We're coining a new phrase here: COVID Caveat. As in, “Yes, I’ll join your Zoom meeting next Tuesday morning…COVID Caveat.”
There’s so much change that we are all facing right now. It's hard to predict what will happen this Tuesday, much less this fall. Still, there is a bunch of data out there that, taken together, makes a clear case for what this fall will look like for academia.
The information below is seriously valuable to your enrollment planning. And technology will play such a huge role. Thankfully, the tools are available to take your student recruiting entirely digital until everyone is traveling again and recruitment fairs are back in business -- Digital Student Orientation, anyone?
Look, China, 4 months into this thing, has yet to re-open any universities due to concerns about bringing people together from many places. If you want to travel (business or pleasure) between Shanghai and Beijing, you have a 14-day quarantine before you can move about the new city. As leaders, we need to be thinking about the near-term and much farther out. And we need data from many sources to make good decisions.
Your students will not be showing up on campus this fall. Below we provide the data and thinking that justifies that radical thought. We are demonstrating the broad and deep industry insight that the Intead team brings to our clients every day, along with the ability to execute on the plans.
Our primary take away: putting all your classes online is simply not enough if you want to compete with all the options students will be considering this fall. How and what you use to attract, nurture and then deliver an education to your students online needs to improve, a lot, and fast.
From our point of view, when you boil it all down (and maybe spritz it with some bleach spray), these are your essential imperatives:
- Deliver on your education mission to your students, your community and the world, and
- Maintain a student enrollment base that allows you to continue to operate.
You're going to need to be versatile and act fast. The only way large organizations pull that off is by hiring smaller, nimble agencies. You know this, but you can ask your business professors for confirmation based on case studies.
Read on for how we think this all plays out in the near-term and longer-term and what we think you ought to be doing about it. Quickly.
Many academic leaders have not yet arrived at this conclusion with certainty, but we are willing to go out on a limb and predict that your institution will not be serving students on campus this fall. Certainly not the way you used to. The data below makes this conclusion pretty clear, at least to us.
Beware the many, many student surveys that are telling you that so far, students still intend to show up this fall. Of course, they want to and the current data says that. It was captured as this whole crisis was just really starting in early to mid-March and the reality had yet to hit the students answering those questions. To those putting out the message that conversion rates are and will hold steady, please put your findings into a larger context for your readers. (Carnegie Dartlet we’re looking at you, among others).
Why Your Students Won't Show Up This Fall
We've selected three reliable data sources addressing the primary concerns students will be facing: economic, health and academic.
But before we dive into all that, consider this: Adobe, makers of some of our favorite creative marketing software (Photoshop anyone?), recently released the results of their annual survey with responses from 12K+ marketers.
“The ultimate benefit to leading in customer experience is financial,” they found. Companies leading in this area are, “three times as likely to have significantly exceeded their top business goal in 2019.”
If you are not creating a great customer experience (i.e. digital recruiting interactions, an online education and human support system), your prospective and enrolled students are going to opt for another institution – this fall and in future years.
There are bright neon signs that point the way and many are ignoring. Perhaps because they are only looking at singular sign posts and not taking them all in as a whole.1. Economic: US Department of Labor Unemployment Claims
In the past 2 weeks, new unemployment claims hit 10M. Last week's rise in new claims total was 12X any previous week, ever. Oh, except the week just prior that was 6X any previous week, ever.
What that means: besides shocking the hell out of us for the pace of change, it means a whole lot of families just entered financial insecurity. And this is only the beginning of that economic disaster in the US and globally. What of the restaurants that employ so many students so they can afford your tuition?
So, yes, it means many of the students you are counting on right now will not actually show up this fall - online or on campus.
It also means that those well intentioned surveys of student sentiment gathered in March provide us with lovely point-in-time data to marvel at when the reality hits later this spring/summer.
And it also means that you need to find a way to re-package your education offerings in the way they are delivered and how you price them.
Your inclination is likely to continue to seek full tuition from your students who you expect to come to campus this fall. Run the numbers and see what it looks like if you offer 50% off tuition for your fall semester delivered online.
Seriously. Run them. We're not kidding.
And while you do that, you can engage our team to create the recruiting plans to keep your institution afloat long-term.2. Health: Johns Hopkins Corona Virus Resource Center
You’ve checked out the world map of doom, right? It's important for the world’s scientists, government leaders, and the many others trying to fix this thing to dive into the fantastic work Johns Hopkins is doing and the data they are collecting. For the rest of us, we really are not finding anything here other than stress, fascinating as it is.
What this map does tell us, though, is that different countries around the world are dealing with the COVID-19 crisis with varying levels of success. And we know that with a pandemic, the virus is not going to disappear simultaneously everywhere. Until there is a vaccine, there will be hot spots around the world for quite some time, certainly beyond this fall. And that means that you’re going to have trouble accepting students from a variety of locations around the world for a while.
