By Dr. Gavin Hamms, Associate Consultant, AACRAO Consulting and Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management, Grambling State University
Though traditional practitioners may not realize it, we do indeed have a great, life-changing “product” that we “sell” in higher education. We offer people an opportunity to better themselves in a way that is transformative and that can position them and their families in an improved state financially and sociologically. Despite much public debate, higher education is still a viable route to an improved quality of life. This is why there should be a continued focus on ensuring that higher education is an accessible right to all who want to pursue it. Accessibility is being highly considered from an affordability and admissions policy perspective. However, many institutions must change in a more basic and infrastructural way by ensuring that enrollment processes are efficient and easy for our “consumers” to navigate. A pertinent question for today’s leaders in higher education is “How simple is it for “consumers” to obtain our ‘product’? Just as corporations are finding ways to increase revenues by making their products purchasable with “the click of a button,” leaders in higher education should strive for something similar.
Yes, there are certain enrollment processes put in place to ensure or improve the likelihood of compliance or perhaps to uphold standards of student success. Yes, there are financial matters to consider in the enrollment process. However, institutions must consider if there are more efficient methods to ensure compliance and student success without putting too many barriers in the way for students and families to navigate. A major consideration is that there are now more First-Generation students who do not have parental support to help them traverse the enrollment process. Also, institutions must consider the population of students in which they serve. Generation Z students can be discouraged by having to jump over several hurdles in order to enroll. Therefore, our policies and processes should reflect the demographic in which we serve.
Here are some critical questions that all institutions should ask themselves when it comes to their enrollment processes:
When is the last time that the process has been rethought or refined?
How many steps are there to our enrollment process?
What is the average time that it takes a student to fully enroll?
How many students are lost from not being able to navigate our processes?
Do our processes benefit the student or the institution more?
Of these questions, the fifth question may be the most critical to ask. If institutions are to serve and educate future leaders and their communities, it is critical to keep their perspectives at the forefront of our minds. There are many reasons that discourage people from enrolling in colleges and universities. Financial uncertainties, life circumstances, and fear of failure are just a few. It is important that an institution does not encourage an individual’s reservations about pursuing higher education simply because of unnecessary bureaucracy and an overreliance on administrative steps. Otherwise, those who should “purchase” our “product” may no longer do so. Higher education’s “product” would then be at risk of becoming as obsolete as say Blockbuster.
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