What is the key to enrollment growth? Developing a unified, cohesive approach.
That was the resounding message at Collegis Education’s second Enrollment Growth Summit. Enrollment, marketing and academic leaders from 17 different institutions across the country gathered for two days in October to dive deeper into innovative enrollment growth solutions. On everyone’s mind was how to grow enrollments in an increasingly competitive higher education market.
“I found the Summit to be fascinating. There was so much information packed into two days, but in such a thoughtful way,” said Leanne Proctor, Assistant Dean of Graduate and Online Admissions at University of Bridgeport. “I left feeling motivated and empowered to continue assisting my university with strategic enrollment growth.”
In addition to sessions from Collegis experts, attendees also heard from guest speakers from Facebook and Burning Glass Technologies. Themes that emerged from the Collegis Enrollment Growth Summit included:
1. Culture change is critical to growing enrollments – In an era where competition is increasing and students are questioning the value of a degree, colleges are finding that they must modernize and leave behind outdated approaches or processes, whether related to technology or student mindsets. When asked what was the one thing needed to grow enrollments, one attendee responded that building an atmosphere of change is a challenge. Others shared how breaking down silos among departments has been a chief barrier to success.
Despite the oft-repeated credo that “enrollment is everyone’s job,” most admitted that it is easier professed than implemented. Guest speaker Dr. Kathleen Owens, President Emerita of Gwynedd Mercy University, shared insights for breeding change, reminding attendees that leaders set the culture. She recommended a change in attitude – rather than living “quarter-to-quarter,” play the long game; sacrifice small, short-term gains for impactful long-term improvements. During her tenure at GMercyU, Owens experienced the fight to get online programs off the ground – pushing her staff and faculty to move past the discomfort of change. The university is seeing the payoff as online education rises in prevalence and popularity with students. In order to remain relevant in the marketplace, she said, you must embrace change.
2. Jobs are becoming hybridized – which means cross-industry skills will be at the forefront of programmatic differentiation. Matt Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass Technologies, shared research showing that a hybrid mix of skills from several fields is proving critical for many jobs on the rise. In fact, digitally intensive jobs are growing twice as fast as other middle-skill jobs.
As colleges and universities seek to capitalize on the changing digital economy, differentiating your programs will become increasingly important. Introducing skills-based enhancements to degree programs can set your programs apart from your competitors and – perhaps – fill a void in the skills education market.
3. Enrollment growth is not activated with the push of a button – it is triggered by adjusting an appropriate series of levers that are based on data and insights from your market and audience. Collegis experts shared how using a portfolio management approach allows colleges to integrate opportunities across marketing, student experience, technology, and program offerings to really move the needle on enrollment.
4. The shift to digital marketing strategies is not slowing down – current students and incoming students represent a generation that is not only digitally savvy, but accustomed to advanced technology.
“College selection happens on the web today,” said Bob King, managing director of Collegis Education. “Students today do everything on tablets and mobile – and they expect a highly sophisticated digital engagement with the school they will ultimately select.“
As colleges and universities look forward, they must consider the social media culture and how prospects consume information. Guest speaker Troels Smit, education industry manager at Facebook, highlighted both mobile and video as trends to capitalize on. After all, students do everything on their mobile devices, making mobile-enabled applications, webpages and advertising vital to a strong enrollment growth plan.
The rise of video on social media has allowed consumers to “live the moment” with snackable experiences. Facebook is seeing interesting video experiments that increase engagement through the use of filters, moving print and editing to adjust the rhythm. The key to success in this realm is to capture viewer attention immediately so you don’t risk losing your audience to the scroll effect.
Collegis Education hosts Enrollment Growth Summits twice per year. For more information on the upcoming Summits and to request an invitation to the event, visit www.CollegisEducation.com/2017Summit