The best college growth strategies will help increase college retention and attract committed, astute faculty and students. There are many ways to achieve successful institutional growth that fulfill the needs of students, whose perception of college is often fogged by fear and scepticism. Colleges must develop more proactive growth strategies to compete in their market share without sacrificing quality. This article discusses the best growth strategies for colleges and explains the importance and process of developing a good strategy.
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Why College Growth Strategies are Important
Institutional growth is conducive to the growth of students and faculty. Colleges need to continue to innovate and expand to serve the needs of these individuals. Infrastructural defects can negatively alter the best practices for student retention in higher education, for example, so it’s important to evaluate strategies and dispense with ineffective ones. Universities and colleges remain two of the primary arenas for producing social change. It is incumbent on these institutions, then, to develop growth strategies that are receptive to the demands of society and the communities in which they operate.
Consider the most important reasons for student enrollment choices, which you can leverage to establish creative ways to increase college enrollment:
Because students are basing part of their decisions on affordability and academic quality, colleges need to introduce better financial aid options and bring more engaging learning formats into the classroom.
How Do I Know Which College Growth Strategies Will Work?
Every strong growth strategy should recognize that colleges and universities are designed to enable the production of new knowledge. This means that it’s important for both teachers and students to have their voices heard regarding what they want out of their learning. Growth strategies should be applicable and actionable; they should do the following:
- Reflect changes in the workforce: because one of the most important factors for prospective students choosing which college to attend are graduation outcomes/career opportunities, colleges will need to employ the best graduate school recruitment strategies and adapt to changes in the job market.
- Appeal to globalization: in an increasingly globalized higher education context, it’s important for colleges to be open to new ideas and perspectives. Emphasizing all forms of diversity will help attract students not just in your region, but across the globe. For instance, many schools will begin to offer exchange programs to facilitate cross-cultural learning.
- Emphasize quality: allow students and faculty to be proactive in their learning environment and community. You will need to offer a variety of expansive and innovative learning resources, particularly in the realm of research, to strengthen the quality of your programs. Focusing on research excellence will also help attract students from other countries and states/provinces who want to work in a state-of-the-art environment. You can also provide other ancillary services, such as essay workshops for students.
- Accessibility: the most significant barrier preventing people from entering college is financial inaccessibility. The definition of what it means to be an affordable institution changes by the year. Colleges will need to start offering better financial aid options and scholarships to remove some of these barriers.
- Build better leaders: as employers tend to value strong leadership skills and values for almost any role, it’s important to develop programs that help students develop these skills. To complement this method of increasing graduation outcomes, you can host an interview skills workshop for students, which can significantly increase graduate hiring rates.
The Best College Growth Strategies
#1 Offer Better Financial Aid and Scholarships
With affordability being the main concern for most college applicants, the onus is on colleges to offer financial aid options that can remove these barriers and improve the likelihood that other potential students will apply. Most financial aid programs take the following forms:
Part of a strong dropout prevention strategy for colleges is above-benchmark financial aid opportunities to attract students who will contribute to the institution and community. However, to be in a position to augment current financial aid strategies or introduce new scholarships, colleges will have to accrue sufficient wealth. Consider the following ways to grow revenue streams:
- Endowment funds: an endowment fund is a sum of money received from organizational and individual donors that is used to support the institution’s mission and goals. These funds help an institution financially stabilize, so that it can leverage other sources of revenue.
- Auxiliary enterprises: an auxiliary enterprise is a non-academic entity that generates support for a school’s research and mission, usually by providing students and faculty with various goods and services, such as housing. Other items include dining services, events, vending machines, campus bookstores, and parking and transportation.
- Sports: many schools generate revenue through athletic programs. Selling tickets for sporting events such as football and basketball allows colleges to re-invest in long-term financial aid options. Investing in athletic programs can also attract other students if colleges also offer athletic scholarships.
#2 Develop Strong Partnerships
Colleges can benefit significantly from strategic partnerships that allow them to diversify educational activities for students and faculty. The terms of these institutional relationships often vary quite considerably depending on the industry and contributions therein. For example, medical schools in the US will often affiliate with research centers or hospitals and clinics to provide students with research opportunities and field experience. Colleges can also partner with companies, such as academic consulting services, to advertise benefits to students that increase program allure.
Consider these best practices for developing strong, long-term partnerships:
- Academic consulting companies: academic consulting companies like BeMo offer partnership programs in which students are given access to admissions and career coaching services. For instance, if students are applying to graduate programs, BeMo will assign the student an expert admissions counsellor to help them develop interviewing skills and excellent application materials. This type of partnership can help colleges develop more compelling recruitment campaigns and increase student retention.
- Consortiums: as concerns mount over the costs of tuition and living as a college student, partnerships called consortiums represent a tenable solution. Consortiums are a coalition of institutions that enable resource sharing. Aside from allowing colleges to split costs on certain investments, students will be able to access different resources at each affiliated institution. In this arrangement, faculty members can also collaborate and support one another on research and curriculum developments.
- Capstone projects: capstone projects are culminating experiences in which students demonstrate aptitude in their respective field. There are many interchangeable formats for these projects, but they typically entail an experiential, writing, and research element. Companies can sponsor capstone projects, so that students can develop pertinent skills in a relevant setting, such as a research laboratory. Colleges can then use completed capstone projects to advertise the opportunity for prospective applicants.
