This summer, we're digging into our archives for stories on current trends, challenges and opportunities in higher ed. This is our second installment of 2019.
As colleges and universities around the nation struggle with flat enrollment, dropping state budgets and an increased demand for relevant degree offerings, the emphasis on student outcomes has never been stronger.
In response, institutions are adopting methods to attract, retain and ensure the success of their students, ranging from expanding support services like academic advisement to nudging interventions.
The stories below examine these methods in-depth, and their effectiveness in helping students.
More than 1 million college students drop out each year, costing higher education institutions billions in lost revenue. And until recently, most colleges have not reached out to their lost students or encouraged them to come back and finish their degrees.
"If you stop out at most universities, that's it," said Anne Kubek, chief operating officer of ReUp Education, a company that specializes in re-enrolling stopped-out students. "You never hear from them again unless they're looking for monies owed. Read more
As more students take classes online, colleges are racing to not only expand their digital offerings, but also to provide critical services that attract and retain students, like financial aid and academic advising. "A popular phrase that's heard when discussing these strategies is 'concierge-level service,'" said Sue Ohrablo, a college advising consultant.
Online-only schools have an advantage when it comes to integrating technology. But some traditional schools, like Winona State University, are creating new ways to smooth the transition online. Read more.
Tight state budgets have hurt community colleges. That, however, hasn't lessened the demand for high-quality education. "Our jobs have never been more challenging, but they have never been more important," said Sandra Kurtinitis, board chair of the American Association of Community Colleges.
Smaller budgets aren't keeping institutions from doing more with less. Some, like Illinois-based Harper College, are turning to the guided pathways model, offering students a roadmap of the courses they need to take to achieve their educational goals. And others, like New York's Monroe Community College, are engaged in a campuswide effort to provide nonacademic help, such as food pantries and other resources. Read more.
Four in 10 incoming college freshmen in the fall of 2016 reported feeling "overwhelmed" by their responsibilities, according to the Higher Education Research Institute. In response, colleges and universities are launching campuswide initiatives to support students' mental health. Some even offer meditation or technology-free areas for napping.
Cross-campus collaboration is key to such efforts. George Mason University, for example, is supporting other departments through an on-campus center devoted to wellbeing. "The more complex the challenges are, the more collaboration that's needed," said Melissa Schreibstein, who works at the center. Initiatives are working. Read more.
Nudges — or interventions that steer someone toward a better decision without taking away their choice — have gained momentum in the last decade as a way to boost enrollment and retention. They often come in the form of texts or emails that alert students to important deadlines and campus resources.
A couple of years ago, Winston-Salem State University, in North Carolina, rolled out a chatbot that automatically answers students' questions during enrollment. And the university is already seeing the fruits of its labors; after the chatbot's launch, officials there saw a 74% year-over-year spike in the number of new freshman who fully met their financial requirements, along with a 37% increase in immunization compliance. Read more