If, as a director of enrollment services of a community college, you’re frequently concerned about how to recruit students, this post will help. We recommend eight community college recruitment strategies that will:

  • Expand your base beyond local prospects.
  • Help you reach out to the right students.
  • Offer tangible expectations to candidates.
  • Provide a meaningful recruitment experience for students.

Let’s have a look at how to increase enrollment in community colleges with effective strategies.

Community college recruitment strategies:

An intelligent college recruitment plan involves an understanding of what students expect, what compels them to invest money, and demonstrating how you can positively impact their future. 

Applying to colleges is no longer a matter of scanning brochures and picking the most attractive institution. Millennial and Gen-Z students conduct thorough research before shortlisting colleges of their choice.

Here are some community college recruitment strategies you can implement to make sure you are on that list:

  1. Study data from previous enrollments to understand how and why students come to you.
  2. Highlight the cost benefits of a community college.
  3. Keep a focus on the students’ future after they leave college.
  4. Aim to increase retention and resilience.
  5. Increase collaborations in pre-university student communities.
  6. Ditch direct mail for emails and texts to contact students.
  7. Get professors to be your ambassadors instead of recruitment agents.
  8. Go beyond brochure pictures to explain your initiatives for inclusivity.

Let’s look at how you can implement each of these strategies in detail.  

1. Study data collected from previous enrollments

Cost benefits, ease of transfer (to higher education), and flexibility of classes are some reasons students opt for community colleges. But among the 1000+ community colleges in the USA (942 public, 73 independent, and 35 tribal), why did they choose you

There could be common denominators between past and current students that will help you pencil strategies. Consider these factors:

  • Why did the students choose your community college? What attracted and connected them to you?
  • Where did the students come from? Were a majority from the same city, out-of-state or international?
  • How did old prospects get in touch with you? What marketing channels were the most effective?
  • What is the most common feedback the admission department gets? How have you acted on it? 

Be the data-rich college that knows exactly what prospects want and are interested in. 70% of millennials say they are frustrated with brands sending irrelevant marketing correspondence. They want personalized messages over-generalized broadcast.

As a community college appealing to them, this is a crucial point to note. Use these data points to target audiences, finalize marketing and communication channels, and craft a message that compels students to pick your community college.

2. Highlight the cost benefits of a community college

Graduates borrow an average of $30,062 in student debts to attend college in the USA. And although the average tuition fees of private colleges have dropped, they still cost about $35,087 per head. 

Compare that to the average tuition of a community college and the price drops by 72!

For students who cannot afford to pay private college fees and don’t want to take massive loans, this is a key highlight and determining factor in choosing a community college. Highlight it to help students make the right decision in choosing your institution.

Here’s how to highlight the cost-benefit without making that the only USP of your college:

  • Provide a detailed breakdown of your fees, accommodation fees, and the average cost of living.
  • Highlight the scholarships and financial awards you offer.
  • Explain FAFSA’s details (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and how students can utilize it with your institution.
  • List the amenities your college offers (especially the amenities that would otherwise cost more). 
  • Talk about the part-time classes and other flexibility options your college offers for students who may have a day job or other responsibilities.

3. Keep a focus on the students’ future after they leave college

Students know that attending college 

  1. Decreases chance of unemployment 
  2. Increases average income 
  3. Gives them better job security 

Let me rephrase that. Students expect their college degrees to provide these benefits. This is why you must give them a tangible and realistic understanding of how a degree at your community college will benefit their future. 

community-college-recruitment-strategies-job-security
Data Source: BLS/BLS.

Show students how an education at your college can help them by mentioning: 

Future prospectsMethods
Chances of employment– Elaborate on career guidance systems
– Highlight star alumni who secured desired jobs after college
– Arrange for alumni talks for student guidance
Income rates– Explain how an associate degree will increase the average income
– Mention associate-level job prospects under each course/subject
– Study the average income of your alumni and convey it to students
Job security– Can your community college help if a student fails to secure a job after graduation?
– Financial aid prospects
– Campus recruitments

Read more for to engage alumni in your activities: Alumni Engagement Strategy & Best Practices: 9 Top Ways to Nurture Your Network

4. Aim to increase retention

Taking definite steps toward student success has been shown to improve retention rates. Retention here refers to a current student enrolling for and following through with the following term or year.

Take the example of Anne Arundel Community College (AACC). In the fall of 2018, Dr. Audra Butler, the chair of their career advancement program, spearheaded a pilot one-credit seminar for student success.

