For most colleges and universities, the coming decade will include even greater financial challenges than the previous one.
The challenges ahead will be somewhat different from the ones in the past. In the past decade, there was often relative stability around the broad pool of potential students. If an institution was shrewd and active, it could hit its enrollment targets, or at least come close enough so that – through some ‘belt tightening’ – it could make the budget work.
In the decade ahead, colleges and universities will need to navigate a shrinking pool of potential students and increased competition for those students from non-traditional educational pathways.
The most successful institutions will be those that mitigate risk in the future by embracing affordable technologies that harness the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to scale personalized engagement with students, both current and potential.
Institutions are quite familiar with the phrase “do more with less.” It has been a continual refrain for the past two decades within higher education. And, amid the havoc caused by the pandemic, schools and students need to interact more seamlessly than ever in an increasingly “resource-constrained” world.
For institutions, the reason is simple: in today’s enrollment environment – every student counts. Funding, institutional success, and fiscal stability all depend on it.
Whether the institution is a two-year college seeking to serve the community and meet its enrollment targets or a four-year private institution that needs a competitive advantage in admissions, engagement is critical. And it is engagement with existing students that helps keep students on the path to success.
Leveraging AI to Scale Student Engagement
This sounds interesting in theory. But how does it work in reality? Here are some emerging use cases for using AI to scale student engagement:
Proactively start more conversations with potential students
By using AI-powered Chat and AI-powered text “campaigns” to connect with potential students, institutions can begin widening their enrollment funnel. These tools can provide potential students with a “quick first step” to learn about the programs and opportunities available to them at the college or university.
Reduce Barriers for Students
Students have questions, especially around courses, financial aid awards, and associated paperwork. Take steps to minimize their frustration. AI-powered chatbots and text messaging can ensure your office is available 24/7 to quickly handle student inquiries. This becomes part of your retention strategy.
Automate Processes and Work-flows
Staff is working harder than ever and adjusting to the hybrid student service model that will be the norm post-pandemic. Automating the completion of forms, reminders for missing paperwork, and guiding students to resources through the use of AI-powered tools can relieve staff of certain repetitive tasks,so they can focus on higher value projects and provide a higher-level of support for students who have more complex issues or unique situations.
Benefits to the Institution
By leveraging affordable AI technologies, colleges and universities can realize multiple wins, including:
Widen the Enrollment Funnel
The only way to overcome the enrollment headwinds is to widen the funnel. Doing so gives your institution a greater chance to hit its enrollment targets.
Increase Yield and Retention
By scaling personalized student engagement through the use of AI tools, an institution has an opportunity to drive greater yield and retention.
Students Make Better Financial Decisions
24/7 accessibility to your institution provides students and prospects with better insights into the financial commitment they are making. You can use this opportunity to “scale advising” so your students get high quality information in a timely manner, leading to better decision-making – especially around loans and debt.
Students Find the Right Path
Students need guidance and support from advisors who can coach them on the college experience, both academically and with student services. Institutions are generally outmatched when it comes to providing students with timely guidance. Using these AI technologies enables colleges to scale their advising and support capacity to help students make the right decisions along their educational journey.
Affordable AI technologies provide colleges and universities with a compelling path forward that mitigates many of the financial challenges that lie ahead in the coming decade. These technologies are affordable, and scalable, and they drive benefits on both the revenue/funding side, as well as the expense side. Students don’t want to communicate with an unhelpful technology, and equally, they don’t want to wait forever for a response from their institution. AI technology nestles in between these two extremes, comfortably blending with the college or university’s technology stack, and pairing well with staff resources. This results in 24/7 accessibility, which leads to greater student engagement, which, in turn, drives student success. This makes the difference in hitting enrollment and retention goals.