Competition for increasing college enrollment is nothing new. However, a global pandemic has greatly shifted the priorities of students, parents, faculty and more. Understanding what motivates students to apply for enrollment in a particular college is crucial, according to Jimmie Bruce of Youngstown, Ohio.
Jimmie Bruce of Youngstown, Ohio is uniquely qualified to discuss college enrollment as he has a track record of success growing enrollment everywhere he’s worked in his career. Bruce is a lifelong educator, student advocate and college administrator. For instance, during his time at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College, Bruce developed the first dual enrollment program and started a center in their service area that led to launching a new location. During his time at Eastern Gateway Community College, Bruce not only helped spearhead growth in online enrollment, but he helped increase enrollment at both physical campuses through a comprehensive program review process and by creating vibrant programs that led to employment. It’s also important to note that Jimmie Bruce of Youngstown, Ohio served as the President of EGCC where he grew enrollment by 800 percent in just over four years.
Every job presented a unique challenge for Jimmie as the factors most critical to increasing student interest in a higher education institution was constantly changing. The pandemic has accelerated the way in which factors shift for college enrollment. For starters, a lot of people found themselves in careers that were threatened by COVID-19. Because of this, they started to explore options like returning to school to pursue degrees, certificates or short-term credentials that can lead to better job opportunities. There’s also a whole other demographic of younger people who are looking at college, and the inability to feel safe in a dorm room environment, who either want to know that they can take classes online or just look to explore paths outside of higher education altogether. Colleges and Universities all over the country need to react quickly to the evolving needs of potential students in both their marketing plans and recruitment strategies.
Jimmie Bruce of Youngstown believes that the pandemic has created a lot of angst for the prospective student. Universities must market themselves with an increased emphasis on value and optimism. There’s so much uncertainty in the world that people are looking for positivity. Colleges and universities should highlight how quickly they adjusted to new safety guidelines in response to COVID-19 and share stories of current student success. High school students are looking for colleges and universities that offer the promise of a better tomorrow. Highlighting how the institution can help them achieve their dreams or land a great job after graduation is critical.
The best way to go about highlighting the fact that a particular college or university can help prospective students get set up for a job after graduation is to highlight the different career paths and degrees and/or certificates available at the institution. Colleges can’t guarantee the traditional college experience as we don’t know where things are headed with health and safety concerns looming in regards to the Delta variant and the future of COVID-19. This is why the focus needs to be on the different programs, flexible scheduling, and distance learning courses that are available and providing ways for those interested in a particular field to find all of the information that is relevant to them virtually. Because a general experience is difficult to predict, it proves even more beneficial to relate to students via their desired career path and future goals.
Jimmie Bruce of Youngstown believes that career and technical schools and community colleges that offer certificates that lead to an extremely high likelihood of a job post graduation are at a distinct advantage in the age of COVID. One of the biggest battles facing admission offices is convincing students that taking a gap year is not in their best interest. Between COVID relief packages making it financially easier for students to take off a year to students who are simply looking to wait out the pandemic from the comfort of home, it’s imperative for colleges and universities to touch on the value of education in the here and now. Community Colleges have the opportunity to talk about getting a leg up on the competition as they can fill needs in a job market looking for able and skilled workers. Other institutions need to market the fact that continuing an educational journey now will only speed up the student’s ability to progress in their eventual career.