Recruiting a successful, diverse class

At the AACRAO SEM Conference last November, Peace Bransberger, Senior Research Analyst for the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), shared findings from WICHE's 8th edition of Knocking at the College Door--a look at prospective college students--as part of the SEM plenary "Emerging Issues: Becoming as Diverse as Our Students."

Considering this data, Luke Schultheis, AACRAO Vice President for Admissions and Enrollment Management and Vice Provost for Strategic Enrollment Management at Virginia Commonwealth University, discussed challenges and opportunities in recruitment and student success. 

Recruiting challenges

With a more diverse student body, Schultheis noted, recruiters can expect the following challenges:

  • Intense competition among institutions for decreasing numbers of college-goers who have recently been the majority.
  • A need to implement admissions assessments to gauge the success prospects of students who may indicate the aptitude and motivation to succeed, through means which are not wholly reliant upon performance on standardized tests.
  • A need to make non-traditional students feel welcome on campus, as they may be at a cultural disadvantage.
  • A need to improve high school guidance counselors’ limited effectiveness in advising non-traditional and first-generation college-bound students to make the best choices among institutions and majors, and to navigate financial aid and application red tape.
  • A need to better understand the cultural priorities and psychology of students from underserved communities. For example, Hispanic students often have a different sense of agency than the traditional college student, feeling responsible for contributing to the household while they earn a college degree.

Recruiting opportunities

At the same time, a more diverse recruitment pool presents unique opportunities, Schultheis noted--such as:

  • Designing marketing materials to be very clear for families, which may mean multilingual and paper materials. While first-generation immigrant students need to know English to get into our institutions, their families don’t.
  • Using non-cognitive assessments that measure “grit,” or self-efficacy; i.e., the ability to get things done without parents to help, to navigate institutional bureaucracy, etc. Even if not for admissions purposes such assessments might help identify which students need extra support.
  • Collaborating with peer institutions on tools to help students compare them. It is in students’ and institutions’ best interests that students make the right choices; after all, institutions want students who fit and can succeed.
  • Expanding financial literacy and stopping the “tuition gaming” that undermines families’ efforts to estimate the total cumulative financial burden they are signing onto for students’ college years or to compare costs among institutions.
  • Surveying prospective students on areas of interest, aptitude, and careers to inform curricular decisions.
  • Engaging high school teachers, as they are often influential in students’ college choices.
  • Populating campuses with members of the community. It is surprising how few local high school students have ever been on college campuses in their area. Yet the growing market of Hispanic students tends not to go far from home for college, so recruiting locally makes sense. 

For more from this presentation and other summaries from selected sessions, download the 2015 SEM Conference Executive Summary here. 

Other sessions highlighted in the summaries include:

- Race, Class, and College Access: Achieving Diversity in a Changing Legal Landscape 

- A Different World: The Evolving Field of Enrollment Management 

- Student Planning: An Important Role in Graduation Initiatives 

- Redesigning community colleges: What's next for 2-year institutions?

New this year at AACRAO’s Annual Meeting: Student Success Track

Student success can be defined as a favorable or desirable student outcome, but what this means can vary across institutions.  AACRAO’s new Student Success Track, sponsored by SEAtS Software, will feature sessions on technology and recruitment, enrollment management, course access, and one-stop shops and how they impact different indicators of student success.  

Register for the Annual Meeting [March 20-23 in Phoenix] by the early bird deadline of February 19