Each year, many students are admitted to colleges or universities but don’t ever make it to class. This can be a serious setback for a student’s educational plans, as well as the loss of tuition for the school. Below are four main roadblocks and what school administrators can do to help students overcome them.
This is a top issue for most students. Sometimes they apply to a particular school only find out that the money isn’t there after all: the family is turned down for a loan, the hoped-for scholarship went to someone else, a parent is suddenly laid off, and so on.
Take Action: While some factors may not be under a school’s control, administrators can help prevent this scenario by instructing all new students to apply for any applicable financial aid and scholarships at the outset, long before classes begin. Encouraging prospective students to check back frequently as well as report any changes in their financial status to you immediately can help prevent unnecessary drop-outs.
Many students believe many myths about scholarships, such as that they are only eligible while in high school and that they are competing with thousands of people for every scholarship. List scholarship resources and the truth about how to apply/win a scholarship on your website. A myth-buster section will catch students’ eyes and help dispel misinformation.
If the student is a veteran of the US military, the Veteran’s Administration offers a number of options for paying for schooling – some of which can be utilized while the prospective student is still on active duty.
I was accepted to attend college at a large western university. The deadline for the housing application was March 31st, however the school ran out of rooms in housing well before. This was a predicament for me, an out-of-state student. While I found off-campus housing, a students who wasn’t ready to live on her own would have been dissuaded from attending the school.
Many schools do not have adequate housing for incoming freshmen, let alone the rest of the student population. While some students may relish living off campus, the shock of college is compounded for 17- and 18-year-olds when they are forced to live on their own in apartments or shared housing. For some of these students (and their parents), school gets pushed to the back burner or students choose to attend school nearer home. Either way, your school loses the enrollment.
Take Action: If you know your on-campus housing cannot accommodate all incoming freshman, notify students of this when they are accepted. Urge students who want to live on campus to apply immediately and well before the deadline. For those who will have to live off-campus, you can help them find safe housing and educate them on best practices for living independently. Maybe your school could host an apartment fair, where nearby apartment complex representatives can meet with student and parents to help them feel comfortable making housing decisions. I know a complex near Arizona State University offers to pair incoming students in two or four-bedroom apartments, so out-of-staters who don’t know anyone won’t be forced to live alone (and foot the bill for living alone).
The U.S. Department of Education relies on the FAFSA verification process to ensure student submitted data matches their documentation. Colleges are required to submit four million students and their families to verification every year. A variety of issues caused by verification may lead to a student not fulfilling the requirements and attending school:
- Not enough time. Many school’s verification process takes a month or more during peak times, meaning a student might not have funding in time to pay for school.
- Not understanding forms. If you like understatements, here’s one: The FAFSA and IRS websites are confusing and lack clarity.
- Documents lost in the mail. A frightening possibility of sending sensitive documents via snail mail is that they may be lost in route to the school.
- Technology barrier. Lack of access to a computer and scanner might prevent students or their parents from submitting documents in a timely manner or at all.
Take Action: Financial aid directors (FAD) have more options available to them now than ever before to increase efficiency by automating operations and implementing software solutions. Many are rooted in traditional methods – even communicating with students primarily on paper with manual processes – but more FADs are embracing software that saves their departments time and money. StudentVerification, an automated student self-service portal, allows students and their parents to upload documents to a secure platform by simply snapping a picture with their smartphone. Schools have real-time monitoring capabilities, meaning verifications can be processed faster than ever.
Not all students enter college at the same level of readiness. While some may be the children of involved parents with college experience, other students come from disadvantaged or unstable family backgrounds, such as homelessness, which is on the rise nationwide. Still more students may have attended a community college but need help transitioning to a more formal and structured university environment, especially if they lived at home and are now on their own for the first time.
Take Action: As with the example set by California State University (CSU), steps should be taken at the onset to identify those students in need of transitioning help, including determining the degree of readiness as part of a transfer student’s experience, and helping them chart a path to graduation through remedial classwork, testing and other means. Programs such as CSU’s Super Sunday events are targeted to African American students during February to provide enrollment and mentoring information to prospective students and their families.
Close the Gap
In the gap between admitted students and actual attendees lies a body of students who need your help. Determine the reasons they throw in the towel so your school can act to prevent more lost enrollments.
What other programs or initiatives have you seen work to salvage these students?