mainly relied on in-person meetings, hard copy records, and wet signatures to launch new initiatives. COVID-19 brought any remaining reliance on paper and in-person processes to a grinding halt. The near instantaneous closure of campuses cancelled face-to-face interaction from the daily routine, but don’t let this slow the pace of productivity within your institution. 

ProcessMaker refreshes the way your team requests approvals. Are there certain steps in your enrollment process that require a sign-off from a higher-up? Don’t let these required reviews pile up into a dozen email follow-ups that snag your overall workflow. Using automation, your system can send approval requests via email or text message. Within the message itself, senior staff members can quickly “accept” or “reject” the process step, automatically sending it along to the next stage in the workflow. 

3. Targeted Outreach Marketing

Your website now serves as your chief campus tour guide, extending a digital warm welcome to potential students. Students visit your site to learn more about remote learning, campus clubs, and plans for sports teams—but they also want to see what student life might be like once campuses reopen. To reduce reluctance to enroll, your website needs to be a vibrant mix showcasing both learning styles, packed with up-to-date bulletins, captivating video, and engaging 3D tours.

Simply adding fresh content to your website is just the first step: does your website have the ability to track a visitor’s interest? Empower your marketing team with analytics that boost enrollment. Automated workflows can identify students interested in financial aid and automatically send them emails that detail your school’s fall tuition breaks or equipment stipends. Using other tools like remarketing, you can launch banner ads featuring your school’s leading mathematics professors to students who visited three or more web pages about the major. ProcessMaker can aggregate all of the ways you connect with students to identify the workflows that drive the most enrollment. Instead of focusing on mass mailers and messaging, improve quarantine enrollment with pinpointed marketing outreach that target specific audiences. 

4. Enlist Campus Champions for the Enrollment Process

From health concerns to increased financial anxiety, incoming freshmen will bear stressors unseen in previous enrollment classes. Students and families are clamoring for the most up-to-date information on how things will work come fall. How are online classes run? Will you offer orientation and other student life activities via video channels? Do you offer equipment stipends for lower-income students? Students and families are awash with questions and concerns, and your school needs to have the processes in place to address them with compassion. 

Enlist your top champions to help alleviate worries and boost excitement for the coming semester. Think outside the box: students, board members, and faculty can help support enrollment initiatives. Using ProcessMaker, you can link your main student services support line to a team of champions most enthusiastic about your school.

For instance, many students worry that remote learning will negatively impact their immersion into their chosen major. With the right processes in place, you can automatically create support tickets from incoming calls, and assign call-back responsibility to a student with the same major. Students who had positive experiences during the virtual spring semester can set up a Zoom or GoToMeeting and offer valuable insight to incoming academics. With ProcessMaker, you can quickly view and track the status of these requests to make sure incoming freshmen are reached by your school’s top aficionados. 

The current public-health crisis toppled expectations for the fall 2020 semester for students, families, and administrators alike. While many colleges and universities are experiencing an enrollment crisis, the right workflows and automated systems can help your school can turn it into a flourishing opportunity. Bring together the resources of your entire campus to boost enrollment and engage with students. With the right collaboration and process management tools in place, your school can exceed expectations and welcome aboard a vibrant and enthusiastic class of 2024. 

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