Testing institutional data can identify uncommon, high-yield student pipelines
It’s no secret that the push to increase enrollment is a common challenge for institutions. This push seems to be even more of a priority after a drop in enrollment due to COVID-19. College enrollment as decreased at twice the rate of the decline from fall 2019 to fall 2020. Current college enrollment declined by 2.5%, or 400,000 students according to Inside Higher-Ed. Spring enrollment was down 5.9% in March 2021 compared to the same time in 2020. Which leads to the overall postsecondary enrollment to drop 4.2% according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Most of the decline in enrollment comes from high school graduates choosing not to go straight to college.
Typically, higher ed institutions aim for enrollment increases for first time freshmen and returning students that have not completed their degree. Maybe it’s time institutions push for enrollment of a different population- dual enrollment high school students. National studies of dual enrollment programs have found to have positive effects on students’ degree attainment and college access and enrollment. Dual enrollment programs consist of courses taught by college-approved high school teachers in a secondary environment or courses taken on college campuses by high school students
While working with an institution on enrollment solutions, the SightLine team discovered an uncommon, high-yield student population in applicants: students coming in with college credits, mostly from dual enrollment programs. In the visual below, each dot represents a prospective student. You can see that the probability of enrollment, shown on the Y-axis, is higher for students with three or more college credits. Students with zero college credit have on average a 25% probability of enrolling at this institution, and those with just three college credits on average exceed a 50% probability of enrolling. Optimally, students with around 15 incoming college credits had over an 85% probability of enrolling. This includes first time freshmen and early transfer students. This indicated that expanding the dual enrollment program should increase overall full-time enrollment at the institution.
Since first-time students with prior college credit are more likely to enroll, the VP of Enrollment at this institution continued advocating for low cost (or even free) dual enrollment programs. This VP hopes that students participating in the dual enrollment program would then enroll full time as first-time freshmen after graduating high school.
Because high school enrollment has remained steady and dual enrollment programs have been increasing by about 7% per year prior to COVID, encouraging students to participate in dual enrollment programs is a recruitment option for colleges. Keeping tuition prices low for dual enrollment is a way to encourage more students and school districts to participate.
Communication of dual enrollment programs and benefits is key. Institutions should be working with local school districts and schools to advertise dual enrollment opportunities to sophomore and juniors when they are making course selections for the next year. Dual enrollment should be marketed as a way for students to experience college courses at a low cost and to get a head start on degree requirements at that institution. Targeted outreach sent to graduating seniors that participated in dual enrollment courses at the end of the school year helps remind them that they have college credit at that institution. This may lead to those students choosing to attend the institution where their dual enrollment credits were earned over another institution where the credits may not transfer.
Sightline’s solutions for enrollment led to this discovery at one institution. Additional analysis is recommended to develop a regional or demographic-based recruitment program for dual enrollment. SightLine can help institutions to quantify the potential student pipeline for converting dual enrolled students into full time incoming students. We can also estimate the long-term return on investment that may be realized by reducing tuition for dual enrolled students while recovering the revenue once they enroll as a full-time student. Not every institution is the same and there is no silver bullet solution to increasing enrollment. Other institutions may have a different high-yield student pipelines that can be identified in the data. For this institution, the steady enrollment of high school students, and advocating to increase dual enrollment programs may be key to their long-term growth and sustainability.