Retention is a top concern for college and university leaders, with institutions struggling to keep new and existing students from jumping ship.
According to a recent study, retention rates for higher education students dropped to 66.2 percent in 2019, down from 67 percent the year prior. Additionally, new enrollments also dipped by two percentage points to 73.9 percent, its lowest rate since 2014.
Looking forward, it’s likely there will be a significant enrollment drop between 2025 and 2029. As we explain in a recent post, there is widespread concern about the looming enrollment cliff in higher education due to a steep dip in childbirths during the 2008 recession.
In light of this, college and university leaders need to do everything possible to prevent students from abandoning their commitments. Strong retention is critical for many reasons, like advancing in national college rankings, maintaining a solid reputation, improving student morale, producing generous alumni, and driving revenue. In fact, research suggests a 1 percent increase in student retention could potentially yield a $25 million gain over a seven-year period.
Add it all up, and it’s safe to say that retention is a pretty big deal in higher education. With this in mind, here are some easy ways you can boost retention using technology.
5 Ways to Boost Retention with Technology
1. Deploy chatbots to drive engagement.
Many colleges are adding chatbots to their websites to engage with students, answer questions, and direct them to resources. Chatbots boost student engagement and help them discover self-service tools and useful information at their leisure.
Although chatbots are usually automated, colleges often have live assistants on hand to jump in and answer advanced questions. Versatile by design, chatbots are beneficial for university websites, athletics pages, e-learning portals, and student groups.
2. Connect with students via mobile messaging.
On average, university students now spend as many as six hours on their smartphones every day. That being the case, you can’t go wrong with mobile messaging for communicating with students and improving accessibility.
To this end, many universities are now using SMS and apps like Messenger and WhatsApp to connect students with campus services, academic advisors, and groups. Mobile messaging is an excellent way to engage with students, answer questions, and alert them about activities and updates.
3. Process feedback with artificial intelligence (AI).
Artificial intelligence (AI) helps colleges learn student behaviors and preferences and create programs and activities that align with their interests and needs.
It’s possible to use AI to analyze students’ chatbot responses, social media posts, and online forum posts to process feedback and gauge overall satisfaction. For example, students are often more vocal over digital channels, providing valuable feedback. As such, AI is useful for collecting and analyzing bulk feedback about the food, transportation, library, and athletic services.
4. Use message boards to make your campus more inclusive.
College students often struggle socially—especially on large campuses. It’s easy for students to get lost in the shuffle and feel left out of activities.
Online message boards can be a great way to make campuses more inclusive and welcoming for students. They are useful for posting public notifications inviting students to attend events and connect with fun, interesting clubs.
To illustrate, imagine a freshman who’s struggling socially and discovers a free social event on a campus message board. Reaching that student and influencing them to attend could potentially change how they perceive the institution. And it could make a big difference in having them stick around for the long haul.
5. Send targeted surveys.
Targeted surveys are a great way to find out what students are thinking and collect feedback to optimize the student experience.
Through surveys, you can find out how students feel about their academic studies, housing, advisors, clubs, and campus. Some institutions also choose to issue survey rewards to encourage participation.
Ivy: A Unique Way to Connect with Students and Boost Retention
Ivy helps colleges and universities provide students with important information and updates on their smartphones.
For example, Ivy’s AI chat service provides around-the-clock information through a custom-built virtual assistant. Ivy also offers SMS nudging to automatically send text messages at scale, live chat, multilingual support, and more.
Ivy provides on-the-go assistance for students wherever they are—in classrooms, student groups, libraries, dorms, and everything in between. With Ivy, students will feel more in touch with their university and have an easier time discovering the resources they need to thrive on campus, making a big difference in driving retention.
To see how easy boosting retention can be, take Ivy for a spin by requesting a free demo today.