Seven Go-to-Market Strategies that Will Build Community College Enrollment

Becky Morehouse

Becky Morehouse

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It has been widely reported that two-year institutions have experienced a 9.4% drop in enrollment in fall 2020 compared to fall 2019. This is just over twice the drop in students experienced by four-year colleges.

While this enrollment decline presents significant challenges, we believe it also provides a catalyst and opportunity to aggressively retool your go-to-market efforts.

Strategies to Build Enrollment

I’ve outlined seven strategies that will have an almost immediate impact on enrollment. The first involves data analysis. The remaining six focus on messaging.

1. Analyze Enrollment Data

Analyze enrollment data to determine which student category(ies) suffered the most significant drop and which segments might have held steady (or even grown) during this overall decline. Segment your messaging to more accurately focus on those student groups which show the greatest promise.

2. Promote Online Learning

Carefully consider how you promote online learning. Many adult students, particularly those who have been out of school for a number of years, or are in the trades, have no experience with online learning and are likely wary of how it works and of their ability to learn in such a setting. Messages from students with similar backgrounds who have successfully navigated online learning go a long way in easing potential trepidation.

3. Consider Displaced Workers

Develop a marketing strategy that addresses displaced workers. This strategy should emphasize how quickly a student can earn a license, certification, or even a degree.

Many displaced adults have chosen to wait out the pandemic and might be reluctant to invest time in going back to school as the vaccine slowly gains traction. Messaging should emphasize the resources you currently have in place to help this audience.

4. Follow Employment Trends

While the economy has suffered during the pandemic, some sectors are booming. Look at local and regional employment trends and see who is hiring and then develop and communicate partnerships with those organizations. The key message, of course, is jobs.

5. Dual-Enrollment Emphasis

Emphasize dual enrollment. While most community colleges have dual enrollment programs, many high school students are unclear about their benefits, how they work, and who pays. As you think about your messaging, stress the benefits, including safety, of earning college credit while still living at home. And if your school district covers the cost for students, emphasize this information as well.

6. Welcome Transfer Students

As four-year institution enrollments decline, build a messaging strategy that welcomes four-year students to your campus. This reverse transfer messaging must, of course, be preceded by programs that welcome and serve the needs of these students.

7. Showcase Veteran Resources

Chances are you have programs for veterans. But considering the competition for marketing resources on most campuses, there is every likelihood that you have not marketed your programs as aggressively as you might.

We recommend increasing the marketing investment directed at veterans for a number of reasons. First, the drawdown from Iraq and Afghanistan is nearly complete. This means that more vets have recently returned from service and are contemplating their next steps.

Consider, too, that during 2015-16 (the last time data was available), less than half of all veterans use any of their education benefits.1 According to, through 2017, 72% of male veterans and 62% of female veterans either have no college experience or have some college experience but no degree.

As you consider these changes in your go-to-market strategies, Stamats has demonstrated expertise in four critical areas:

  • Data analysis
  • Audience and message segmentation
  • Evaluation of existing recruiting communication including web, social media, and digital campaigns
  • Development of a comprehensive recruitment communication sequence

Please let me know if you’d like a conversation.

Interested in reversing enrollment declines? Stamats can help you implement seven proven strategies that will help you do just that. Interested? Please contact Becky Morehouse.

Read next: Rethinking Your Idea of Strategy

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