Clayton Smith, Ed.D.
As college and universities face the twin challenges of the “looming higher ed enrollment cliff” and the changing higher education landscape created by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that they embrace strategic enrollment management as an effective way to influence student choice and persistence. This issue of SEM Quarterly identifies and discusses the impact of four student recruitment and retention initiatives to address these continuing enrollment challenges.
First-generation college students are an important population within strategic enrollment planning, and enhanced understanding of their college-going process can assist in the development of targeted recruitment and retention strategies. Chrissy Holliday and Sharon Anderson explore the experiences of first-generation students attending a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI). They identified first-generation students in the role of decision maker and center attention on that role as part of their college-going process. The findings demonstrate that efforts to prepare students for this role and address their access concerns have significant potential to impact institutional enrollment and diversity efforts.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how enrollment management offices recruit prospective students, especially given recent declines in enrollment. Many recruitment and yield budgets have been trimmed, resulting in less physical “swag” for students, a crucial tool for yielding students and spreading institutional brand awareness. Zachary Taylor and Joshua Childs conducted a first study of its kind to explore digital swag, finding that institutions are starting to view digital swag as part of their recruiting and yield strategy. They suggest that as prospective students are becoming scarcer and living more of their lives in a digital world, enrollment managers should acknowledge this shift and explore digital swag for their own institutions.
While colleges and universities have long applied academic probation and suspension status to students who have performed poorly in their cumulative coursework, many are now recognizing that the combination of poor grades and an involuntary delay in academic progress creates a significant barrier to degree completion for affected students. Kristin Woods, Deirdre Heistad, and Megan Vogt-Kostner focus on: access and equity issues identified in a review of students who were academically suspended from the University of Northern Iowa; the steps that faculty, administrators, and student affairs professionals across campus took in response to these data; and student outcomes after the implementation of process and program changes.
The allure of earning college-level credit while in high school is firmly set within the American cultural mindset. Many believe that by completing these courses, students will be academically prepared for the rigor of college-level work as well as save students time and money. Will Perkins probed the predictive effects of accelerated college credits over and above the predictive effects of FAFSA EFC index number, sex, and first-generation status. His analysis revealed a positive connection between accelerated college credits and reduced time to degree completion and revealed a positive correlation between accelerated college credits and graduation GPA.
By finding ways to support our expanding diversity of postsecondary students, colleges and universities are re-examining academic policies, adopting new enrollment strategies, and placing increased focus on student retention and degree completion.