How to increase college enrollment.

How to Increase College Enrollment – 6 Proven Strategies

Do you struggle with a low enrollment rate at your college? Are you wondering why it is happening and how to increase your college enrollment?

FACT: The number of Americans going to college is down by nearly 3 million in the last decade. Out of which, a sharp decline of nearly 1 million is only since the pandemic started. 

Thing is, experts are saying that this decline is not temporary. It is here to stay as part of the changing needs and lives of Americans, like:

  • Declining birthrates
  • Immediate availability of jobs
  • Skepticism for the need for higher education, etc.

However, this is also a fact that for people without education past high school, the future is not as bright as for those who go on to earn bachelor’s degrees. 

They are nearly 40% more likely to remain unemployed and 4 times more likely to live in poverty. They’re more likely to have mentally and physically unhealthy lives, become a liability on government assistance, pay fewer taxes, and divorce more frequently.

Now, those are the signs of a society going unhealthy, and that’s not good news. 

So, can you actually make a difference at all in the enrollments, given the challenging circumstances? And if yes, how can you increase your enrollment yield rate?

This is exactly what I am going to talk about in this article.

What are the factors affecting the rate of enrollment?

So, before I jump in to discuss how you can solve this mind-boggling issue, let us first understand what is causing it. 

High Tuition expenses 

In the pandemic, many young people chose to go to work over college. They went to work earlier and stayed with it. But, the truth is that even before the pandemic, the majority of college students in America worked full-time jobs to afford the high tuition expenses. 

College enrollment rates

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It is just that in 2020, the percentage of undergraduate students who had jobs was higher among part-time students (74%) than among full-time students (40%)

Thing is, employment helps students pay for the high tuition fee and other living expenses. However, it sure is an added challenge to a student’s academic performance. 

And even after all this, American college graduates are drowning in debt. Families and students are relying on loans to help pay the high tuition fees, and currently owe a combined $1.7 trillion for their education – surely a deterrent to enrollment.

Earnings potential through alternative avenues 

Did you know that at one-third of colleges and universities in America, more than half of students who enrolled earn less than high school graduates 10 years later? No wonder the internet is full of exploring options that are alternatives to higher education.

Data like this is another reason students are asking, is college worth it?

However, considering the fact that 60% of college students do earn more than a high school graduate after 10 years, we need to look closely at this problem. 

The thing is, college pays off, but the return on investment varies by credential, the program of study, and the higher education institution. So maybe some institutions have got things right and some clearly need to do better and analyze what is that they are doing wrong. 

Maybe it is time to think of options beyond four-year degrees, in particular options that provide degrees, certificates, and credentials that match local workforce needs.

Lack of workforce skills in education

The new enrollment data shows that enrollment in 2-year college and skilled trades programs are increasing significantly, including in the fields of:

  • Mechanics and repair
  • Culinary
  • Construction and precision 
  • Production, etc. 

In fact, recently, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, who graduated from a technical high school specializing in automotive, urged higher-ed leaders to do a better job of incorporating workforce skills in the curriculums.  

He said that it is important to better prepare students for life after graduation, whether by going directly into the workforce, earning a technical degree, or enrolling in a 4-year institution.

Plus, remember that the stress about the rise of AI and robots and other things that are replacing lower to middle-skill jobs is real. So, not only is the data pointing toward the need for more skill-based degrees, but even the government is waking up to the same, you need to, too. 

Colleges behaving like colleges 

The truth is that the college admission process is still an exhausting one for both the students and the admissions teams.

Students are under a lot of stress as they are trying NOT to make a wrong decision that may take their life and career on the wrong path. So they are looking for guidance, as well as trying hard to keep up with all the deadlines and paperwork. 

The college staff is reeling under the same paperwork, spending precious manhours to reach out to, shortlist, and finally recruit the right students. Not to mention that it involves everyone from the Dean to the Chief Enrollment Manager, middle-level managers, admission officers, and supporting administrative staff to complete the whole process.

Some colleges still suffer from the old-world response speed, paperwork, elitism, etc., and it has its own impact on enrollments.

The rise of Edu-tech

While fewer students are enrolling in higher education institutions, there is a clear shift in on-campus education.

In fall 2020, approximately 75% (11.8 million) of all undergraduate students were enrolled in at least one distance education course. Also, 44% (7.0 million) of all undergraduate students exclusively took distance education courses.

However, the up-trend in distance learning has spilled beyond the pandemic, as the world has become more comfortable and aware of the benefits of online education. 

Online programs enable more students than ever before to earn their degree either in part or entirely away from campus. This shift is more evident with non-traditional and adult students, as they value reskilling, resulting in them looking for online or hybrid education solutions.

