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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.

Student recruitment and admissions: Looking beyond COVID-19
Iain Sloan
Iain Sloan
Solutions Consultant
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Teaser Text

In the space of just three months, there has been a great deal of change in the higher education sector. Many colleagues in the sector will be thinking about how they will ‘pivot’ and adapt to the new normal, post-COVID-19.

Bimm Students

Ellucian Solutions to Improve User Experience, Support BIMM’s Expansion Goals

July 13, 2021 – RESTON, Va. and EAST SUSSEX, England– Ellucian, the leading higher education technology solutions provider, today announced that The BIMM Group, the largest specialist provider of creative arts education in the UK, has selected Ellucian to modernise its technology operations.  A new Ellucian customer, BIMM joins more than 1,100 institutions worldwide that are in the cloud with Ellucian.

BIMM will be using Ellucian Banner Student with Ellucian Managed Cloud, a student information system (SIS) to support registration, enrolment, grading, advising, and course planning. In addition, BIMM’s suite of Ellucian cloud-based solutions will include CRM Recruit, CRM Advise, Intelligent Learning Platform (ILP) and Ethos, to enable future growth and development in a connected environment. Implementing these solutions across BIMM’s colleges and future colleges will automate processes to improve efficiencies and ensure consistency with an improved experience for students and staff. BIMM’s technology modernisation will make it easier to incorporate new colleges in the future. Ellucian’s cloud-based solutions support institutional transformation, student engagement and success across all stages of the student lifecycle.

“Today the BIMM Group has 8 colleges across Europe, serving the music industry established through strategic acquisitions and new campus roll-outs.  As part of strategic diversification, BIMM has also moved into the broader creative arts education market with the acquisition of performing arts and film schools, consolidating BIMM as a hub for its three creative arts areas: Music, Performing Arts and Filmmaking,” said David Jones-Owen, Chief Operating Officer, The BIMM Group.  “With over 8,000 students and to continue to grow, the institution needed a scalable student record system, and we look forward to implementing the Banner product which will enhance our student experience and streamline business processes across multiple geographies and curriculum areas.”

“Leveraging our cloud solutions, BIMM’s unique model will realize the benefits of a modern technology ecosystem, including seamless integrations, resiliency and scalability. Efficiencies gained will span their growing footprint across Europe,” said Darren Hunt, Senior Vice President and Managing Director EMEA and APAC, Ellucian. “We welcome BIMM to the Ellucian customer community and look forward to helping them meet their strategic goals for improved business operations and expansion.”

About BIMM

BIMM provides university-level education courses in modern music, performing arts, and filmmaking to over 8,000 students across 12 colleges in the UK, Ireland, and Germany. It has established itself as the market leader through a long-standing commitment to providing the highest quality creative arts education, allowing students to maximise their career potentials.

The BIMM Group is made up of BIMM Institute, Institute for Contemporary Theatre, Performers College, Northern Ballet School, and Screen and Film School. This wide network of colleges provides unique opportunities for students to collaborate creatively on projects with others working in music, performing arts, and film.

 

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Results

  • Increased applications immediately after implementation
  • Automated time-intensive manual processes
  • Personalized communications
  • Refocused staff toward strategic projects and 1:1 interactions

Summary

Needing to automate tedious, manual admissions processes, Garden City Community College implemented CRM Recruit and experienced immediate impact. With a friction free enrollment experience for both prospects and staff, GCCC personalized interactions with students to increase submitted applications.

Details

Garden City Community College, located in Garden City, Kansas, recently set out to optimize its recruitment processes, highlight its unique offerings, and modernize its recruitment technology.

The college went live on Ellucian CRM Recruit in early 2021, and can now automate cumbersome manual tasks, tailor their prospect communications, and spend more time on high-value projects and personal outreach.

As soon as GCCC went live CRM Recruit, admissions staff saw many more applications come in—including more in the first few days than they would normally have received in two weeks. Prospects found it easier and faster to apply, and their applications were processed in the system instead of manually.

