May 2023 - Admissions Offices, Assisting College Town Economies, and Addressing the Student Experience

Dr. Wendy Kilgore |
May 26, 2023
  • Research
  • AACRAO Research Insights
  • AACRAO Research Resources
  • Admissions Offices
  • Community Colleges
  • Economy
  • Enrollment Trends
  • Student Experience


On the transfer-data front, a recent blog post by Matt Reed in his Confessions of a Community College Dean series stated some New-Jersey-specific good news related to transfer. One of the author's points about the data is, "There's no shortage of ways to interpret statistics, of course. But seeing that students who graduate with an A.A. or A.S. and then transfer actually to finish bachelor's degrees at higher rates than students who started natively at 4-year schools makes it hard to argue that the teaching at community college is below standard." As a former community college student (on my way to a Ph.D.), I concur with this assessment. I believe community colleges aren't always given the credit they deserve related to student success and degree attainment.

AACRAO Research Update

Serving Undergraduate-Adult Learners Benchmark Report

The report Serving Undergraduate-Adult Learners: A Benchmark of Institutional Practices, Definitions and Learner Challenges at Institutions in the United States is currently with our designers and will be shared on June 6, 2023. A few highlights from the data include the following:

  • There is no universally accepted definition of an undergraduate-adult learner (UAL) in the United States.
  • 34% of respondents report having an institution-wide definition of UALs.
  • 47% of respondents report UALs are a special population identified for enrollment-management purposes, whether or not the institution has a definition for UALs.
  • 85% of respondents can identify the main challenges faced by UALs at their institutions; the remaining 15% are unfamiliar with any challenges because, "As an institution, we don't know because we have not asked."
  • The top three challenges for UALs are reported as:
    • balancing work and college (74%)
    • financial needs (70%)
    • balancing work and family (69%)

Future Research

  Calendar of AACRAO Research for 2023
There are some changes in the remaining planned 2023 AACRAO research listed in the April 2023 Eye On Research:

  • June 20 - July 10: Focus on microcredentials—not quite a 60-second survey but not a comprehensive survey either
  • Two different audiences but simultaneously deployed:
    • September 12 - 29 (tentative): Registrar and curriculum-management-governance survey to help the authors update the book on curriculum management
    • September 12 - 29 (tentative): Chief Enrollment Officer Career profile survey 2023
  • October 2 - 5 (tentative): 60-Second Survey of a topic to be determined

"The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry." - Robert Burns

Other AACRAO News

International Education Standards Council (IESC) Fellowship

The AACRAO International Education Standards Council (IESC) is a volunteer assembly of experienced professionals in international admissions and credential evaluations. AACRAO is soliciting applicants for the 2023/24 AACRAO IESC Fellowship from the field of talented professionals who want to become more successful in and contribute to the field of international credential evaluation.

Ideal applicants will be fairly new to the field and looking for ways to grow in their profession.

  • Fellows are expected to participate in twice monthly hour-long conference calls.
  • Priority will be given but not limited to individuals at AACRAO member institutions.
  • The Fellowship will last no longer than 18 months in order to maximize the number of individuals who will benefit from this opportunity. There will be no more than two Fellows each cycle.
  • Fellows will be tasked with specific research projects to be considered for inclusion within AACRAO EDGE.
  • Preference is given to those with less than five years of international credential evaluation experience.
  • Fellows selected are invited to join the International Publication Advisory Committee (IPAC), which provides additional opportunities for professional collaboration and publication once their term ends and their research is completed.

Gloria R. Nathanson Research Fund for International Education​

The Nathanson Fund supports country or education system research conducted by AACRAO members in order to further the body of knowledge in the field of comparative international education and credential evaluation. The number of projects funded and the amount of funding vary each year depending on the ongoing funding level of the program. Awards of up to $1000 will be made to support travel expenses, research materials, or other direct costs related to research. Smaller requests may be more likely to be funded. Learn more and submit your proposal today.

Current Higher Education Research and Related Topics

Turnover Impacts Admissions Offices Across Institutions

A new article in the Chronicle of Higher Education discusses high turnover rates in admissions-office personnel across higher education institutions and the impact this has on student enrollment. Key points from the article include the following:

  • Admissions offices across higher-education institutions experience high turnover rates in personnel due to long hours, low pay, and high stress.
  • High turnover rates in admissions offices can have significant implications for student recruitment and enrollment.
  • Institutions must prioritize investing in their admissions offices by providing better compensation and benefits, professional-development opportunities, and a positive work environment.

