Retaining and graduating students is the ultimate goal for any institution. However, many times students have to leave an institution for one or more of a myriad of reasons. For some, life gets in the way and the student loses a job, has a child, or has to relocate. Others stop out because of a gap in funding from employers or Title IV resources. Sometimes, the student just needs a break from school.
Obviously, the ideal situation would be to provide proactive interventions which prevent students from leaving in the first place. However, that is not always feasible and many institutions do not attempt to intervene until it is too late. To help get the students back on track who have stopped; and to help improve institutional completion rates, cohort default rates, and overall student success institutions should consider a comprehensive communication strategy with the intent of re-enrolling them back to the college. In other words, institutions should implement a reentry campaign.
Show That You Care
Students often leave an institution without notifying anyone as to why they had to discontinue their education, or when they might return. Institutions are left to wonder what might be the reasons as to why the student is no longer enrolled: Was there a personal or life circumstance that got in the way? Is the student attending another institution? Was there something the institution could have done to help the student remain enrolled?
Institutions that really care about the outcomes of their students will be concerned with why students are leaving and how they can help students come back. For example, surveys and scripted questions on what went wrong when they were at the institution, how the institution could improve the student experience, and what obstacles need to be overcome in order for the student to return could be themed messages in the re-entry process. Colleges should demonstrate to students that they know the student left, that they care about the student and that they want to help the student re-enroll.
Hopes and Dreams
Often, a student that has stopped out still desires to earn a degree and needs to be reminded that there is still hope of achieving their educational objectives. Communications from the institution can help remind students about their initial goals and aspirations. Messages could also include information on the available student resources which may be utilized in order to overcome any ongoing concerns about returning to college. Many times a phone call from a familiar voice or a postcard in the mail is all the student needs to reassess where they are at in their life and be reminded of where they would like to be. A simple motivational message may be just enough to get a student back on track to achieving their educational goals and life dreams.
Dollars and Sense
Institutions spend thousands of dollars trying to recruit a new student. The investment typically includes a multi-faceted communication strategy with colorful brochures, multiple phone calls and campus visits. In addition, there are human resource expenses associated with the time required to perform these tasks. When students make the decision to stop taking classes, institutions must account for attrition and make up for lost tuition revenue by enrolling other students. While institutions are always recruiting new students, it makes great sense to execute a re-entry campaign with students who have stopped out.
What we see in our practice is that colleges and universities who commit time and effort towards re-enrolling students who have stopped out of their program see great rewards. That is because the majority of the time the conversion rates with interested re-entry students are higher than those with new prospective students. This means that is less expensive to re-enroll a student who has stopped out than it is to enroll a new student.
Have a Communication Plan
Implementing a comprehensive communication plan and engaging with the stopped-out student can be a critical component to institutional success. Retention professionals should take a few pages out of the recruiters’ playbook by implementing a re-entry communication campaign which is well-designed and consists of print, email and telephone calls. Messages should be spread out over the entire calendar year with key messages going out in anticipation of new enrollment terms, financial aid deadlines and the release of class schedules. If an institution is committed to helping students re-enroll it needs to have a communication plan.
The Aviso Coaching software platform can help automate and track communications with students who have stopped out. To learn more about the other features and tools available in the Aviso Coaching software and how you can help improve student success at your institution, give us a call or email us to learn more.