For students who accept and enroll, the college’s new system is making a big difference in onboarding as well. Before GCCC implemented its new technology and process, newly accepted students wouldn’t get their IDs or the ability to register for several weeks. Now, it’s immediate.

Automated emails, alerts, and credentialing haven’t just made things easier for prospects—they’ve improved transparency and lessened the burden for the admissions and enrollments team, too.

The college’s new system has also enabled GCCC faculty to be more targeted with their outreach. Every two weeks, the admissions staff sends academic departments curated lists of students, then partner with faculty members to send faculty-signed emails with tailored program information based on student’s program interests.

GCCC is now able to add an individualized, human touch to its recruitment and admissions while accelerating and streamlining its business processes.

A personalized, modernized approach to recruitment

Garden City Community College improves outreach, increases applications, and streamlines manual processes

Garden City Community College
Author
Sydnee Sassaman
Director of Admissions
Garden City Community College
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How did this Texas community college revamp its student services to provide wraparound support?

Results

  • Students get a real-time, complete picture of their progress toward a degree
  • Registration is faster and easier than ever
  • Advisors have more time to make deeper connections with students

Summary

Hear a board member, a student, and a dean share their perspectives on how Ellucian Colleague Student Planning helps Mercer County Community College guide their students to on-time graduation. 

Details

Alexandra Salas, dean of the division of innovation, online education, and student success at Mercer County Community College:

Some of the benefits of Colleague Student Planning is that it gives us the flexibility to help students help themselves. Whether you're a part-time advisor, a student success coach, whether you're a faculty member, whether you're new in this whole scheme of advising, if you talk to a student, you can note-take that interaction.  

And then the appropriate person will be able to go back and see exactly when the student was taken care of, what they discussed, and then they can immediately address those students’ concerns. It's a great tool to keep our internal communications in one place in terms of advising.  

It's a wonderful tool for retention, and also for the student because it gives them that level of independence where they can begin to see what their academic plan is going to look like a couple of semesters out. Plus, they can track their progress. 

Oscar Trigueros, student, Mercer County Community College: 

Colleague Student Planning is good to see where you're at, at Mercer. What's your GPA? What classes are you currently enrolled in? What classes are still left to be taken? Let's say I don't want to be a liberal arts major anymore. Maybe I want to do business administration. I could just see the new program.  

It'll tell me, OK, you've already satisfied English 101, 102. You just need to take these remaining courses. It's very useful when it comes to that. It also helps you register courses. It tells you what needs to be taken according to the major. So, it already tells you what needs to be done.  

If I wanted to register before, I would need to get in the line at enrollment services, maybe wait 30 minutes. Whereas now I could just go online and find that out in a minute. It's a lot easier. 

Rob Schreyer, dean of health professions, Mercer County Community College:

Colleague Student Planning has had a significant impact on students that I've worked with, and one that really sticks out—where a student had come to me very frustrated and concerned because she thought that she might be running out of financial aid, and that she wasn't necessarily close to achieving her degree of choice. And through using Student Planning, I was able to show her that she could not only look at the track that she was on with her current major, but also be able to switch majors and see how many of those courses would apply to different majors and related fields.  

She actually identified that she was only a few courses away from graduating in a field and a major that she actually would have preferred to have from the start. So, she was really empowered by that, and was then able to go on and complete within the next semester. Those examples are on a regular basis at this point. I think a number of students being able to look at the information on their own, identify the areas of need, identify whether or not they're on track, is something that they're accustomed to doing in other areas of their life. And now to have that in education will truly empower them and motivate them to be able to complete their degrees.  

The impact that Colleague Student Planning is going to have on faculty is really giving them the opportunity to engage with the student, to be able to show the student their progress, and utilizing Student Planning, and Ellucian as a whole. The faculty will have the ability to be truly autonomous in helping implement those changes without necessarily having to go through the process of calling and emailing multiple people. Just doing it automatically, putting notes in, so that everybody's aware and ultimately serving the student in the best manner.  

