GME: Today & Tomorrow Spring 2020

Given many higher education institutions’ reliance on international enrollment and its associated tuition revenue — particularly from China, which accounts for 33.7% of America’s international students, according to the latest Open Doors enrollment survey — the current pandemic demands a pivot. An effective new approach could entail not only a greater emphasis on online courses but also a move toward cloud-based processes in admissions. Indeed, the days of the brick-and-mortar admissions office are seemingly on hiatus. What happens when no staffers are present in the office to review an application file that was in progress? Does that prospective student’s application end right there? What does that mean for enrollment numbers and institutional revenue in the 2020-21 academic year? Institutions can no longer afford delays in an increasingly competitive marketplace where students expect immediate and personalized responses. During the CSGS conference, I offered the following six insights:

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Institutions can no longer afford delays in an increasingly competitive marketplace where students expect immediate and personalized responses. Cloud-based application services can help boost enrollment by increasing schools’ visibility and exposure among broader and more diverse applicant pools. While the coronavirus threatens the state of international enrollment, intensifying the recruitment of domestic applicants is important — whether that outreach focuses on out-of-state students, those living in more remote regions of an institution’s own state or underserved populations. Bolstering domestic enrollment means that despite the uncertainty surrounding international enrollment, institutions will have a better chance of maintaining their financial health.

Do not stop reviewing applications solely because the admissions office is closed. Although not every staff role in an admissions operation can be seamlessly transitioned to a remote work environment, cloud-based services can help institutions to process applications as well as to grow and shape enrollment without relying on paper. With dwindling budgets and resources, admissions teams cannot afford to lose staff to extended sick leave, for instance. While they grapple with all facets of the coronavirus fallout, institutional staffers simply do not possess the time or resources to devote to manual application processing.

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Going paperless in admissions can help alleviate institutions’ administrative and technological costs.

Thoughtful and timely communication to applicants and accepted students is paramount, especially during a time of crisis. It is incumbent upon institutions to nurture applicants by ensuring that prospective students — not just enrolled students — know about any relevant developments surrounding the coronavirus on campus. Such transparency is not only a strategy to boost enrollment; it is simply the right thing to do. If the coronavirus outbreak has taught the higher ed sector anything so far, it is to expect the unexpected for the foreseeable future. While campus operations continue to shut down for the remainder of this semester, institutions need to stay ahead of the curve by assuming that this public health crisis will also threaten next year’s enrollment numbers. This is not pessimism; it is realism and practicality. Admissions and enrollment efforts that prioritize efficiency as well as more sophisticated interaction with applicants can help institutions weather the coronavirus crisis.

Originally published by University Business

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GME: TODAY & TOMORROW | SPRING 2020

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