The Gist

  • Broken system. Higher education is broken, and colleges are going out of business due to declining enrollment and a diminished student experience.
  • Big-time snag. Financial stress is a major factor holding students back from enrolling in universities.
  • Turning the tide. Universities must increase the resources available to students and market them effectively.

A sobering reality: The modern construct of most higher education is broken. It is no longer a snap decision for all students that they proceed on to college. As I’ve written about previously in my column, some colleges are even going out of business due to this downward trend of new student enrollments.

In fact, the student experience has been greatly diminished due to higher costs and pandemic impact. Many students lack the resources to even take care of their basic needs.

Is this untenable trend reversible? In my opinion, a resounding yes. While it may take some time and coordinated efforts, it is entirely possible. 

And, all the while, customer experience leaders can glean some lessons from the student experience.

Pell Grants Not Covering Enough Tuition

One of the major factors that is holding more students back from enrolling in university is the fact that Pell Grants are not covering as much tuition as they have previously. In 1975 Pell Grants covered nearly 80% of average tuition costs, but today they barely cover 30%. Students are then left to take out loans and increase their work hours to cover educational costs as well as their basic needs. In fact 43% of full-time students work while attending their classes, which not only adds to their stress but can also have a major impact on their grades and continued enrollment.

The first step in increasing the enrollment of college students is taking away from the financial stress as much as possible. While this may seem like an impossible task, many students are eligible for financial assistance — they just aren’t aware of it. 

Related Article: Deciding on the Best Social Media Platforms for Customer Connection

Learning Opportunities

Marketing Financial Assistance Resources to Students

Most colleges offer services such as emergency financial aid, food drives or housing assistance, but students do not know where to start. By marketing these resources to students, they are more likely to take advantage of them and feel supported by their university. When students are made aware of their options relating to taking care of their basic needs, their overall experience at college can increase. Without the financial stress of wondering how to cover their tuition, housing and food costs, students are then able to focus more on their studies, grades, and most importantly, enjoying college life.

Bringing educational resources to campuses and supporting students in the necessary steps to applying for financial assistance is the first step in ensuring that they can graduate. Holding events such as food drives, information sessions or open hours with a financial aid assistant can make these resources more accessible to students in need. 

Related Article: How Higher Ed – and All of Us – Need to Build More Resilient Organizations

Creating Accessible Educational Resources and Marketing Them Effectively

Creating these events is the first step, but marketing them correctly is what will bring the most attendance. Utilizing social media, flyers around campus and ads on campus televisions can ensure that most people are able to see what resources are available to them and how they can access them. 

Reversing the trend of negative student customer experience due to increased financial stress is a hard task, but not impossible. By increasing the amount of resources on campus and marketing them toward students in need, universities will see higher enrollment as well as student retention. This benefits both the university as well as the students who are now able to take care of their basic needs without having to leave school.

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