The ABCs of Nontrad Higher Ed

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Around here, we believe in nailing the fundamentals. We think this concept is especially important when it comes to maintaining focus in the ever-changing world of nontraditional higher education.

For busy enrollment leaders, it is easy to become lost in the details of everyday responsibilities. And while those details are important, it is critical to stay focused on the mission of recruiting and retaining students.

Over the years, our work in higher education has yielded many invaluable lessons, and since this exciting field is all about learning, we thought it would only make sense to use the ABCs to help ensure you are nailing the fundamentals:

A is for Admissions.

Your admissions counselors are the face of your institution and the connection between your degree programs and prospective students. They play many important roles—expert, coach, guide, counselor, cheerleader, consultant, and more—and invest their time, energy, and talent into the success of your institution. In turn, one of your key responsibilities is to ensure they have the tools they need to succeed and feel rewarded in their roles. From praise to professional development to empowerment, the type of support and leadership you provide can make or break an admissions team. You set the tone of the culture and help develop the synergy that will allow your admissions team to go from good to great. Our advice? Spend the majority of your time with the admissions team sharing your energy, talents, and expertise—it will pay dividends.

B is for Brand.

As you develop and plan your marketing strategies and outreach to prospective students, it is important to stay on brand. To do so, it is critical to ensure you have a clearly defined brand that acts as the foundation for every communication to prospective students. A strong brand will also help your institution stand out and give prospective students an understanding of what you stand for. Part of your brand messaging should be highlighting the features of your institution and the programs that make your school unique in the market. Focus on your value proposition messaging and the distinctive benefits of earning a degree with your institution. And finally, the most important part of staying on brand is delivering on your brand promise—in other words, ensuring your institution is living up to every message you are communicating to prospective students. We recommend regularly evaluating your communication flow, listening to your admissions counselors’ calls with prospective students, and conducting periodic surveys to your inquiries, applicants, and enrolled students.

C is for Curriculum.

Offer degree programs with curriculums adult students want and ensure they are flexible and focused on outcomes that are relevant to career-minded learners. Busy adults who are juggling careers and families need to be able to complete their coursework at times and locations that work for their schedule, meaning most prefer asynchronous online delivery. They need reassurance that investing time and money into continuing their education will actually help them further their professional or personal goals. Thus, they are careful about choosing a relevant program that will produce their desired career outcomes. Pro tip: the job market is a good indicator of which degrees adult learners are interested in pursuing. Look for salary and industry growth trends, as well as stability for the future.

s is for students.

And last but certainly not least—students! Keep them at the center of every decision and you will always win. Focus on the details from the beginning of your admissions process to graduation day, and every step along the student journey. Start by making sure your inquiry and admissions processes are streamlined and easy. Next, ensure every department and staff member that interacts with your students provide top-notch customer service. From timeliness of communication to thoroughness of assistance to pleasantness of tone, every touchpoint is an opportunity to set your institution apart from your competition and retain your students. Speaking of competition, remember that prospective and current students have many choices to complete their degrees. Not only is your goal to focus on successful recruitment, but to ensure your students feel welcomed, valued, and enthusiastic about attending and ultimately graduating from your institution. Finally, ensure your degree programs are delivered in the way students want to learn and result in positive outcomes for your students’ education and professional goals.

Key takeaway.

Focus on your priorities—your Admissions team, your Brand, your Curriculum, and your students—and the rest will fall into place. Nontraditional higher education is a dynamic field that presents admissions and marketing professionals with both challenges and great rewards. Enrollment leaders will always have enrollment growth on their minds—and nailing the fundamentals will ensure the rewards are plentiful.

If you are looking to provide resources and professional development for your admissions team, or need help with branding, program mix, or any of Rivetica’s higher education solutions, we’ll be here.