#3 Improve Operational Efficiency
Sometimes, inefficient operations are part of the reason colleges don’t see as much growth as they have the potential for. Having administrative efficiency, apt student support services, and strong faculty and instructional staff will help colleges develop more flexible and appealing benefits for students. And because your operations determine most of your ability to grow as an institution, it’s essential to have everything organized.
Consider the following benefits of having a strong operational system:
There are lots of ways to improve operational efficiency, but here are some of the best:
- Automate some processes: most higher learning institutions can automate at least some document-driven and even some curriculum development processes. With a growing emphasis on flexible learning options, one of the best online student recruitment strategies implements remote learning classes and activities. Other administrative tasks you can automate include transcripts, admissions management, and financial aid documentation.
- Improve communications: good communication is essential for colleges that want to modify their processes. You will need to reach out frequently to students through email, text, or call to ask them about their progress and if there’s anything you can help with. Internally, you can establish a departmental operating procedure to send urgent and casual reminders and updates about changes.
- Aggregate feedback: to measure the strength of your programs, you will need to collect and unify data from students and faculty. For example, schools will have food plans, student activities, research, and campus safety initiatives, all of which contribute to the quality of student life and to someone’s decision to apply to a certain school. Bringing students into the feedback loop will help you evaluate program quality and make changes if necessary.
#4 Make Better Use of Data
The great thing about tracking data is that you can use them to make predictions about student attrition. Some colleges and universities notice a stark contrast between the number of students who enroll in classes in their first year compared to the second. High dropout rates indicate dissatisfaction with classes, the cost of living/tuition, and campus quality. Fortunately, if you use an accurate and unified data management system, you can detect and prevent student dropout. You can also use data to promote student/faculty achievement, identify gaps and new learning opportunities, and invest in the right growth strategies.
If you don’t already have a strong data management system or you’re looking to improve yours, then there are some things you should keep in mind:
- Use accessible tools: you might be overwhelmed by the amount of data management software or systems. To make the choice easier, focus on user-friendly options. Ask yourself the following questions: can anyone, regardless of experience, use this system? Is data clear and actionable? Is the system secure? Can I use it to make decisions and inform campus interventions or programs?
- Be transparent: while it isn’t necessary to advertise certain metrics or insights you’ve gained from data collection, it’s important to be clear about what you’re measuring and how the data are being used. For example, the admissions page on your website might benefit from a statistical breakdown of student demographics to demonstrate diversity. Transparency is key to identifying the needs of students and helping them realize their potential.
- Encourage action: the data management system you use should lead to explicit changes in your processes, which is why it’s important for the data to be relevant and shared. Instructors can use certain data segments to adjust lesson plans or change the learning structure, such as increasing class participation or providing individual feedback on essays or quizzes.
#5 Promote and Refine Your School’s Mission
A successful institution can’t function or develop effective growth strategies without a defined mission and plan. Overhaul your mission with a cohesive, distinct message about what your school represents, values, and strives for. Some colleges overlook the importance of an incisive mission that unifies departments and students – unfortunately, foregoing this strategy precludes the development of an empowered faculty and student body.
A good school mission should do the following:
Here’s what you can do to ensure your mission resonates with current and future students/faculty:
- Consult: if your goal is to curate a mission statement that transcends disparate backgrounds and cultures, languages, and even locations, you need to consult the people within those cohorts. International student recruitment strategies can include talking directly to staff, students, and other members of the community to find out what they value about the school, and how they envision progress.
- Checks and balances: you need to quantify your achievements to see how they can shape future institutional developments. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses as an institution will help you show that you’re committed to making a positive change in your school community.
- Make it actionable: your mission statement should direct your institution with actionable goals. You need to embrace and improve upon your strengths but also leave room to embark on a path that exceeds the expectations of your target audience – namely, your students.
1. Why are college growth strategies important?
Growth strategies are your institution’s foundation for success. Growth in this context is conducive to a more productive contribution to society, which is the ultimate aim for attending students.
2. What constitutes a great growth strategy?
Excellent growth strategies will benefit students the most. One of the model growth strategies that you can implement in multiple ways is a partnership. For instance, academic consulting partnerships like BeMo’s will provide admissions counselling and career coaching.
3. What are some factors that influence the growth of an institution?
A few notable factors include strong leadership, making growth a top priority in cooperating departments, the recognition of the potential for growth, and a comprehensive strategy.
4. What are some barriers that hinder college growth?
Some challenges that colleges face include the need for flexible learning models, diverse endowment funds and income streams, the need for better financial aid, and a compelling response to the growing concern with the return on investment (ROI) for attending college.
5. Is a school mission really that important?
Because a school mission will define your goals and help you evaluate the strength of your growth strategies, having a compelling mission is essential. Advertising your mission will also help recruit top students who value the same things.
6. What is the relevance of a data management system?
A data management system can help you detect and prevent student attrition to address it more quickly and effectively. Data-driven solutions also tend to be more robust and comprehensive when combined with the evaluative judgments of students and faculty.
7. How can I improve organizational efficiency?
There are many ways to improve organizational efficiency, but here are some of the best: automate select processes (e-learning, administration, etc.), improve communications, and aggregate feedback to address the needs of students.
8. What makes the consortium an example of a good partnership?
Consortiums are coalitions between institutions to enable the sharing of resources. Aside from potentially leading to more affordable investment options, students will have access to the resources supplied by more than one institution, significantly enhancing learning outcomes and opportunities.
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