In the previous year, AACC had seen a retention rate of 180 students. Dr. Butler’s success seminar included training in time management, getting familiar with the college and future opportunities. The results were evident as an astonishing 550 enrolled for the following year! 

Community college recruitment strategies involve not just onboarding new students but also encouraging current ones to continue studying and enroll in the following terms. Here’s what you can do:

  • Introduce student success seminars to familiarize them with your institution, your values, and career opportunities.
  • Encourage early registration.
  • Highlight student services, financial aids, and pathway programs.
  • Foster a community within your students and faculty to improve satisfaction.

5. Increase collaborations in pre-university student communities

A list of community college recruitment strategies is incomplete without the advice of partnering with local communities for student introduction. For Berkeley City College (BCC), in California, this meant intensifying recruiting efforts in over five local high schools.

Recruiting efforts could be hosting admission or career fairs in the schools, distributing brochures, or holding seminars. You can go a few steps further and also include:

  • Interactions with school principals: Ask them the biggest concerns their students have in terms of a college education. Address the concerns in your outreach programs.
  • Collaborate with churches: Host events on Sundays, when young students and families attend church. Introduce them to the benefits of community college.
  • Work with nonprofits and local business HRs: Ask them if anyone has shown interest in attending college and request their contact information to introduce your institution and courses.

Pro-Tip: Texting is a popular communication tool among young generations, and so, text marketing has fast gained momentum. Rent a shortcode and keyword from a text marketing tool and promote it during these events, encouraging prospects to opt-in. If the opportunity to have detailed conversations doesn’t present itself during events, you can catch up with candidates over a text later.
Try CallHub for free!

6. Ditch direct mail for emails, text messages and calls

In order to recruit students to your community college, you need to reach them where they prefer to speak with you i.e emails and text messages. 

There’s an added advantage that these methods offer– enabling quick responses and having a two-way conversation.

In the choices of community colleges that students have, the feeling of community that you can imbibe with communication can set you apart from the rest. Advancing to a college can be a tricky decision– financially, as well as emotionally. And if you initiate conversations via handy channels, it could just be that one factor that secures a student’s faith in you.

A text messaging tool like CallHub can help you:

  • Send text broadcasts for announcements, event invitations, or notifications to prospects (Mass texting).
  • Have 1-on-1 personalized conversations at scale (peer-to-peer texting).
  • Integrate data on CRMs, so you keep information on prospects and students updates.
  • Schedule follow-ups. 
community-college-recruitment-strategies-chat

Read more:
How to have meaningful text conversations to initiate action
Mass Text Messaging Service for Personalized Outreach Campaigns

7. Get professors to be ambassadors instead of recruitment agents

Recruitment events and seminars often have eminent people from the admissions office as ambassadors of the university or college. These professionals are trained in conveying the best amenities and opportunities that their university has to offer. 

While they are super helpful in resolving questions, they can hardly do justice to the knowledge professors, lecturers, and faculty members can bring to the event. Utilize their expertise by:

  • Organizing online seminars where professors talk about opportunities in their field and how your college brings value to the course.
  • Getting them to attend recruitment events and interact with prospects.
  • Starting a pre-university mentorship program where applicants talk to the professors and understand the course’s subjects, projects, and examination patterns.
  • Making professors the ambassadors of your college and getting them involved in marketing and communications with prospects.

8. Go beyond brochure pictures to explain your inclusivity

Gen-Z is more mindful of diversity and gives racial, gender, and social orientation diversity more importance than any other generation. This is one reason you must also take note and explain your stand on this matter in detail.

Community college recruitment strategies are all about giving genuine information about your best features. But don’t restrict it to a photo of diverse students sitting on the premises. Go the extra mile, as BCC did with their college recruitment plan.

The community college targeted student prospects like adult learners, African American and Latino individuals, and international youths in their recruitment drives. Their main marketing channels included ads (radio, television, billboards, newspapers) and outreach activities included direct mail, social media and emails. 

This is a regular practice, and so, the results are evident. The minority enrollment of the student body is 74% (Vs. state average of 68%)

community-college-recruitment-strategies-diversity
Data Source: CCRC/USNews

Adopting new communication methods can be quite daunting, and when trying to convince admission prospects, you need to get it absolutely right. 

When you use communication tools like texts, which young generations are comfortable with and prefer, you have won half the battle. Know more about our texting and calling tool and how it applies to colleges here: Improve admission process and engage students with CallHub’s text and calling tools.

Feature Image Source: Alexis Brown/Unsplash.

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