As students left higher education in droves during the pandemic, 25 colleges and universities launched campaigns to re-enroll them before fall 2021, in partnership with InsideTrack, a nonprofit that helps institutions enroll students. students and improve academic results through coaching. The campaigns have yielded positive results, according to preliminary data released by InsideTrack today.
Partner colleges and universities eventually reached 27,000 students who quit during the pandemic. About 73% of these students were students of color, first-generation college students, low-income college students, or older adult learners. Success coaches were able to re-enroll 3,000 students for the summer and fall 2021 semesters.
The 25 partner institutions included eight community colleges, four public universities and three private nonprofit institutions. A cohort of eight historically black colleges and universities and one predominantly black institution also participated under a pilot program launched by the United Negro College Fund. These campaigns to re-engage former students follow a steep decline in enrollment at colleges and universities across the country – undergraduate enrollment nationwide fell 6.6% between fall 2019 and fall 2021, a loss of more than one million students, according to recent data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
Ruth Bauer White, president of InsideTrack, described re-enrollment efforts as a critical part of the country’s economic recovery and “equitable social mobility” after the pandemic.
“In the last two years of the pandemic, so many people have dropped out of school and left education because they had to for so many reasons, be it financial reasons, their own well-being , feeling pulled in many directions, having to stay home to care for their own children,” she said. “For us to kind of recover from the past two years, part of that is getting people back on track to achieve their goals and focus on the future and having hope.”
As part of re-enrollment campaigns, InsideTrack coaches called, emailed, and texted students identified by colleges as having left college within the past two years to help them recover. enroll in courses. Coaches prioritized students who had the fewest credits to earn to graduate and who had left college within the past two semesters. Once the students responded, the coaches also helped them set long-term academic and career goals; prepare for potential obstacles, such as balancing work and family responsibilities; and connect to on-campus resources, including financial aid, mental health services, and academic support.
The goal was “to really help students who may not have that support system that provides guidance and encouragement and guidance on how to navigate the path amid so much uncertainty,” said Julian Thompson, director of strategy at UNCF’s Institute for Capacity Building, which guides institutions in increasing admissions, enrollment and graduation rates.
He noted that HBCU students are disproportionately first-generation students who particularly benefit from comprehensive mentoring. Nearly 40% of people who attend HBCUs are first-generation college students, according to a UNCF report 2021.
As part of the UNCF campaign, coaches contacted 4,000 students who quit. UNCF leaders hoped that 4% of those students would eventually re-enroll with the help of the coaches, but the results exceeded their expectations. On average, 8.6% of students contacted by success coaches at each institution—and 38% of students who responded to outreach—enrolled in classes, for a total of 344 students across all institutions.
Due to the success of the campaign, UNCF plans to expand the pilot program to include more institutions and provide “retention coaching” to students throughout their first year of re-enrollment.
InsideTrack data also suggests that re-enrollment campaigns could have a 275% return on investment for institutions. The organization reported that mentoring students costs an average of $603 for each re-enrolling student, but collectively, increased enrollment at institutions after students complete a semester generates approximately $5.9 million in revenue. tuition, depending on the organization.
White noted that college leaders know it’s crucial to re-engage students who have left but often lack the “bandwidth” to contact them one-on-one and walk them one-on-one through the re-enrollment process, especially during a pandemic that has left higher education institutions “stretched”. thin” as they seek to meet a wide variety of student needs.
Howard Gibson, vice president of academic affairs at Wiley College in Texas, which participated in the pilot program, said that was the case for his institution. For example, he noted that university coaches focused on freshmen and sophomores each have a workload of at least 80 students.
The “manpower” offered by the partnership with InsideTrack allowed for a “microscopic focus” on each student who wished to re-enroll, he said. And the feedback students gave to coaches about the barriers that caused them to drop out “allows us to streamline our processes, to refocus, to reimagine what we’re doing, not just for this student but for all of our students. Extra hands, extra assist goes a long way.
Enrollment at Wiley has grown from 726 students in spring 2020 to 501 students in spring 2021, as students battle the spread of COVID-19 infections, a sudden shift to online learning, and financial hardship associated with the pandemic. Enrollment is back up to 665 students in the fall of 2021, and Gibson is allocating coaches in part. Thanks to the InsideTrack partnership, 49 students who quit re-enrolled in fall 2021 and 24 re-enrolled this spring.
Laura Leatherwood, president of Blue Ridge Community College in North Carolina, also one of the participating institutions, said re-enrollment efforts are a critical way to reach adult learners in particular.
“Re-engaging former students must be a fundamental part of our strategy to ensure working adults can get the skills and credentials they need to succeed in an increasingly rapidly changing economy and job market. “, Leatherwood said in a press release. “It’s about creating the kind of scaffolding and support that can allow returning students to successfully re-enroll, complete their education, and prepare for highly skilled, better-paying careers.”
Mamie Voight, president and CEO of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, said efforts to re-enroll students have proliferated at higher education institutions across the country, and “rightly so.”
She cited the 36 million students in the United States who attended college but never graduated, noting that they are “disproportionately first-generation students, students from low-income backgrounds, black and Latinx students, underrepresented Asian/Pacific Islander students. and “students who have historically been underserved by our higher education system.” Efforts to re-enroll students have “very strong equity implications” for the country, she said.
IHEP is currently working with about 200 colleges and universities in 23 states to review student transcripts and identify students who left college “just shy” to get the credits they needed to graduate. The organization also helps colleges find students who already have enough credits to graduate but have never done so due to various obstacles, such as an outstanding balance or a fine or termination form. studies missing. The initiative, titled Degrees When Due, also helps colleges overcome the barriers and practices that most often prevent students from graduating.
“The bottom line: We know institutions need to be intentional in how they re-engage arrested students,” Voight said.
Jennifer Freeman, Senior Director of Jobs for the Future, pointed out that career counseling in particular is crucial to successfully re-engaging students. She said students want to return to college with confidence that their degrees will lead to well-paying job opportunities, and she thinks that’s reflected in the increased interest in workforce degrees. artwork. For example, she noted that the North Carolina community college system saw a 22% increase in short-term workforce training enrollment in fall 2021.
Student re-enrollment campaigns need to “really get people to understand that what they’re going to get when they go back to college is a path to economic success and have a very, very clear line to a labor market outcome for them,” she said. She stressed that colleges must then deliver on that promise, offering students programs designed to meet workforce needs that provide flexibility for working adults with other responsibilities and make them more likely to complete their studies.
White said she believes her organization’s re-enrollment campaigns can have a multi-generational ripple effect by helping students — who otherwise would have incurred student debt without a degree — graduate and earn higher salaries. students.
“Coming back to school, they achieve their goal, a university education, and then they make sure that they can then use that degree in order to convert it into social mobility and promotion, the next job opportunity,” she said. noted. “And it has a significant impact on their family, on their community, on society as a whole and allows them to see that return on investment that they have made, both in money and in time for their education and not not waste it. ”