Student recruitment and admissions: Looking beyond COVID-19

Student recruitment and admissions: Looking beyond COVID-19

COVID-19 disrupted the higher education sector.  Many colleagues in the sector were left thinking about how they would pivot and adapt to the new normal moving forward.  And since that moment of disruption, institutions took on the challenge before them, looking for solutions that would work now and in the future. Higher education recruiting trends beyond COVID-19 embrace technology. It’s clear that institutions need to pull together people, processes, and technology so they can see the bigger picture and reach their strategic goals.

5 higher education recruiting trends post-COVID-19

Higher education recruiting trends are about adaptation. When the world went virtual, institutions looked for solutions that allowed them to not only carry on, but to succeed.

1. Adapting to changing behaviors

The impact of COVID-19 has had (and is still having) a profound effect on institutions and students alike. Students’ expectations will undoubtedly change and so it is essential that institutions start thinking about how core processes and institutional practices may also need to change. In terms of students’ changing behaviors, here is an idea of what we may expect:

  • Change of focus and emotions about future studies
  • The decision to defer or not to defer
  • Reconsideration of study locations (more local vs. abroad vs. online)

As the landscape evolves, many institutions will undergo changes in the way they operate and interact with their students in light of these changing behaviors, and they may also start thinking about how technology can help to address their current and future challenges.

2. Nurturing communications and engagement

A highly competitive market (made more so especially as a result of COVID-19), and the uncertainty about students’ future plans, means that nurturing communications and engagement throughout the entire prospect-applicant-student lifecycle will be more important than ever. To drive a faster service to prospective and current students, there are some clear benefits to utilizing a student CRM system to support your institution’s strategy.

Firstly, keeping all relevant information in one place—as opposed to using multiple spreadsheets or a paper-based system—enables easier access to information, no matter where staff may be working from (on or off campus).

Secondly, you can reach your target students in a timely manner—through automation and workflows—and personalize your engagement by building multi-touch communication plans to nurture prospective students. This enables you to visualize every prospect touchpoint—whether this is via phone, email, or text—while tracking every interaction all in one place.

3. Readily available data

Data is key at every stage of the student lifecycle, from prospect to applicant to student and beyond. And when data isn’t accessible, problems emerge. Aside from agile communications, having data readily available will also be crucial during the student recruitment and admissions lifecycle. From application to graduation, U.S. students give colleges an incredible amount of their personal data, and they both want and expect schools to use that data in a way that optimizes their college experience and career.

Today’s college students grew up online, and tend to be much more comfortable than other generations with a public approach to sharing their personal information. There is a need for schools to leverage student information to provide a streamlined approach across the student lifecycle by enhancing academic services, financial processes, student life, and career processes.

4. A shift from standard student behavior modeling systems

As institutions are unlikely to have data to support the modeling of how students will behave this year, they will need the right tools to ensure they are agile enough to respond to the unknown behavioral changes and be as responsive as possible. It’s essential to closely monitor patterns of deferrals/withdrawals during these uncertain times and to understand how prospective students are responding and what their concerns are.

If your data is stored all in one place, live dashboard views from the CRM system will provide a big picture view of trends and in turn help institutions to prioritize their response and engagement with students.

5. Implementation of new technology and processes

Looking ahead, institutions will need to reconsider if their data, processes, and technology framework in place will support student attraction and recruitment capabilities and whether it will give them a competitive edge over other institutions. While the cost of switching can be great, the benefits that the right technology provider brings can’t be overlooked.  The right ecosystem of open and flexible technologies increases agility, efficiency, and impact. The result: deeper engagements, smarter insights, and better outcomes.

Looking to the future of higher education

Institutions across the globe have faced very similar challenges, addressing endless questions to adapt. Now, with an eye on the future, institutions can begin to build new processes, frameworks, and technology to support students and staff. They’ll need to ask questions like, will students prefer to be on campus or continue to take classes virtually? Will hyflex solutions (the ability to take class on campus, virtually, or a mix of both) rise in popularity? What challenges will this bring? Higher education trends post-COVID-19 lead the way for this new way of looking at the value institutions can bring to students and staff.

So, what can institutions do to be ready to meet these new and evolving needs and will COVID-19 actually help accelerate the adoption of technologies to promote new and more efficient ways of working?

Innovation and agility for staff and students

Innovation and agility will be key to ensure institutions are well-positioned to survive and thrive as the COVID-19 dust starts to settle. For instance, staff needs to be able to work in far more agile ways with more remote working. This will increasingly become the new norm and will be driven at a much faster pace than before.

With many campuses closed still and administrative teams having to work remotely, delivering a consistent and responsive experience for existing and prospective students has never been more important. Solutions delivered in the cloud as well as a more connected mobile experience will be key to driving this transition.

Business capabilities built for success

One area that is of particular interest to us at Ellucian is how institutions can ensure they have the business capabilities that will allow them to adapt and take on new challenges in the future. As the post-COVID-19 operational environment forces many institutions to re-evaluate their position, it has never been more important to identify and deliver business capabilities that support your institution and strategic goals in more agile ways. In my next blog, I’ll delve deeper into Ellucian’s digital transformation framework and how a capabilities approach—with a spotlight on recruitment and admissions—helps to underpin change.

Meet the authors
Iain Sloan
Iain Sloan
Solutions Consultant

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