Educational Refugees: Seven Tips for Recruiting Students from Closed InstitutionsMicheal Lewis | Assistant Director of Evening Campus Admissions, Columbia College
Non-traditional student recruiters are familiar with the news of major players in adult education suspending enrollment of new students or shutting down entirely. While it’s natural to attempt to recruit students displaced in these circumstances, successful recruitment depends on solid, thoughtful strategy. Here are a few tips and observations to consider when recruiting students from disestablished institutions:
1. Debt Forgiveness and Cancellation
Most displaced students can qualify for student loan debt forgiveness, where all or a portion of the debt accrued while attending the disestablished institution can be wiped clean. However, loan cancellation and discharges are often contingent upon the student’s wish to discontinue their education. Should the student transfer schools, the debt will not be forgiven and will continue to count toward their lifetime loan limits. In some cases, the student feels the best course of action is to have the debt wiped clean and stop attending college altogether.
Does your institution have a transfer relationship with the disestablished institution? If not, how flexible is your transfer credit policy to allow for consideration of credits from this institution? Transferability of credit is an important aspect of any recruitment strategy. If your institution is transfer-friendly to this population of student, this may be the deciding factor on whether or not these students transfer.
3. Overcome Negativity
College closings are more than a setback for a student. They can be crippling, filling the student with severe skepticism, anger and fear. Investments of time, money and family support are all lost. Remember in your strategy the mother that missed ballet recitals, football games and overtime at work for the hope that one day she would be rewarded for those sacrifices. It was the hope for that day that powered her through long nights of study. Now, it’s all lost, and she doesn’t trust as easily anymore. She’ll have tougher questions this time around. She wants to know that no matter what school she chooses, she will never be in this situation again. Be respectful of these concerns in your recruitment strategy. Opt for one-on-one appointments so these concerns can be addressed in a manner that is personal.
4. Stand Out
Show these students how your institution is different than the one that left them stranded. Highlight your quality, notable alumni, success stories, accreditation and more. Building value is important in any recruitment situation, but especially in this case. Show the student that your school is not in danger of falling apart, and this will help relax the level of doubt in their mind. They’ve been tricked by fancy sales pitches and expensive marketing campaigns before, so leave those techniques at the door. If you lead with your institution’s pride points, you’ll go a long way.
5. Move quickly
In these circumstances, you’ll need to move quickly with your recruitment strategy. If it takes six weeks to have all of the pieces in place, that will be three weeks too late. Call a meeting with key players at your institution and hammer out a plan as soon as you hear about a college shut down.
6. Stay Current
How college closings are handled and what options are available to affected students will change like the weather. Stay on top of the situation by visiting the Department of Education’s Student Aid website. Doing this will allow you to remain familiar with what information is provided to the student and help with any counseling or advising discussions you might have with students.
7. Build Alliances
Perhaps the school in question offered programs to which your institution has no equivalent. In this case, be a good steward of higher education and pair up with a reputable school that does. You can refer students to your ally and vice versa. This will further prove to the student that you want what’s best for them, and are not chasing another enrollment.
Recruiting students displaced in a college shutdown is a delicate situation, but following my tips in your strategic planning will result in a better recruitment strategy that considers the mindset and needs of the student. While no recruitment strategy can give these students back the time and money they’ve invested in their education, it can help them find a quality institution and prevent these sorts of setbacks in the future.
Students looking for advice on how to move forward when their institutions close down should visit Michael Lewis’s Help! My College Shut Down, where he shares both a short article and video, on Columbia College’s Ready. Aim. Hire. blog.
Author Perspective: Administrator