Getting students to complete the admissions process can sometimes be very difficult. It’s usually not hard to get a potential student to complete an application. Still, getting them to complete all the other tasks, such as submitting all transcriptions, proof of residency, and the other paperwork they must provide to be accepted and enroll, can be difficult, especially for colleges who have limited resources in terms of staff. Unfortunately, this is the vast majority of colleges. Schools such as Harvard or some of the vast state schools normally have enough money to hire adequate staff or purchase advanced CRM systems to manage the enrollment process, but that is not true of the smaller schools who sometimes only have 5 or 6 people on their admissions team and perhaps about 40-50 people in all of Student Services. Keeping up with all these students is sort of like trying to figure out those Google Ripples that Google Plus had before it failed.
These are the size schools this post may help overcome some of those challenges.
Many of these schools will utilize Ellucian Banner as their student information system. Banner is an excellent product for managing a college’s enrollment, but as applicant management tools, it’s lacking. You can purchase the Recruiter module that does help fill the gaps in the student module, but that project will set the college back several hundred thousand dollars and is just not an option for a lot of smaller schools.
It’s also very resource-intensive in terms of technical requirements, and one thing I did not mention is a lot of these small schools also do not have a broad professional staff for managing Banner. In the school I work in, there is only one employee dedicated to Banner support, and even then, that one is not devoted to only Banner support, but responsible for many other tasks. Since this is my day job, then I understand the limitations in terms of what I can support.
Another drawback of being a Banner School without Recruiter or a large staff, then a lot of paper has to be shuffled back and forth between staff members. Staff members must analyze reports to determine where, in the process, an individual student may be currently. Since a student has to submit materials to the Admissions staff, they have to get tested and submit transcripts to the Registrar. All this shuffling of email, hard copies, etc.. makes the possibility of a student falling through the cracks rises exponentially with each shuffle. Even the best-designed process maps have a hard time preventing a student from falling by the wayside, and for many schools, 50% of the applicants who apply for a particular term do not make it to even registering for their first class.
In the past few years, the percentage of the students who complete the process has declined according to the educational advisory board. They show the trend even lower than what I’ve experienced.
So what are some of the reasons such a high number of students exploring a college degree don’t complete the process?
- Their Millennials – Anyone who is working in education today, understand that millennials are a little fickled. This is especially true when they are making decisions that could affect the rest of their life.
- They are applying to multiple schools – This is another problem that many schools face. They spend time and money recruiting applicants who are also applying to numerous schools. The school that engages with the potential students in the most effective way are the ones who regularly seal the deal with the applicant. You can read hundreds of studies that will say the more you engage a student and make them feel at ease, the more likely they will persist to graduation. Why is the same thing not correct for the applicant?
- They are first-generation students – For many community colleges, the vast majority of their student population come from families where very few if any of the family members have attended college. In many rural areas, this is pretty much the rule that community college administrators know is one many risks to a student completing college. These students do not have someone to help advise them on how to overcome the hurdles; they may face when attending college. ( Does not sound right, edit before publish)
- They don’t’ understand your jargon- There is a unique jargon at the college level, and many college employees get used to using that language on all their documents, even acceptance or missing document letters. For many of First Generation students, the only reference they have is high school terms, which is different. These students have no idea what a Registrar is or what that person means to their college education. They have no clue what you mean when you say goes to the Bursar’s office to pay your tuition. They may get that must get the Financial Aid documents submitted, but that is such a complicated process too with many places to drop the ball. This leads to the scenario where the college is waiting for the applicant to perform some task, and the student is waiting for the college staff to do something. All the while, the clock is ticking and getting close to the registration deadline.
There are many other possible reasons for this disconnect that can be a real challenge to overcome. There are way too many variables, and they can all negatively affect whether an applicant becomes a college student or whether they show up on the non-matriculation reports after the term starts.
So how can we overcome this problem as educators?
We have to use technology, but we have to use the right technology that addresses the root problem. The sheer number of variables that may affect the application process can make the root problem hard to identify.
Anyone who has been a college administrator for any length of time has likely heard at some conference or another group of administrators from various colleges that “the names on the buildings change, but the problems remain the same” or some variant of that quote. If not, you need to get out more.
Enrollment management is a problem at many colleges. Many of these colleges receive a large part of their limited budget from tuition, so this is a severe problem to have. If you don’t get the tuition dollars, then you have to cut back in the money available for Academics, which negatively affects your retention rates.
What is the Root Problem?
In the majority of the situations, I’ve seen it normally boils down to communication. The applicant is waiting for the school to tell them what to do and the school is waiting for the student to do something. This causes bottlenecks in each area in the applicant process. The applicant needs to pass the entrance test, the student needs to complete their FAFSA depending on the setup and how well the various departments in Student Services exchange information, this can leave a large number of applicants in limbo and account for a large number of community colleges who report that approximately 40-50% of their prospects never complete the application process.
All these communication problems can be solved with just some slight changes to how you capture your processes. The Micro Function design to Educational Technology can help immensely in this area. Taking social media into account you can truly developer a process that reaches the students regardless of the medium.