Would you settle for a 30% retention rate? Neither should colleges.

In our last blog, Higher education is desperate to lure more of Gen Z. How will they succeed?,  we focused on how Colleges and Universities are bolstering their efforts to attract Gen Z as new-student enrollments continue to drop. The college strategies we reviewed are applicable to any business looking forward to Gen Z or serving them today. Of course, onboarding is just part of the story. The next challenge for higher education is retention – how to keep Gen Z engaged and enrolled through to graduation.


According to the most recent statistics available, 59.4% of students do not graduate from 4-year institutions and 70% of students do not graduate from 2-year institutions. It’s a sad statistic for our young people, the colleges they attend and our nation as a whole — especially when you consider that a majority are lower-income, minority students who may be the first in their family to attend college.


What are college’s doing to hold onto students?


Grassroots efforts have been documented by many professors who identified at-risk students. In one example involving a large lecture-hall-style class, a professor pulled failing students into a separate smaller class where both student and teacher were more able to directly engage with one another. As a result, the students raised their grades and performed in accordance with the rest of their classmates. Marketers could look at this as a small-scale example of Customer Experience (CX) optimization. In fact, many colleges are discovering that CX-like tactics are the key to retention and boosting graduation rates, including…


Nurture Programs: Campuses are using technology that constantly tracks performance and hiring professional advising staffs to assist students. Georgia State, where half of the students are first-generation college attendees, they are using big data to determine patterns of success and failure. They run trial programs with 100 to 200 students to see which ideas (tutoring, scholarship supplements, etc.) work best.


Re-engagement Campaigns: Many students leave with the intention of coming back but never do. This is where a timely re-engagement plan is key. Analyzing a student’s profile will often reveal reasons why they leave, including external commitments that conflict with coursework. Reaching out to a student will often reveal a solution that has the power to bring them back to complete a degree.


The fact is, Gen Z students think and act like customers. They have high expectations as consumers of high-quality customer-centric services such as UBER and Amazon. As is the case with any customer, recognizing situations that put your relationship at risk is paramount to retention. Most situations can be resolved with the right communication and solution delivered at the right time.




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