African American Female Student Studying From Home and Taking Notes from Professor

Journey Mapping and Encouraging Students to Invest in Education Amid Declining Enrollment

Program offerings, low tuition costs, and availability of extracurriculars may not be enough to sway this new generation of students.

For higher educational institutions, the potential pool of enrollees has declined for some time. While the events of the last two years are somewhat to blame, it’s crucial to recognize that this trend has been ongoing for some time.

Pre-pandemic, fewer and fewer Americans considered going to college a necessity. While in 2013, 70% of Americans highly valued postsecondary education, in 2019, only 51% of Americans held that position. 

Post-pandemic, per a recent report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, undergraduate enrollment dropped 3.5 percent from Fall 2020 to Fall 2021 and 7.8 percent from Fall 2019. 

In recent years, educational institutions have felt the need to defend and define their value propositions, with students becoming more discerning “shoppers” and displaying a reticence to enroll. This hesitation has been exacerbated to an all-new degree by an ongoing pandemic, escalating global conflict, and a widespread transition to remote and hybrid educational environments. With so much conflict and uncertainty, students question whether it’s wise to invest time and money in higher education.

A Scramble to Draw in Students Amid Declining Enrollments

With students exercising caution, recruiters are doing everything they can to distinguish their institution from the rest, trying desperately to reintroduce students to the educational ecosystem. 

Between 2020 and 2021, educational institutions nearly doubled the amount of money spent on marketing and promotion, even partnering with recruitment agencies to beat out the competition. In an unprecedented move, educational institutions have even begun waiving application fees and SAT scores, seeking to make admittance as accessible and achievable as possible.

However, oft-promoted factors like program offerings, low tuition costs, and availability of extracurriculars may not be enough to sway this new generation of students. Instead of boasting about the benefits of attending their institution while leading applicants through a one-size-fits-all application process, educational institutions would be better served by tailoring their outreach and admissions process to student needs.

“Students will naturally prioritize the institutions that engage, support, and encourage them,” Gerent’s Education Practice Lead, April Bollwage, explained in an interview. “Recruitment teams need to make sure that applicants feel at home — as if they’re already a valued member of the community — throughout the entire application process.” 

Encouraging Investment by Guiding Prospective Students Through the Recruitment Process

To make students feel like valued members of their community, educational institutions need to adopt an approach that maps the student journey through their admissions process. Once equipped with a complex understanding of students’ needs, concerns, and pivotal moments, administrators can utilize key touchpoints to lead students along the proper path. With a journey-mapped approach, educators can guide students through common pitfalls and engagement traps into enrollment and a successful undergraduate journey.

Educational institutions looking to adopt this experiential approach start by mapping out all the stages of the student’s journey, proactively identifying the pitfalls that could knock students off track. Once these pain points are understood, administrators can then note areas where they can provide thoughtful support, intervening before the student disengages. This support is the linchpin of every successful journey mapping initiative, helping the student feel at home and part of the institution’s community.

Operationalizing Journey Mapping for Recruiters: Gathering and Utilizing the Right Data

To understand the student journey, gathering and utilizing learner data is absolutely essential. Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) systems can provide unique benefits for recruitment initiatives, helping recruiters collect data and sift through that data for valuable insights. Moreover, the right CRM can support administrators as they cater to student needs across touchpoints, notifying them when a prospective student displays signs of going off-track and making it easy to provide thoughtful support.

To find out how to operationalize a journey-mapped admissions process, check out our white paper “A 2022 View: Educators face tougher competition—and higher student expectations during recruitment,” or contact a consultant at Gerent to strike up a conversation. 

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