Higher ed institutions put students back on the streets after covid-19.

Two administrators at Cal Poly Pomona recalled the impact of COVID-19 on enrollment and retention at their institution in a recent call to action. Various. In the spring of 2021, they were reviewing the latest enrollment data and were surprised. “Suddenly, looking at our projections, we were at 80 percent of our goal. it was [such] “We need to reconfirm our numbers,” said Jessica Wagoner, senior associate vice president for enrollment management and services at Cal Poly Pomona. “We were looking at one of the worst retention rates we’ve seen in some time,” Wagoner said. We were able to get students back, but it wasn’t easy.

Jessica WagonerWagoner added that her colleague, Dr. Cecilia Santiago-Gonzalez, “had a very difficult time figuring out why students were not re-enrolling.”

Santiago Gonzalez, vice president of strategic initiatives for student success, said “Billy Chat,” an artificial intelligence texting robot, helped. The school’s chatbot guide to help students through the re-enrollment process also helps administrators determine what problems students are having so they can develop solutions. The Student Success Team launched an interactive campaign led by Billy Chat, asking students to respond to a series of questions about why they are not enrolled.

“We found administrative things we could do better,” Santiago-Gonzalez recalls.

“Most of them [unregistered] Students said they don’t know what to take; “Many of the 2020 cohort of students who have never been on campus or met an advisor failed,” she said, adding that the Covid-19 restrictions — keeping students off campus and personal contact with classmates and advisors — on 2021 re-enrollment issues.

“For example, we boarded students, so the students didn’t have casual conversations with other students like in the cafeteria. Hundreds of students think they’re registered but haven’t gone through our registration system, forgetting to hit the register button – something as simple as that.

Wagoner said, “Some [issues] There were financial or mental health crises. she told the student newspaper. Poly PostIn the year In November 2020, “We know this epidemic is hitting first-generation, low-income students hardest. We have had a significant increase in requests for financial assistance.

Thanks to the information found in Billy’s campaign, it was possible to solve the problems. “The beautiful thing is that we can respond to students,” says Santiago-Gonzalez. The university immediately gives counselors the ability to view students’ shopping carts to see if a student’s class is in the cart. They also held some evening and weekend events to reach non-participating students.

Cal Poly Pomona’s retention challenges mirror the experiences of other institutions.

Reach HBCU

Dr. Josiah SampsonDr. Josiah SampsonDr. Josiah J. Sampson III is Vice President of Enrollment Management at Jackson State University, a historically black institution in Mississippi. JSU is looking to recover from the 2020 semester, he said. “Jackson State and other institutions are seeing significant growth this fall from an academic standpoint in enrollment for the fall of 2020,” Sampson says. Various. “The virtual platform – we’ve used it, but not everyone is comfortable with it – leaves us with a great sense of isolation, so to go back from virtual to physical, the engagement is much better in physical.

“Students, faculty and parents have been vocal that virtual reality is not the preferred option,” said Sampson, who came to JSU in January 2022 amid some Covid restrictions. But, now that the campus has transitioned to a physical school, Sampson said, “I’m very comfortable that anyone who stopped during the pandemic is back this time.”

He pointed out that the epidemic has placed an additional responsibility on institutions “to be able to know the needs of the students, who cannot communicate their feelings in a better way.”

In terms of strategic planning at JSU, Sampson believes it’s important for the institution to be “progressive in the program — to create ways to stress, to breathe, to release things that can cause internal stress.” For example, he mentions “Having a mental health day in the middle of the week – ‘Walk in the sun’… to get students in touch with themselves.”

Like other institutions, JSU believes some students are facing financial hardship at home due to the pandemic, an issue Sampson believes should be approached with understanding. “Coming out of the pandemic there may be more financial hardship, someone may be out of a job at home, so we need to provide emergency or gap funding so that students don’t feel left out — without compromising their dignity,” Sampson says. We cannot allow students to disappear on their own.

Best practices and programs

The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) and its partner organization, the Urban Service Universities Alliance (USU), have supported several institutions with initiatives designed to improve student retention and increase academic achievement. USU Director Andrea Rodriguez listed some of the university’s innovative programs that USU has supported financially and academically. Most of the programs were primarily in-person and had to be adapted for online purposes during the pandemic.

Andrea RodriguezAndrea Rodriguez• At Portland State University, what Rodriguez describes as “exit HSI,” two programs target students who dropped out during the pandemic. Endline targets those with less than two days left to graduate. Victory Lane, funded by an $880,000 grant from the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC), is a two-year initiative to re-enroll and support underrepresented students who have dropped out of PSU. Portland State was one of four Oregon institutions to receive aid from the HECC.

• Florida International University, a Hispanic-serving institution, established a practice of accessing support resources across the curriculum and ensures that faculty provide points of reference for students to access those resources and support programs. FIU has developed a tele-health program to support all students (online and in-person) – on-the-job.

• Georgia State University’s use of predictive analytics for non-enrolled students has enabled the university to provide proactive interventions. Unaccompanied students are contacted, encouraged to participate, and provided with computers and hotspots to bridge any digital divide.

• The University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (UWM) established a holistic care team focused on fostering connections across campus to quickly connect students to services. They hired a retention technology manager to expand their presence in the digital space through Navigate, a student success management system, and Mainstay, an AI chatbot. UWM has launched a campaign to reach out to students who are not taking courses during the first weeks of school. These students were then contacted and offered assistance in getting engaged or making the necessary corrections to their records. They also launched a new strategy to address students who fall in the “dark middle,” with increased access to information and financial incentives for first-year success.

According to Rodriguez, the experiences of the pandemic have broadened the perspective of student success. “It’s no longer just about getting the students to graduate,” she says. “It’s about making sure the students graduate and their academic journey isn’t challenged… like housing, laptops, or anything that might hinder them from moving forward.

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