Last week I had the privilege of reconnecting with a mentor of mine, Tom Black. While normally we like to chat about the state of higher ed and how Stellic can play a role in the future, this conversation was much more urgent.
Higher-ed is at a crossroads - Safety of students, enrollment, instruction, and career readiness have been flipped upside down and new plans (both short and long term) have been put into place and revised many times over. This uncertainty, at all levels, has certainly affected the most important stakeholder at all institutions: the student.
There are many statistics to consider, but one that sticks out to me is enrollment since this is the most obvious measure of a student feeling like higher education is worth the investment. Undergraduate enrollment is down 4%, in large part due to the major decline in freshman enrollment (down 16%).
While recruitment has, and always will be, a challenge for every institution, colleges and universities have increased their emphasis on retaining and graduating students on-time since it is much more in their control.
It’s easy for us to focus on fancy student and advisor tools, but we need to remember that student persistence and confidence in their degree progression is their main goal. Students leave institutions because they feel that they don’t belong or too much uncertainty lies ahead to have the courage to keep moving forward. In the information age, they expect immediate feedback on how their decision affects them, easy communication around their progress, and clear insight into what is to be expected.
I read a lot of articles about student success and the attention paid to demographics is undeniably important. But in many ways, it misses the mark. If a student loses self-motivation while another student (perhaps in a historically at-risk demographic) is now more motivated than ever to get a degree, many times the former will fly under the radar. In the data-driven society that we live in today, there needs to be ways to track and better understand the students that are falling off-track beyond some basic characteristics.
A student needs to be engaged in their coursework, degree path, and postgraduate goals, and if they’re not, it is up to us to ensure they get the nudges, collaboration, and feedback that they deserve. Data can inform a lot of this, but from what we’ve seen, a lot of institutions are not leveraging this to its full potential.
Students need to be afforded the opportunity to take control of their academic experience themselves, in a format that they are comfortable with.
Can it be any sort of engagement? Sure, it would help. But authentic engagement where goals are transparent and communication is consistent is strongly preferred. And Stellic is here to help.
Let’s continue the conversation, feel free to email me at Sabih@stellic.com or reach out to us here.