But wait, were we talking about regions around the world? Because we need to be thinking the same way about regions around the US. Different states are addressing the virus with different levels of control. So, about those hot spots? The US is going to have its fair share of them for quite some time: New York City, areas of Florida, many other locations, some rural. How are you going to welcome students from those areas to campus this fall? With a 2-week quarantine perhaps? Look to Asia and Europe and tell us we are wrong about this. Most Latin American countries are not far behind. And the African continent is about to be fully absorbed in this crisis.
Hmmm, this is going to require some planning, assuming students will be willing to come in the first place. And assuming government policies allow travel. With those assumptions in place, are there ways you can entice them and calm their parent's fears? With the growth in virus cases and deaths we are about to see in the US and globally, there will be some very valid fears still in place this fall.
Bottom line: we don't see students joining you on campus this fall. Let's start planning for that possibility now and make the education and social experience you offer really work. There's not much time to make this happen.3. Academic: Association of Governing Boards 2020 Trustee Index
AGB's 2020 Index on the future of Higher Education collected data from US university and college trustees between October 19 – November 3, 2019, well before COVID-19 was on the scene. At that time, “The number of trustees showing concern about the future of the higher education sector over the next decade increased...from 73% to 85% in 2019 – with financial sustainability and price for students and their families as the top drivers of concern.”
Let's squint our eyes just a bit and consider this more carefully. 919 trustee members responded to the survey and 85% expressed institutional financial stability and student costs as their top concerns. And again, that was before COVID-19 spread around the globe and unemployment began to skyrocket.
Our industry was on shaky financial footing before we got here. And now...from the Chronicle of Higher Ed's more recent and sobering story on what university presidents are thinking this week:
Move Forward: What Do Your Consumers Need?
We clearly have some work to do to keep our institutions afloat.
1. Communication Plan
Students and parents are looking to you for reassurance. This is no time to stay silent. Even if you don't yet have a plan.
Make no mistake, you need a plan. And you need to communicate it. You can be a source of confidence about your students' futures. And that is going to require some thinking about your academic offerings, some great technology and a human touch (so to speak).
Tell them what you know now and what you anticipate (with your COVID Caveat clearly stated).
2. New Academic Configurations
That ability to adapt that you want to see in your graduating classes? It's time for your institution (faculty and administrators) to demonstrated it.
How you package your online offerings into smaller bite-size chunks will be important this fall and beyond. How do these classes feed into a degree? is there something of value that is less than a degree? Newly designed certificates to help make students employable in the near term while the job market is in the gutter?
Your versatility is imperative, right now.
3. Technology Platforms
The technology platforms that can deliver great academic content are out there. There are plenty of options to fit different institutions. We know what we think works. (Let's talk: firstname.lastname@example.org).
4. Human and Artificial Support
Online endeavors require human support systems. To help your faculty use these platforms well, to help your students be successful, to demonstrate to the world (and to your future students) that you know what you are doing and can deliver on your educational mission, you need the tech tools and the human support that must accompany them.
And underneath much of it will be the artificial intelligence that automates some things, filters others, and delivers clear priority actions to the human beings running the show. That’s what AI does (among other things). It helps to identify and elevate the priority tasks to humans while the system manages the mundane tasks on its own.
Intead partners with best-in-class service providers to get these tools and support systems in place for you. Our consulting teams are implementing end-to-end student enrollment and retention services:
- Student Marketing: Scale application pools by generating and nurturing leads we produce and those produced by your institution. The Intead Student Digital Orientation can share your important information with admitted students and prepare them for everything that needs to happen to enroll this fall. Additional tech tools, like really smart chatbots and creative digital campaigns, can produce the highly qualified leads you are looking for, domestically and internationally.
- Enrollment Management: Efficiently manage enrollment with multiple campuses, agents, counselors, inquiries, and applications with a single dashboard, which can be integrated with your current systems in place.
- Distance Learning: Deliver online education putting your classroom content into a platform that works intuitively, even for faculty who really don't want to do this. And get those faculty the human on-call tech support that will guide and support them along the way. Students will find these platforms demonstrate your strengths far more than the hastily implemented Zoom class.
- Student Assessment: Assess student skills with online exam proctoring tools -- English as a second language and all of your online/distance learning assessments.
- Student and Faculty Support: Foster success with artificial intelligence tools that can support faculty and let student mentors know when students are falling behind. We can put in place AI powered job readiness and interview tools paired with human support online to help your students and others with job readiness and interview training. Consider how useful this will be as jobs are going to become much harder to find and secure.
Consider: what do you bring to the table to move your plans forward? What would help you make these plans a reality? What are your next steps?
You know where to find us. We can help you build and execute the entire plan, tech platforms and all. We have the industry references to prove it.
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