Adapting Your Approach to Enrollment Management

Adapting Your Approach to Enrollment Management

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

As colleges and universities are recruiting and enrolling students for the upcoming 2021-2022 academic year, it is time to examine the enrollment management challenges exacerbated by the turmoil of the past year and plan to overcome them going forward.  In pre-pandemic times, the sharp demographic decline in undergraduate enrollment in 2026 loomed on the horizon as a threat to be mitigated by enrollment managers and admissions officers.  However, the unique circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic rendered these  short-term projections and predictions fairly useless.  As higher education seeks to return to a semblance of normalcy in the future, administrators and enrollment managers must consider how to best position their institution to engage new students, retain existing ones, and optimize the student experience for all.

In Fall 2020, colleges and universities nationwide observed a substantial, pandemic-induced 13 percent drop in overall first-time undergraduate enrollment.  Domestic student enrollment experienced a significant drop during the 2020-2021, particularly for low-income families and minority populations.  The challenges and disparities brought about by the pandemic have made many students view higher education as unattainable at this moment.  Given the global impact of the pandemic, returning international undergraduate student enrollment declined 15 percent.  The reasons behind these consistent enrollment drops are varied.  Increasing customer scrutiny over college degrees, heightened concerns of the burden of student debt, and oversaturation of traditional marketing efforts are just a few of the challenges enrollment officers must juggle to be successful.  Further, the challenges brought about by the pandemic may trigger a change in past trends, making it even more challenging to chart the enrollment landscape of the future.

While higher education, as well as every other facet of life, has experienced trials brought about by COVID-19, there is still much to be celebrated.  Higher education has seen incredible adaptation, innovation, and change, as a result of being challenged to connect students and faculty together in unprecedented ways.  Tapping into lessons learned and relearned in the past year will be imperative to consider as we move forward.  The following are a few of the points we are considering when helping colleges and universities boost their enrollment and retention through our architectural work as well as our signature Architecture of Enrollment Management® service.

  • Embrace national demographic shifts.  A unique combination of declining birth rates over the past decades and increased immigration/migration to the United States points toward greater racial and ethnic diversity.  This insight must be at the forefront of enrollment management strategy.  It should inform space utilization and programming efforts on campus, particularly within the context of new and updated campus master plans.
  • Focus on fulfilling the needs of underserved students.  Enrollment managers have significant opportunity to pivot their recruitment and retention strategy to students who can not or are not showing up.  Addressing the concerns of low-income families and larger minority populations when it comes to higher education is an essential component of marketing to underserved groups.  Renovating academic buildings with dedicated spaces, lounges, and resource centers to best serve these students should be considered.
  • Count on making campus hubs inclusive.  Campuses have significant opportunity to cater the educational experience to the day-to-day lives of their students.  For example, providing physical gathering spaces and amenities like ample dining options can help make students who live on campus and those who commute more comfortable spending time on campus during the school day.  Offering adequate spaces for group collaboration and quiet study and adapting existing spaces accordingly can be a game changer in helping underserved students feel more welcomed and supported in the collegiate environment.
  • Implement lessons learned from virtual learning and working experiences.  Working and studying from home afforded us a greater understanding of the day-to-day challenges and barriers of the student experience.  Unreliable Internet connection and the lack of space conducive to studying may have been a hurdle to academic achievement for many students.  How can on-campus housing be optimized to make campus feel more like home for each student, providing basic amenities for academic success?  These solutions will vary for each campus, but must all revolve around an efficient use of housing stock and could involve rethinking existing student housing practices.

Our Architecture of Enrollment Management® service can be your campus’ next strategic move to determine how to best attract and retain students within the context of your institution’s built environment.  We leverage our national perspective and extensive knowledge of higher education campuses to increase admissions success and maintain a healthy student enrollment.  Considering the importance of virtual campus tours during COVID-19, we have adapted our approach to offer virtual Architecture of Enrollment Management® services.  Over the years, a number of our clients have expressed how successful our work with them has proven.

  • “Hastings+Chivetta’s strategic guidance has allowed us to make changes to the way we convey the mission and culture of Chapman University to prospective students.” – Chapman University
  • The Architecture of Enrollment Management® is, “extremely relevant to our strategic plan.” – Ohio Wesleyan University

Read even more about our Architecture of Enrollment Management® service here.

To discuss how we can help your campus develop an innovative response to enrollment management challenges or uncertainty, contact Erik Kocher at ekocher@hcarchitects.com or (314) 529-4004.