“Some College, No Degree”: Engaging Former Students
In an era where enrollments are decreasing for a variety of reasons, colleges and universities seek ways to bolster their enrollment and fulfill their mission of graduating students. A significant source of enrollment is the population referred to as “some college, no degree” — those who obtained some credits but discontinued their education before graduating.
Research by the Maritimes Provinces Higher Education Commission estimates that 31% of students who enrolled at Maritime universities did not graduate. Figures on individual institutions across Canada show a non-completion rate varying from 10% to 50% of students. No matter how you calculate it, engaging the “some college, no degree” population is an opportunity to re-enroll thousands of students.
The first step is to reach out to former students to understand why they left and what would bring them back. There are a growing number of models to follow with practices that are applicable worldwide. The California State University system has started a campaign to engage students who had recently stopped their enrollment. A group of 25 institutions partnered with a third party to re-enroll thousands of students over the previous few years.
Because so many colleges and universities are engaging former students to re-enroll them, best practices for outreach are emerging, especially strategies for engaging adult students (age 20 and older). A key component of a successful re-enrollment programme is providing tools for students to manage tuition payments and stay enrolled. Luckily, there are solutions available to help address some of the financial challenges of today’s students that can be implemented by institutions of all types.
Payment plans provide a way to ease the financial complications that lead to students discontinuing their education. Rather than paying the entirety of a semester’s tuition all at once, payment plans provide students with the ability to pay in installments. A large financial burden is reduced into a manageable form, helping students who want to avoid accumulating debt while also juggling the cost of education with the cost of supporting themselves, their family, and other fiscal obligations.
Administrators can create, manage, and enroll students in installment plans that fit the needs of students and the institution. And if emergencies and special circumstances arise, administrators have the flexibility to shift plans, offer extensions, and make other adjustments as needed. Integrated into ERP systems, payment plans communicate with the registrar’s office and other key departments on campus. The solution also sends reminders and notifications to students, keeping them aware and on schedule with their payments.
Serving Students’ Goals and Institutions’ Missions
There’s a saying in higher education, the most expensive degrees are those never obtained. Gaining a degree provides a significant wage premium; it is an investment that pays off. But if students attend some college but do not obtain a degree, they have spent money on higher education without realizing the full return on that investment.
Colleges and universities face a similar situation. Unenrolled students represent a sunk cost as institutions have spent resources to educate them but did not achieve the goal of graduating and helping them accomplish personal and professional goals.
Re-enrolling former students is an important aspect of any college or university’s strategic enrollment management plan. Providing payment plans can help relieve some of the financial challenges and encourage re-enrollment. Keeping students moving toward graduation bolsters an institution’s bottom line and fulfills its mission.