Monday, June 07, 2021

The Future of University Recruitment, Retention and Reimagining

If universities know what makes a good university student, then shouldn't they be sharing those details and helping to prepare more students in advance?  Why are universities mostly hands-off until application deadlines approach - when it's already too late to have an impact?  

I propose that limited spaces for on-campus students, plus a surplus in demand has kept universities from innovating and improving their recruitment processes.  It's time for a change.  Forbes reports, "For spring 2021, undergraduate enrollment dropped by 4.5% compared with 2020, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Community colleges experienced the steepest decline: Enrollment was down 9.5% this spring compared to the prior year, and it was down 9.5% in fall 2020, too.  Even before the pandemic the trends were pointing to lower enrollments.  These trends will have significant impacts on universities' priorities and future business models.

Universities have long complained about the poor quality of students coming out of high school, yet they have done little if anything to improve the quality.  As global competition increases from more online options and non-traditional players, universities must think differently about recruitment and outcomes.

Fewer enrollments now and in the future mean increased competition for new students.  Isn't it about time colleges started to seek competitive advantages by reaching out to potential student/customers earlier in order to assist them in getting better prepared for higher education? 

Now that we have survived and learned from our pandemic experiences, we understand how to provide digital education.  Once the digital transformation work and infrastructures are in place, extending online classes, programs and personalized educational experiences to potential future students doesn't cost that much.  These can be extended as a way to increase the number of students who want to enroll, plus it helps the university identify the best potential students early and enhances a university's brand value.  

What is certain, is that the way universities have operated for centuries is no longer adequate for surviving the future.  In the future, the ecosystems of higher education must reach out and embrace potential students much earlier, focus on improving student retention through personalized and automated help, and include all graduates and former students in lifelong learning relationships.

Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.