As the pandemic continues to surge across the U.S., the challenge to engage high school students in post-secondary learning grows more difficult. The most recent report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center shows not only declining undergraduate enrollments, but a critical drop in First-Year students — a steep decline of 13%. While this highlights the grim reality of enrollment funnels drying up, it remains true that nationally, high school graduation rates continue to increase, as does the percentage of high school students participating in dual enrollment.
The Dual Credit Opportunity
While college enrollments and matriculation are in decline, there remains a viable market of high school graduates to recruit. In order to reach these students and truly introduce them to your institution, you need more than a dual credit program. You need a Collegiate Academy with a clear set of goals, an effective marketing and outreach strategy, and the right partners that enhance the overall experience for both students and schools. With a Collegiate Academy and the strategy to launch it, you can stimulate your enrollment funnel and generate revenue.
Here are three steps to launching a successful Collegiate Academy program.
1. Understand What Success Means for You
There’s a saying, “a man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder.” We all need something to steer us. When launching a Collegiate Academy, your goals steer your program. Success might be enrolling 200 students in the first year from rural areas and private schools in your state, or it could be matriculating 500 students from your Collegiate Academy by year 3. Whatever success is for you, once defined, it is the groundwork that informs every other critical step to successfully reaching and bringing students to your institution.
So how do you ensure your goals are strong and achievable? We recommend partners perform a SWOT analysis to help you understand your institution’s strengths, opportunities, as well as where you are limited and needing support. We then suggest focusing on your immediate, addressable market (in-state), and from there estimating what is reachable (quite literally what you can actually reach) in that market. Further identifying any competition and pinpointing where you’re clearly differentiated will help you land on an achievable goal and give you the confidence to move forward.
2. Create a Marketing and Outreach Strategy
After you’ve conducted your SWOT analysis and established your goals for your Collegiate Academy, it’s time to focus on marketing and outreach. This dimension of strategic planning is all about your audience, refining your message, and putting together a communication plan to get your institution in front of the students you want to reach.
To start, make a list of marketing channels you’d like to use to reach students. A well-mapped-out plan will include the channels that have converted students in the past, as well as one or two that you may not have tried before. A multi-channel approach is most effective. Some essential channels include your website, email, social media, and relevant education conferences. It’s important to work across departments to ensure you have the assets you need and cohesion across teams. The next steps will involve working across teams to create a timeline of activities needed for each channel, followed by gathering the appropriate collateral to support converting schools and students to your program.
Should you find that there are barriers such as personnel needs or financial resources, it’s important to identify these, prioritize your strategies, and know that there are plenty of options for services in lead generation and digital marketing that can help you fill in any gaps.
3. Find The Right Partners
Launching a Collegiate Academy requires a lot of work. But having the right partner can alleviate some of the weight and step in where you might be limited. A good partner shares and supports your goals for your program. Further, they should be able to work with you without making a mess of your business model.
Partnerships in launching a Collegiate Academy can take many forms. Here are some specific things to look for with specific partners.
For the most flexibility for your target audience, make sure you have online options so the highest number of schools and students can take advantage of your program. If you are looking for an online course provider to help with these general education courses, look for these things:
- A platform that can be branded with your logo and colors to make sure students recognize your institution
- A high-quality curriculum taught by qualified instructors. Have your faculty vet the course syllabus and objectives to make sure they align with your standards.
- Multiple layers of support, including with the instructor as well as coaching and technical support
These things help differentiate your program from the rest, and they are what build confidence in students matriculating to your institution post-graduation.
Marketing and outreach:
If your team can do a lot of what is laid out in your action plan, great. Be sure to evaluate realistically how much they can contribute and identify any gaps you may need to fill. Outreach strategies that are relationship-driven may be easy to take on, while other data-driven strategies such as Website SEO, Email Marketing, Social Media, and Retargeting might be a taller order. When looking for a partner to tackle any of these, you’ll want to make sure that they ask lots of questions early on to ensure they know everything about your audience and are deeply in touch with your needs. You’ll also want to be sure that they are efficient in their data reports, showing that they are committed to getting you the outcomes (the leads and conversions) you want.
Build a Pipeline with Your Collegiate Academy
The echoes of the 13% decline in First Year students are real. This will have an impact over the next few years if not more, which is why now is the time to start building a pipeline with your Collegiate Academy. What would 500 students matriculating in two years mean for your institution? By taking these three steps, you can actively open the door to higher-level learning to motivated high school students all over, and begin giving students and partner schools a true experience of being a part of your institution. This impacts their financial future and yours. Consider the success of your Collegiate Academy, the path forward for your institution.