As higher education institutions scramble to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic, enrollment for the fall 2020 term and beyond is of great concern. While the shift to online instruction and services went at a breakneck pace, recruiting units, especially those working with high school and transfer populations, are still working to adapt events and interactions that are more personal at this time of the year than at any other. Also, with millions of people now out of work, institutions need to welcome and respond to requests from applicants looking to reskill or retrain for new jobs that may be possible under new social distancing requirements.
For colleges and universities seeking guidance on how to manage this unprecedented situation, here are a few points to consider:
Align communications and experiences with what matters most to students. They want to talk to faculty in their areas of interest, and these faculty are not under greater time constraints than even to adapt to fully online teaching. Consider some online Zoom or other meeting sessions by college or department, where a few faculty could serve on a panel that you facilitate. They can talk a little about their departments or programs but then open it up to questions from the audience, admitted students for fall.
Consider similar sessions with financial aid officers, student life, career services and yes, even housing. There will be lots of questions right now and you may not have all the answers but remember that this isn’t forever and that even if you have to start online for fall 2020, students may still be able to have that residential experience in the coming year or perhaps in their second year of studies.
Review your capacity. If the unemployment we are seeing today causes the same types of actions we saw in 2008-2009, expect that millions of students will flock to community colleges and regional public universities. Are your processes ready to scale up again for the influx?
Take time now to evaluate areas that would be strained if you experienced a 25% increase in volume and see what technologies or processes you can revise or enhance to accommodate more students without having to touch paper or process things in a single location.
Communicate value. We know that students are more worried than even about affording their education this fall. Communicate the value of your educational programs and experiences to them, remind them of all the ways you can help them afford the costs of these programs. Do it more than once and make sure to send something through the mail. They are at home now and parents may not see email that you send to students.
Need more help? AACRAO Consulting is offering highly discounted assistance through May 2020. If you would like more information, visit our website or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.