Student Recruitment and Retention: How Can Institutions Stand Out?

This article on student recruitment and retention is part of our Boosting Your University Marketing Efforts series.

What Is the Current Higher Education Recruitment Landscape?

“Was your degree really worth it?” asks this most recent Economist article, furthering the ongoing discourse that has seen a growing number of high-profile organizations and individuals question the value of higher education. At the same time, university tuition fees globally have seen a sharp increase in recent decades. Free in the 1990s, higher education in the UK is now one of the most expensive in the developed world. Moreover, research conducted by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) shows a gradual narrowing in earnings for degree vs. non-degree holders, with very few exceptions.

And thorough ROI tables condensing major research conducted in the US paint a very similar picture. Meanwhile, tuition fees in the US have skyrocketed by at least 180% since the 1980s, reports Forbes.
Add the cost of living crisis detailed by the Financial Times in a series of articles, and you have a perfect storm that makes student recruitment and retention a near-insurmountable challenge.

How Can Universities Recruit More Students in 2023?

Despite the unfavorable conditions your institution – together with all of higher education – may currently be facing, not all hope is lost. You can overcome every obstacle if you have the right strategy in place. So, if you wish to recruit and retain more students, then read and act upon our actionable plan below:

Revisit and Modernize Your Courses

The invention of the internet and, at a later stage, social media, has brought a whole new audiovisual experience at the tip of our fingers. As such, if you wish to attract and keep students, you must reevaluate the purpose of your courses, whether some of them are redundant or not, and what other courses you can add in their stead. In doing so, you help your institution counter the persistent view that a large segment of university coursework is only carried out for the sake of academia, while having no real-world benefits for students. You must break that perception and prove to prospective students that your curriculum is tailored to address current job market needs and demands.

Offer and Advertise All Financial Aid Available

The cost of tuition at universities has risen drastically in recent years, making it increasingly difficult for students to afford their education. This is why universities must provide all financial assistance they can to their students. If you have any grants, scholarships, or other forms of financial aid available, it is imperative that you make this information widely known. By doing so, you can help to alleviate some of the financial burden that students face and ensure that they are able to fully pursue their educational goals without being held back by financial constraints. Additionally, promoting available financial aid can also help to attract a wider range of students who may have otherwise been dissuaded by the high cost of tuition. Ultimately, the more financial assistance that universities can offer, the greater the potential for academic success and achievement among their student population.

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Engage in Early Intervention and Guidance

Going to university at a young age can be challenging, especially when it comes to choosing the right career path. As an educator, you must help students navigate this crucial decision. By using a combination of data analysis, alumni feedback, and one-on-one conversations, you can assess whether your students are on the right track to success. If you or your students have concerns, it is important to guide them in the right direction. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to ensure that your students are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to pursue a fulfilling career.

Offer Personalized Support to Students

Akin to the above, you must meet with students on a regular basis. Get to know their background, goals, aspirations, and overall story. Then, extend your support to them in a way that caters to their individual situation and needs. Doing so will go a really long way – just think about the mentoring figures that you may reminisce about and what positive of an impact they had on your development. Both academically-talented and academically-developing learners have their own style, pace, and needs. You need to implement the right instruction methods that will support all your student groups. Also, you may wish to consider success coaching – a particularly effective strategy to follow with minority students.

Rethink How You Assess Your Students

What is the purpose of grades? Are they necessary? And do they do more harm than good? What alternatives to the numeric and alphabetical systems exist? What function do compulsory tests and timed exams serve? These are valid questions that every institution should engage with to remain competitive, current, and provide students with the best learning experience possible. Here, the general consensus favors a complete overhaul of the ways in which educational institutions approach and measure performance.

Create a Strong Campus Community

Your institution’s image is important in attracting prospective students. And, promoting your campus community and lifestyle can significantly boost it. Students don’t just look for academic excellence when selecting a university, they also look for a vibrant campus community and an appealing lifestyle. It is important to showcase the unique aspects of your campus life that make it stand out from other institutions. By highlighting the clubs, organizations, and activities available on campus, you can give students a glimpse of the social life they can expect. Additionally, promoting the different dining options, residence halls, and recreational facilities can help students picture themselves living and thriving in your campus environment.

Maintain Clear Communication with Students

Perhaps the most important factor for student retention, clear and frequent communication will make students feel noticed, valued, and cared for. It can take many forms, including regular check-ins with academic advisors, feedback on assignments, and updates on campus events and news. It is important to communicate with students in a way that is both timely and relevant to their needs. You can use communication channels such as email, social media, and campus bulletin boards to achieve this.

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Offer Flexible Study and Learning Options

As an institution, it is essential to provide adequate support for students who work part-time or full-time jobs while pursuing their education. One way to accommodate these students is by extending facility opening times, allowing them to access campus resources outside of regular business hours. This can include libraries, computer labs, and study spaces.

Another way to support students with busy schedules is to make all course materials available online. This allows students to access their coursework from anywhere and at any time, providing them with the flexibility they need to balance work and school commitments. Institutions should also ensure that online materials are easily accessible to all students, regardless of their technological proficiency or access to high-speed internet.

Furthermore, it is crucial to avoid punishing students who work by providing opportunities for them to make up missed coursework or exams. This can include offering alternative exam times or allowing students to submit assignments online if they are unable to attend a scheduled class or exam.

Promote Active Learning

The traditional teaching methods of a lecturer speaking for hours to a passive audience are no longer effective for today’s learners. In today’s digital age, students want to actively engage with their coursework and participate in dialogue with their peers and instructors. This shift in learning preferences has led to a growing interest in interactive learning and teaching methods.

Interactive teaching methods can take many forms, such as group discussions, problem-based learning, and collaborative projects. These methods encourage students to take an active role in their education, promoting critical thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork skills. They also help to create a more engaging and dynamic learning experience that can lead to better retention of information.

Give Students Career Development Options

In today’s competitive job market, securing an internship or job opportunity can be a daunting task for students. As an institution or organization, it is crucial to provide students with access to various companies, internships, and other institutions, enabling them to gain practical experience and enhance their skills. Additionally, offering references to deserving students can significantly improve their chances of being selected for a job or internship opportunity.

However, the process of applying for jobs and internships can be overwhelming for students, especially those who are new to the job market. To support students in their job search, it is essential to offer additional services such as CV creation assistance and job interview preparation.

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Lytho’s Mission Is to Support Your University Student Recruitment and Retention Activities in 2023

Are you ready to boost the student recruitment and retention activities of your university? You’ve come to the right place, then. We at Lytho help you streamline your entire workflow and harmonize all brand collateral under a single, uniform platform. Our Creative Operations solution makes allocating and managing resources and stakeholders a breeze. Let us help you ramp up your student recruitment planning and efforts to successfully increase retention!

Feel free to reach out to us by scheduling a demo and learning how our creative solutions can boost the effectiveness of your creative projects. We look forward to speaking with you!