Combat Dropping Enrollment Rates: See What This Community College is Doing To Bring in More Students

By Josh Barrer | Published March 28, 2022 | Categories: Web Development , Higher Education , Case Studies

proud and happy student

Students come to community colleges for many different reasons.

Some students use community colleges as a place to explore their interests and get general education credits before transferring to a traditional four-year school. Other students choose community colleges specifically to take part in the career training and certification programs these schools offer. Some students are at different points in their lives than the typical high school graduate and choose community colleges for the flexibility and wide range of programs they offer.

But like many schools today, community colleges are struggling to attract and retain students. Enrollment rates at community colleges dropped by about 15% in 2021 compared to the two prior years. Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic had a huge impact but it's not the only factor at play. An unsettled economy, fewer job prospects, and a general uncertainty amongst students about the value of higher education have all taken a toll as well.

Shelley GreeneStill, not all hope is lost for these important schools. To learn more about the challenges that community colleges are facing and some of the measures that can be taken to engage more students, we spoke with Shelley Greene, vice-president for institutional advancement at Randolph Community College (RCC), a community college located in Asheboro, NC.

Beacon was honored to partner last year with Shelley and her team to reimagine and redesign RCC's website. Here, she tells us about some of the challenges she sees community colleges facing, how RCC is working to meet and exceed them, and how digital marketing from Beacon is helping to achieve those goals.

The following has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

How long have you been with RCC and what is your professional background? Did you have experience working with community colleges or higher education before beginning at RCC?

Before joining the College, I was a marketing professional in the utilities industry. I did not have any experience in higher education prior to joining RCC but came from a family of educators.

What are some challenges you see currently facing community colleges in terms of reaching out to and attracting students?

Some of the challenges facing community colleges in reaching out to and attracting students include financial challenges as funding declines, keeping up with technological advances, and finding stability.

How has RCC worked to overcome some of those challenges?

We've utilized a variety of tactics, including:

  • Touting our listing as Top 10 Community College in the United States by SmartAsset.
  • Focusing on the whole student and not just academics. The College offers a Student Assistance Program (SAP) which is available for RCC students and their permanent household members. This program offers help for personal, professional, and school concerns.
  • Implementing a Single Stop Center to help students connect with existing benefits and resources in the community.
  • Implementing the Longleaf Commitment Grant for 2021 High School graduates who plan to attend RCC. Along with the RCC Commitment Grant, Pell grants, state grants, and the RCC Foundation, it's helped many students afford school.
  • Giving approximately 200 students a fresh start by paying off outstanding debt, totaling nearly $113,000.

Aside from lower costs, what are some advantages that a community college may offer over a four-year private school?

RCC has smaller class sizes, open enrollment, and greater flexibility.

20170407-SMB_1135-1.jpgWhat do you think are the most important messages a community college needs to get out to potential students?

The most important messages to communicate to potential students are how a community college can change their lives and open doors, and that a community college offers opportunities for everyone.

What do you view as essential in a good college website?

Clarity and ease of use. A student needs to be able to access the information based on their needs, with content that is “just in time” instead of information by "fire hose."

How has RCC’s website redesign (created in collaboration with Beacon) assisted RCC’s marketing efforts?

RCC can meet the needs of our students using a platform that is easy to navigate. The website navigation is prioritized using a student’s perspective and can be changed as those perspectives change and morph. We can also communicate what we offer in a way that is simple and clear.

Was there anything you found surprising about the process or outcome of participating in a website redesign? Any important lessons learned?

It was a lesson in keeping our students our top priority. It is easy to make changes based on the knowledge of faculty and staff on the campus, but the student’s perspective is the most important (images, copy, navigation, etc.).

Have you or anyone on your team heard any feedback on the redesigned site from students or faculty?

We have received numerous comments on how up-to-date the site looks and the ability to navigate the site on a mobile device.

How would you like to see the public perception of community colleges / RCC evolve? And how can web marketing help that evolution?

The public perception of RCC should continue to evolve as a place that welcomes everyone and that creates opportunities and changes lives. Web marketing helps us show this in a way that has become second nature to most. Our website is a testimony of what we do while pointing prospective students toward resources that can help them become a success story in their own right.

Beacon Can Help Your Community College's Digital Marketing Efforts Too

Are you planning to redesign your school's website to better engage students and meet their needs? Beacon can help. Contact us to get started. We'll help you face any challenge your school may be facing and find digital marketing solutions to keep your enrollment numbers strong.

Let's get to work!

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