New Article Discusses Why Community-College Students Did Not Return in the Fall Semester after the Pandemic

The article examines the loss of students due to the pandemic and how it has been more severe at community colleges. Since the beginning of the pandemic, nearly 20% of students have disappeared from campus. While some community colleges have seen an increase in enrollments, these gains have not erased losses from the pandemic. Aspiring students seem likelier to return to school than those who stopped out (See figure 1 from the report below). Key points from the article include the following:

  • Many community college students did not return for the fall semester after the COVID-19 pandemic due to financial, health, and personal reasons.
  • Difficulty transitioning to online learning may have contributed to low retention rates.
  • Community colleges must prioritize investing in student-support services and technology to support students better and improve retention rates.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of addressing longstanding equity gaps in higher education and supporting students who face significant financial and personal challenges.
Figure 1: Stop-out and Aspiring Students'likelyhood of Returning to College
Source: New America Community College Enrollment Survey (December 2022)

New Report Available that Examines the Admissions Workforce

A new research brief has been released on the state of the higher-education admissions workforce in April 2023. The research from CUPA-HR is based on a survey of college and university admissions offices; it examines issues such as staffing, workload, diversity, pay (see Figure 2 below), and the use of technology. Key points in the article include the following:

  • The survey found that admissions offices face staffing challenges; 46% of respondents report difficulty finding and hiring qualified staff.
  • The use of technology is increasing in admissions offices; 80% of respondents report they use technology to automate processes and improve efficiency.
  • The survey found diversity in the admissions workforce remains a challenge; 27% of respondents report their office is diverse regarding race/ethnicity, and 20% report diversity regarding gender identity.
  • Admissions officers face increasing workloads, with 73% of respondents reporting their workload has increased over the past year.
  • Admissions offices face pressure to meet enrollment goals and to attract and retain students; 67% of respondents report their office is under pressure to increase enrollment, and 54% report pressure to improve student retention.
Figure 2: Median Salaries of Admissions Positions by Classification
Source: The Higher Ed Admissions Workforce: Pay, Diversity, Equity, And Years In Position, CUPA-HR

New Article Details How College Towns Are Being Affected by Enrollment Declines

The article examines how a decline in college enrollment has impacted college towns' economies. With fewer students enrolling in colleges due to the pandemic and other factors, businesses in college towns are struggling to stay afloat. Key points from the article include the following:

  • The decline in enrollment in colleges and universities has impacted the economies of college towns nationwide.
  • Small businesses that rely on student spending are particularly vulnerable to the decline in enrollment.
  • Institutions are trying to address the decline by offering new programs, waiving fees, and using targeted advertising to attract students.
  • It remains to be seen whether these efforts will be enough to offset the economic challenges college towns face.

Re-engaging Students Who Stopped Out

A new report from The National Student Clearinghouse highlights the importance of re-engaging students who have stopped out of higher education to mitigate the impending enrollment decline. Key points from the report include the following:

  • Colleges are focusing on re-engaging stopped-out students to offset the declining enrollment of traditional students.
  • The National Student Clearinghouse report identifies two groups with high re-enrollment potential: recently stopped-out students and potential completers.
  • Re-enrollment rates for recently stopped-out students and potential completers were significantly higher than the average for "some college, no credential" students.
  • Community colleges are the preferred destination for reenrolling students, regardless of where they stopped out or their previous institution type.
  • Returning to the same institution after re-enrollment increases the likelihood of staying and completing a degree, reducing credit-transfer issues.

Article Examines The Interactive Effects of Competency-Based Education and Prior-Learning Assessment

An article from Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) discusses the benefits of competency-based education (CBE) and how it can be used in conjunction with prior learning assessment (PLA) to improve student outcomes. Key points from the article include the following:

  • CBE allows students to earn credit for demonstrating mastery of specific skills or competencies, providing a more flexible and personalized path to degree completion; this can help students progress at their own pace and make education more accessible and affordable.
  • PLA allows students to earn credit for learning acquired outside the traditional classroom setting, such as work experience or military training.
  • By combining CBE and PLA, students can earn credit for prior learning and the skills and competencies they acquire through CBE programs, improving student outcomes and making education more accessible and affordable.

New Dashboard Report on the Student Experience

This dashboard from Qualtrics and College Pulse shares insights into the important stages students go through during their journey from high school to college, eventually preparing for the workforce. By studying a diverse group of over 2,700 students attending community college, 4-year undergraduate, and graduate programs, the 2023 Student Experience Trends Report serves as a reference point for understanding the overall college student experience. The dashboard is dynamic and allows the reader to filter data by various demographics. Key points include the following:

  • Students often feel ill-equipped to begin college-level coursework after high school. Those who attended public high schools tend to feel less prepared.
  • Enhancing the admissions process with personalized experiences could benefit students.
  • Incorporating student feedback into institutional decision-making leads to higher levels of student satisfaction.
  • Discrimination is a prevalent issue, with one in three students having experienced it at their institution. Students who identify as people of color or as a gender other than male/female face even higher rates of discrimination.
  • Many students are unaware of available mental-health resources, and over half identify at least one issue with existing resources.
  • Students prioritize workforce preparation, emphasizing the need for education that adequately prepares them for their desired careers after graduation. See Figure 3 below.
Figure 3: Students' Perception of Job Readiness
Source: 2023 Student Experience Trends Interactive Dashboard, Qualtrix

Thoughts? Contact AACRAO Research.


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