How COVID-19 Has Affected Enrollment for Students and Universities

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College campuses across the nation look a lot different since COVID-19 rocked the world. Some post-secondary institutions have remained fully-online while others are offering a hybrid of virtual and in-person courses. Even for colleges offering in-person learning, the campuses and classrooms look drastically different from the norm. Processes and procedures have been revised to protect students as well as faculty and staff.

No matter which route organizations have taken to find the balance between offering students a quality education and keeping them safe, COVID-19 has negatively affected the enrollment and retention rate. This leaves students at a disadvantage when it comes to progressing their career and is detrimental to institutions being able to make ends meet. Let’s take an in-depth look at why this has happened and how Engine Academy can help educational organizations turn the situation into a win-win for everybody.

Enrollment from Student’ Perspectives

As the pandemic continues, students have been faced with the decision of whether to begin or continue with their post-secondary education. There are many factors that students must consider including taking into account how COVID-19 has impacted other facets of their lives.

Insecurity About the Future

Many students have found themselves thrust from knowing what their future holds to facing insecurities. For many, this is the loss of jobs and financial resources that were meant to sustain students as they completed their degrees. Now many are struggling just to pay the bills and keep their families afloat. For others, it is the loss of childcare or the need to care for disabled family members.

According to a recent national survey from Simpson and Scarborough, 40% of incoming freshman said that it is likely or highly likely that they would not attend college in the fall. Another 40% admitted that they would probably change their minds about which institution to attend.

Prior to COVID-19, decisions about which college to attend had as much to do with what the campus experience had to offer as it did the degree programs themselves. Now, priorities have shifted and students are more focused on the cost of tuition as well as which campuses offer the type of courses that they are comfortable with and help them learn best (online, hybrid, in-person).


Fear of COVID-19

Understandably, the fear of COVID-19 is very real. This is especially true for those who either have underlying health conditions or family members that do. For many the risk is not worth potentially putting their lives or the lives of their loved ones at risk.

Lack of College Experience

Incoming freshmen lack college experience. Without an understanding of the value of what they are missing out on, it is just as easy to choose to go to work and make money as opposed to attending college.

Enrollment from College’s Perspectives

Enrollment from the perspective of college admissions is no less complicated. Post-secondary institutions are challenged with finding a balance between keeping the lights on and providing a safe learning environment for students. With the onset of COVID-19, campuses were faced with having to make major changes very quickly. These changes included the implementation of online learning systems, revising in-person classes to meet COVID-19 best practices, and providing the remote support students need to stay on track and feel confident in their degree path.

Loss of Students

While the focus of colleges is to provide a quality education that betters the lives of students, adequate funds are needed to make this happen. Large numbers of students choosing not to attend college due translates into massive loss of funds needed to make ends meet. For many campuses the drastic drop in enrollment has raised the question of whether institutions will be able to keep their doors open.

The Need to Attract and Retain Students Safely

According to a recent survey, 60% of admissions professionals reported that they were very concerned about meeting their enrollment goals. Campuses are faced with attracting and retaining students safely. Tips for minimizing the drop in enrollment rates include:

  • Revise acceptance standards – It may be time to consider accepting students who would not have made the cut beforehand.

  • Be transparent – Make sure that prospective students understand the safety protocols in place, expectations, and how their college experience will look. Transparency and honesty can help alleviate fears and anxiety students have about enrolling in college.

  • Personalized communication – Ramp up personalized communication with both current and prospective students so that you can get a read on where in the process students are getting hung up and take action to remedy any hesitations.

The Costs of Implementing Online Programs is Costly

Most campuses, prior to COVID-19 already offered a few online or hybrid courses to students. However, these online systems were nowhere near robust enough to accommodate a full online learning model. The cost of having to quickly design and launch a campus wide online learning system has been a hard hit financially for many institutions.

At the same time that colleges have incurred a massive financial blow, students are expecting decreased tuition costs due to the inability to have the “full college experience”.

How Engine Academy Can Help 

The bottom line is that the process of enrolling is different and poses more challenges for both students and educational institutions than ever before. Students are struggling to navigate life decisions that are best for them at the moment while planning for their future. On the other hand, colleges are just trying to make ends meet while providing a quality education.

The key is for post-secondary organizations to meet students where they are and help them along the enrollment process so that everybody wins. Engine is dedicated to helping colleges across the country facilitate the needs of students and increase their enrollment and retention rates. This is accomplished through numerous training and development programs as well as invaluable podcasts that will help your admissions team transform the way they recruit new students and incentivize current ones.

Click here to learn more about all that Engine has to offer and how your institution can beat the COVID-19 enrollment slump.

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