How will COVID-19 affect future admissions data?

A study done by the National Association for College Admission Counseling shows necessary changes happening as institutions try to reach future students.
By: | November 4, 2020
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More than half of college admissions officers who took part in a recent study say they believe the COVID-19 pandemic will have a profound or substantial impact on the data they are able to get on potential new students.

That report, done by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and featuring 377 four-year institutions, showed the concern expressed by respondents from those colleges and universities in having a large enough pool of potential prospects to pull from.

“Beginning this admission cycle, we’ll really see how COVID-19 has affected the admission funnel — from top to bottom,” said Angel Pérez, NACAC CEO. “Colleges and universities are having to change how they connect with students, and they’re having to do it quickly.”

The NACAC notes that colleges typically look at data from testing companies and schools in recruiting. But because of the disruptions caused by COVID-19, that has become more challenging.

Most of those who were polled in the survey said their colleges are meeting that head on with strategic enrollment management (SEM) plans, while 35% said they either don’t have them or don’t know whether they do. Without that plan – an overarching strategy of recruitment and retention that bridges areas such as enrollment, student success and finance – reaching those students may be difficult, especially given the competition among schools. More than 70% of those that do have SEMs say they are critical in their recruitment efforts.

Those institutions in fact are already finding ways to grow and develop pipelines to try to keep numbers high. Many of those who have SEMs, including larger colleges or universities, report they’ve hit the ground running for 2021. About two dozen say they are nearly done. Those that don’t face an uphill climb.

“As college admission offices operate in the absence of face-to-face recruiting and are forced to rely on shifting sources of data, it will be critical that more admission staff become proficient in interpreting data to understand both the promise and the limits of its analysis,” said Pérez.

According to the study’s authors, some of the ways colleges and universities are trying to offset any potential disruptions are by seeking new ways to reach potential applicants, looking more closely at data and collaborating with outside vendors. About half of colleges in the survey said they retain all of their data (including a large number of public institutions), while the other half partially outsources it.

The most widely held-onto data is retention (85%), with respondents also highlighting yield, enrollment forecasting and financial aid as information retained most often and not outsourced.