Students chart their own course to a degree

With Ellucian Colleague® Student Planning, students play a larger role in degree planning.

Author
Alexandra Salas
Dean of the Division of Innovation, Online education, and Student Success
Mercer County Community College
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With Ellucian Colleague® Student Planning, students play a larger role in degree planning.

Results

  • Data sets enable better trend reporting and more accurate forecasting
  • An integrated solution saves staff time and effort
  • Dashboards offer enhanced monitoring capabilities, customizable views, and user-friendly data visualization 

Summary

Becki Cardenas, senior director of enrollment management, Alverno College 

One of the biggest enrollment issues that we have is we’re very densely populated with a lot of great universities or institutions. So really trying to find how to best reach out to that student and get them to engage with you is really key in our future right now, trying to figure out how can we get to our enrollment goals with those problems.  

Details

We began using Ellucian CRM Recruit in 2014 because we saw a lot of gaps in what we were able to do to recruit new students. A lot of effort was being wasted because we were using a variety of different products, but none of them integrated with each other, and so they were living in little silos.  

The stakeholders at Alverno really looked to the admissions office, and then ultimately to the Ellucian CRM Recruit product to give us some data sets that can help us with trend reporting.

So, we have created several dashboards that our VP of enrollment will use to monitor where we are at. Are we trending towards/getting towards our goal? Are we falling behind? Where there are opportunities where we could maybe push our goals even further because a new subset of students are applying that we hadn't anticipated originally?  

We’re able to do a lot better forecasting because of the data sets that we're pulling out of Recruit. We also can look at our trends from the past three to four recruitment years and really determine—are we on trend to hit our enrollment goals? Where are we seeing opportunities for further engagement?  

Since we started using Ellucian CRM Recruit, we did have an increase this past fall in enrollment, and we're hoping to kind of duplicate again this coming fall.  

I would say it has a lot to do with the fact that we're able to communicate more effectively with each of the student populations that we're trying to reach.  

Using data to transform prospect engagement

How Alverno College increased enrollment by 15% with Ellucian CRM Recruit.

Two students talking
Author
Becki Cardenas
Senior Director of Enrollment Management
Alverno College 
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How Alverno College increased enrollment by 15% with Ellucian CRM Recruit.

Results

  • Effective retention of IT staff 
  • IT helps leadership achieve key goals 
  • Muskegon Community College has access to elite IT staff

Summary

Dale Nesbary, President, Muskegon Community College 

Technology drives most of what we do on campus. And we like to say that we're technology-informed institutions, but to a certain extent we're technology-driven institutions.   

Technology has supported any number of initiatives that we have on campus. And for me, as president, I wanted to see our student success initiative move forward. Managed Services has helped Muskegon meet our organizational goals. Our IT staff, and the broader Ellucian staff, bring people to the table that we simply couldn't bring to the table.  

Our technology management services from Ellucian began in 2005. That was a few years before I came on board, but we selected Ellucian because we were a home-grown system. We had staff on campus, but they lacked in certain skill sets. Ellucian filled in the gaps.  

Do we have challenges with respect to keeping skilled IT staff on board? The short story is yes, we do. But we've been able to keep them on board, from what I understand, more effectively than other institutions, because they are paid well, we provide them with professional development services through the institution. Even though they're not technically our employees, many of them were with us prior to coming to Ellucian. So, we think they are our employees.  

I'll use an example. Our chief information officer, Mike Alstrom, has been with us for 20 years. He brings student success materials to our table that some of our student success staff don't. I think it's very important to have a chief information officer on cabinet. I've gotten some push back from that by the way. Why do we have the tech guy sitting here? And my response is, frankly, because he provides me with better information than you do. 

A technology partnership that drives success

How Muskegon Community College maintains and empowers an effective IT staff.