So how to get students to enroll, in spite of all that is going on? Let us talk about that now, shall we?

6 Strategies to increase student enrollment 

#1. Start treating students as customers 

Let’s face it, higher education in America is getting more and more competitive.

The number of high school graduates is increasing steadily. The number of college applicants has increased too as a result. But, the problem is that each student is applying to more than one college, which is affecting the enrollment yield badly. 

As a result, colleges in universities are facing quite a challenge. They can no longer just focus on providing education. They need to think and act like businesses in a competitive market, ensuring that they are able to enroll enough and the right kind of students/customers.

In such a scenario, customer service for higher education becomes critical. You need to start thinking in terms of fast and personalized responses, better perks, and services using automation to better the overall processes. 

#2. Connect with your potential students in their enrollment journey

Once you start considering your students as your customers, you understand the importance of following the buyer’s journey. In this case, the buyer’s journey translates into the journey of your students looking to enroll in a college and actually starts when they are high school students. 

When you understand the journey of your students, you will be able to meet them where they are and earlier than your competitors. 

For example, to appeal to the students in the awareness stage, when they just start looking for a college, you may be able to increase your college visibility with SEO. Think educational blog and other content on your college website that informs rather than sells, like e-guides, white papers, industry research, or other educational content. 

Understanding their needs will build trust and will ultimately influence the student’s enrollment decision. Nurturing them on their journey can give you the highest potential of getting them enrolled in your college. 

Do not forget to:

  • Make the content about them, not you.
  • Use a story-based approach as it appeals to most people
  • Share success stories to make a genuine impact with some real information that will inspire enrollments.
  • Use email marketing strategies to make the most of inbound marketing, as it is non-invasive and yet can be highly personalized.  

#3. Use live chat to make it easy for students to connect with you

In today’s world, no one has the time to wait in lines to get their queries answered, and your students are no different. All of us are looking for an immediate response and solution.

This brings me to the most satisfactory communication channel between businesses and customers – live chat. Here are just some of the benefits of using live chat for colleges:

  • Most live chat tools support chatbots and chatbots have the highest satisfaction level when it comes to replying to queries quickly.
  • With live chat and chatbots, you can respond 24×7 to all students and can even talk to foreign perspectives in their native language with multilingual chat.
  • Live chat also supports document transfer and financial transactions in real-time, thereby expediting administrative work significantly.
  • While chatbots deflect the majority of customer queries involving FAQs and simple questions, your live agents can focus on more complex queries like career counseling, etc. 

The cool thing is that by choosing the right live chat tool, you can start chatting with your prospective students within minutes. Great tools like Social Intents let you integrate live chat with your favorite apps like MS Teams directly. 

With this integration, you can start connecting with your prospects without spending any money on training your executives.

Live chat to increase college enrollment.

#4. Be where your students are 

Higher-ed can no longer afford to have a status website and dysfunctional social media. You must be interacting with your potential students where they hang out and in the ways they prefer. 

Look at these figures about mobile app usage by age. Surely the age group you are catering to has the highest app usage and so will prefer you if you had an app. 

Monthly mobile app usage by students.

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You definitely need to make your website mobile devices responsive and also think about launching an app for your institution. This will not only set you apart from your competitors but also establish your image as a progressive college or university.

How students use apps for education.

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Also, looking at the above image, you can be certain where people are spending most of their time on apps. Social media. 

Having a strong social media presence can totally change the game in your favor and strengthen your image as a fun-loving institution. It is also a great way to show prospective students what their experience can be like in your college. Here is an example:

Using social media to increase college enrollment.

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#5. Use technology to your benefit

To take the exhaustion out of the admission process for both students and your staff, consider using an admission CRM or admission software. 

A college admission software is any software that makes the whole or a part of the admission process easier and faster. For example, reaching out to prospective students, receiving payments online, processing applications, selecting candidates, and so on. 

A CRM or admissions software can:

  • Cater to a high volume of applications without the hassle
  • Reduce manual labor and help you go green with less paperwork
  • Integrate with the systems you are using already and help you get in touch with your students directly
  • Help you recruit your best-fit candidates, etc. 
  • Act as an all-in-one solution for the admissions staff and a student information system at the same time. 

There are lots of higher education admission software available in the market that can take the edge off the process in specific ways, helping you with liaison, enrollment, and all your admission needs. 

Bonus Strategy

Last but not least, focus on developing more competency and skill-based degree programs that are far more compatible with non-traditional students, working adults, and the changing needs of modern students. 


Enrollments are getting tougher, but there are multiple things you can do to turn the situation to your advantage. 

And I hope that you will do that with the help of the strategies given in this article. 

All the best!

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