Enrollment process gets more personal

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New strategies implemented to make process easier

By Valerie Velikaya

An inventive and more personable way of approaching potential students has been acquired by the col­lege in the hopes of seeing an increase in enrollment rates and overall student satisfaction.

The Constituent Relationship Man­agement software system (CRM), called Sugar, was purchased two years ago and implemented last year. The goal of the new software is to lessen the complexity of the application process, which may have previously dissuaded individuals from completing the form and joining the college.

“Potential students have indicated they got frustrated with the technol­ogy,” said Alicia Bredehoeft, faculty chair of Counseling. “I know just this month after a year and a half of testing, we have instituted a brand new appli­cation that is much more web-based, and is easier to navigate and more in­tuitive.”

Jane Shipley, Program Director, Suc­cess Center, agreed, “there have been some hitches in that online process that make it difficult for students to com­plete it.”

Students like Mariana Mizik have experienced mixed results, but believe Sugar will benefit future applicants.

“If they’re still having trouble logging in it’s going to help them,” said Mizik.

Mizik did not experience difficulties during the application process, but stu­dents like Katrina McCane understand there are some flaws in the system.

“Yeah, I mean there were some parts that were confusing. I remember I had troubles with all the FAFSA stuff,” Mc­Cane said.

Other institutions like KU and K-State have similar systems, which keep track of the application process and pick up on whether somebody had discon­tinued the system, simply overlooked or didn’t understand a question or two.

Dennis Day, vice president of Stu­dent Success and Engagement, said he thinks students will “find that [Sugar] is a little more intuitive.”

Day recalled a recent incident involv­ing an individual who had forgotten to finish the application process. Instances such as these put Sugar in motion.

“[The student] thought she was done so she didn’t go to the second page to see that everything was correct, and then it would go through – you would submit it,” he said. “So I said, ‘Well, is it okay if we submit it for you?’ and she said, ‘Oh, yeah!’”

The system would make it less dif­ficult for the college to contact people, following up on whether they remain interested in pursuing an education here or if they’ve moved on elsewhere, said Pete Belk, director, Admissions.

“For the new CRM, we’re going to have quicker and better ways of doing that follow-up. It’s always been in our list of things to want to do but because we just now got the software we’d be able to do that,” said Belk. “We’d be able to send out additional emails and get an easier list of folks to make the call too, and actually further track where they went and all their responses within that software.”

“What it is, ultimately, it allows us to understand you as a student bet­ter,” said Day. “Before, you were just a sheet of paper and you just filled that in, whether it’s on the computer or paper, you just filled it in and it just went.”

The goal is to intrigue potential stu­dents, providing them with information pertaining to their interests. If it’s a career in writing, the college will give an individual facts of careers related to that job, the wages as well as what the school offers.

“For a lot of people, it’s a conscious decision to try to go to school at some point but they can’t do it right away, so at what moment in time is that an important decision? It’s when it’s important to them then it has to be important to us,” said Day.

Hoping to escalate enrollment rates, down by 5 percent this semester as well as establish a more personable learning experience, new forms of recruitment have been created to better guide one through the maze of higher education.

Alongside the brand new software, the school has put recruiters into full effect.

Recruiters “go out to the high schools, do host events here on campus, go to college fairs, do the traditional high school recruitment,” said Belk.

Shipley who is in charge of the comparatively new Student Success Advocates program, launched on March 24, has “really kind of taken off to new heights.”

Like Sugar, the Student Success Advocates initiative will break the barrier between students and the college.

The recruiting program is made up of part-time employees and students at the college with or working on various degrees.

Along with the new application process, students will notice other changes in the school: desks will be lowered for face-to-face interaction, referrals will  be made for students who are interested in particular departments, and counselors will contact students after-the-fact.

“It’s going to be much more engaging, and much more student development oriented in helping them and the Student Success Advocates are going to help these students connect with the resources […] we’re really doing much more retention oriented,” said Bredehoeft.

Of course, all of these new initiatives are a work-in-progress, and it takes action from all participating individuals to make this college successful compared to other schools in the metropolitan area.

Bredehoeft said, “I think there’s some things a student has to do, should be expected to do, and there’s things that the college should be expected to do because education is a commitment both financially and timewise.”

Contact Valerie Velikaya, news editor, vvelikay@jccc.edu.

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