Graduate in cap and gown
Author
Dale Nesbary
President
Muskegon Community College 
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How Muskegon Community College maintains and empowers an effective IT staff.

Summary

With both urban and rural campus settings supporting nine Illinois counties, Black Hawk College faced the unique challenge of realigning their enrollment strategy while targeting a diverse prospective-student pool.

Prior to the pandemic, Black Hawk College’s dean of enrollment management, Heather Bjorgan, launched Ellucian CRM Recruit to boost enrollment and reconcile the school’s differing urban and rural prospect pool.

Details

Success through personalized, modern engagement

After launching CRM Recruit, Black Hawk College found substantial success through personal student engagement, particularly through mobile texting. “It’s a win because I can get 50 students to not lose their seats if I just ping them with a text—it's ridiculous how successful that's been,” says Bjorgan.

The next enrollment initiative for Black Hawk College is to conduct a re-engagement campaign targeting 3,000 prospective leads. Consisting of former students who did not graduate, this lead prospect pool will be carefully targeted using CRM Recruit.

Finding enrollment success despite disruption and uncertainty

Increasing enrollment of urban- and rural-based students during a pandemic 

Student sitting on bed with laptop
Author
Heather Bjorgan
Dean of Enrollment Management
Black Hawk College
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With both urban and rural prospective-student pools, Black Hawk College faced the unique challenge of realigning their enrollment strategy at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The leadership team at the University of Louisiana Monroe recognized early on that the coronavirus pandemic would have a profound impact on the institution’s operations.  

To protect their enrollment pipeline, they quickly launched a one-month initiative to waive application fees using their CRM system to set-up the promotion, track applicants, and create and send emails. #FreeAppApril, promoted via traditional and social media channels, more than doubled the number of applications compared to the same period last year. 

 

Doubled applications during a pandemic

Taking preemptive action to meet enrollment goals  

University of Louisiana Monroe logo with purple background
155%

overall increase in applications  

383%

increase in online graduate program applications 

144%

increase in online undergraduate program applications 

 

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During the height of a pandemic, a university doubled the number of applications it received. Learn more.

Student Engagement and Recruitment
Exceed enrollment goals
Prospects expect personalized communications. Give staff access to information and data that help them make those one-on-one connections.
Student Engagement and Recruitment
Tailor student assistance
Students’ needs evolve over time. Armed with the right information, you can offer tailored outreach, continuous guidance, and focused advising.
Student Engagement and Recruitment
Build a solid foundation
Engaged students become engaged alumni. Forge those connections early and build a strong foundation for future relationships.
87%

of students say personalized comms influenced college choice

4+

average # of people a student asks to get advising help

85%

of alumni would donate more to fund their student organizations

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Key takeaways

  • The pandemic has underlined and exacerbated issues in higher ed, both new and old.
  • The digital divide and student inequities are among the top priorities for higher ed leaders.
  • Technology innovation is a key component of success for colleges and universities.

The coronavirus pandemic has created a slew of new challenges for higher education institutions, but that doesn’t mean pre-COVID obstacles have diminished. This period of disruption and impromptu transformation has created a rare opportunity for institutions to reimagine and rebuild higher education from the ground up.

During this year’s Ellucian Live Online event, three higher education associate leaders came together during a panel discussion led by Ellucian President and CEO Laura K. Ipsen and moderated by Executive Editor at The Chronicle Higher Education Liz McMillen. During this eye-opening conversation, panelists recount a year of disruption and examine strategies to overcome future challenges for higher education.

We moved faster than we ever thought we could, we accomplished more than we ever thought we could, and it all happened right before our eyes. And we can't unsee that, thankfully, so once the dust settles, we have a whole new starting point to think about everything. That is something that is really positive. It's amorphous, but it's something to build on in the future.

John O'Brien, President and CEO, EDUCAUSE
A rare opportunity to reinvent

What higher ed experts are saying about the future of education

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This period of disruption has created a rare opportunity for institutions to reimagine and rebuild higher education from the ground up.

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