Freezing Summer Melt with Enrollment Best Practices
Student melt has become a phenomenon that tends to lead to mis-estimations around enrollment numbers and create financial challenges for the institution and students. Understanding the reasons why students don’t matriculate is key to finding ways to maximizing yield and reducing summer melt. Recently, Modern Campus hosted a webinar to tackle this issue of summer melt with a panel of higher ed leaders talking about their expertise and advice for other leaders in this space. Below is a brief segment of that conversation.
Amrit Ahluwalia: Why is summer melt and the issue of yield more broadly a critical focus for higher ed institutions?
Lisa Simmons: Yield and concise communication is so important for our students because there’s a lot to know, do and understand as a student to make that transition to higher education. People in general have a limited bandwidth to put towards that. There’s a lot going on. Oftentimes when we communicate with students, they’re at various places in their lives. Some are finishing high school, some have work and family responsibilities.
So when it comes to yielding students and avoiding summer melt, it’s critical to have a cohesive stream of communication with students. It has to be clear and concise while considering the limited bandwidth students may have. Yield is executed through several layers at the university, but we don’t students seeing that. We want them to feel like they’re communicating with an institution and not various people peppering them with information. It makes them much more likely to melt.
Jo Nahod-Carlin: We have to have specific succinct engagement with our student body. As we transitioned into using Signal Vine as a means of communication, one thing we found was that it was able to provide some guidance. Those who aren’t trained communication specialists tend to write novellas—they’ll send really long text messages. It was a matter for us to help guide the conversation with our teams to help them understand the most effective communication.
We also learned that yes no conversations get better engagement for us. We’re not overwhelming the student with information. Texting is a great platform for us to engage, but it’s not always the space to provide all the information. And it’s important for our users to understand that. But we certainly see the yield of being able to provide communications that appear one-on-one but are hitting a large population of people at the same time.
Amrit Ahluwalia: Corey, what are some of the ways you’re helping colleagues understand why this is something they need to pay attention to?
Corey Mikkelsen: At our land grant institution, we have 28 campuses across the state of Utah. We also have a really robust online platform for students to study in that environment if they want to. We try to facilitate as easily as possible the entrance of a student. We have one application regardless of where they want to study and so we have to very specific with our communication based on where they want to go.
Housing became a challenge on some campuses, as some of these campuses are more post-traditional in student demographics versus traditional on other campuses. All of that was hard to navigate when we went to this system approach. But we’ve communicated with our campus leadership and it’s been imperative for us to know whether or not a student will enroll but also where they want to go. A student may change their mind when the time comes to register for classes. For us to navigate who’s going to which campus has been a challenge but we’ve been able to overcome that through a lot of the communications we’ve done specifically in text messaging.
Amrit Ahluwalia: Shakira, how do you ensure yield at Ivy Tech is a topic that’s top of mind for folks across the enrollment management system?
Shakira Grubbs: It’s critical in regard to getting ahead, even with our institutional performance. When we think about all the work that we’re doing to recruit and enroll, but then we have to maintain the registrations. We want students here for the summer so that we can get out of the gate for fall students. Typically, if we can keep the in for summer, then we’re more likely to matriculate those students through fall and into spring. We believe it gets us ahead of things pretty early.
This interview was edited for length and clarity. To see the full conversation, click here.
Author Perspective: Administrator
Author Perspective: Community College