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5 Ways to Improve Student Enrollment in Faltering Programs

A struggling program doesn’t necessarily mean students aren’t interested.

Many times, when those of us in education talk about failing enrollment, we think of institutions as a whole. If a community college is doing well, it can obscure the fact that the bulk of enrollment is going toward a handful of popular programs, and that others are drawing in only minimal numbers. Conversely, when the institution struggling, it can be harder to identify which programs are in special need of attention to boost falling numbers.

A failing program is rarely the fault of the program itself. Instead, many excellent programs suffer from a lack of marketing resources. Colleges often believe that it is enough to list the program in their course catalog, and that interested students will sign up on their own initiative. They assume that students know what programs they want to take, and don’t need to be sold on the “why” of a community college course.

In fact, the opposite is more often the case. Many of today’s students feel that continuing education after high school is the thing to do, but are wary of college due to high tuition rates. Others are determined to get a college degree, but are having difficulty deciding what program to choose. A well-placed marketing campaign based on high quality information can speak to student needs and encourage them to take the necessary steps to sign up.

By taking the time to assemble a quality marketing campaign, you can inform prospective students about your courses and bolster a struggling program at the same time.

1. Work with the program leader to understand how the current program operates.

Program leaders are more invested than anyone in seeing their courses gain momentum. They also have valuable insights about the inner workings of the course, and may have ideas about what’s holding it back or what can be done to make it more attractive to new students.

Either way, the course leader will be your biggest advocate in helping your program reach more students. They should be in the loop on marketing initiatives so that they can do their part to spread the word.

2. Contact current students within the program or recent graduates to hear their stories.

Current and former students are powerful endorsements for your program. When a prospective student sees a peer describing their experience, it encourages them to step forward and make the commitment themselves. These students are also keenly aware of the doubts and hesitations that a prospective student might have, and can speak to those concerns directly.

Your program leader may know of a student who had an excellent experience with the program. Ask to interview these students to share their stories. If you can film these interviews, that’s even better, as it will give you more opportunities to share that content later.

3. Engage local business leaders to promote hiring opportunities.

Many community colleges have links with local businesses. If your college doesn’t, now is the time to contact them. Reach out to employers in your area to learn whether they look to your college to recruit new employees, and if so, what qualifications they want to see. You may even be able to establish an apprenticeship or intern program with them.

Creating a relationship with local employers can also help you strengthen your programs in ways that match student needs. If an employer mentions a certain qualification they look for when hiring, including that in your program can be a boon to everyone.

4. Promote your program online through social media and sharable articles.

Once you have gathered stories from teachers, students, and employers, share these stories across your marketing channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Use relevant hashtags to draw a larger audience. If you have an especially good interview, you will probably have multiple quotes from the same source that you can publicize.

Video attracts a lot of attention online. A short video ad—even if it’s only 15 or 30 seconds, can reach thousands of people on social media, and it can do so much more affordably than other advertising means. Social platforms offer targeting tools that can help businesses reach audiences that fit a narrow demographic range, or who have expressed interest in certain topics. These tools can help you narrow your ads to reach a very specific group of people, making them all the more effective.

5. Create print resources to distribute via mail and to leave with high school guidance counselors.

While digital media is incredibly effective, don’t overlook the power of print. Brochures and other print resources are more durable than digital, and this can create a lasting impression in the minds of those who receive them. Print resources are also popular among older generations, who often have an influence over younger, college-bound relatives.

Print resources are also popular with high school teachers, career advisors, and guidance counselors. These professionals are often looking for resources to give their students, and would rather give the student a paper handout than try to email them a link later. They will also be positioned to know which students would be interested or a good fit for your program, and can advise those students accordingly.

Your program won’t thrive until you put it in the spotlight.

It takes significant resources to start a program, from hiring the right teaching staff, to developing the curriculum, to behind-the-scenes administrative duties. While some programs inevitably lose their relevancy, it is important not to cancel a perfectly good program without giving it the attention it deserves.

Aperture Content Marketing offers multichannel resources that can help your faltering programs find their footing. We provide both print and digital marketing resources that can help your prospective students learn more about your college and what it offers. With better information, students can make the decisions they need to achieve their educational goals. Contact us today to learn more.

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