Last week, the U.S. Department of Education announced that they will be ramping up efforts to not only increase enrollment to colleges and universities, but also to encourage more students to graduate. The announcement comes only a few days after President Obama introduced a slew of policy proposals aimed to improve the current state of higher education. In the last five years, the cost of tuition has dramatically increased, which can certainly have a negative impact on enrollment and graduation rates as a result.
Of course, in an economic downturn, it is easy to attribute enrollment challenges to increased financial uncertainty. However, in a recent publication by Public Agenda, With Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them, the study authors set out to better understand the challenges facing current university students by debunking a handful of myths and widely-held assumptions about those students that fail to complete college.
In addressing the realities of college drop-outs, the study paints a dramatically different image of the average university student:
- Among students in four-year schools, 45 percent work more than 20 hours a week.
- Among those attending community colleges, 6 in 10 work more than 20 hours a week, and more than a quarter work more than 35 hours a week.
- Just 25 percent of students attend the sort of residential college we often envision.
- Twenty-three percent of college students have dependent children.
While financial factors clearly play a large part, it is apparent that today’s students are managing more activities and juggling competing pressures outside of the lecture hall than previously imagined. As a result, expectations of higher education institutions have changed as students require a much more responsive and individual interaction with administrators and educators. To better respond to the new demands of today’s students, educators and administrators are using technology to offer better service, choices, personalization and immediacy with additional university offerings.
We recently had the chance to share the experience of Fort Valley State University which utilizes a combination of Blackboard tools to meet increased student demand by providing enhanced online learning programs and improving the overall campus experience. Located in Fort Valley, Georgia, FVSU, part of the University System of Georgia, is a historically black college serving about 3,500 students, with nearly two-thirds of those students living off-campus. By offering online courses and additional programs, FVSU was able to increase student enrollment and better serve students living off-campus with greater flexibility in accessing university resources.
Today, the FVSU online learning course offers four degree programs, in addition to student counseling, advising and support services. To help facilitate their online offerings, FVSU administrators use Blackboard Connect to send timely messages directly to students, providing important reminders or notifications. Blackboard Connect has proven useful across campus, as administrators use the system to send proactive messages and outreach to targeted student groups, like orientation notices, registration deadlines and attendance reminders.
As student demands continue to evolve, higher education institutions can utilize technology to better adapt to changing needs by providing online programs in conjunction with enhanced communication outreach. Through timely, targeted messaging, administrators and educators can make course and campus information more available and better ensure student success. To hear more about FVSU’s experience using Blackboard tools to enhance the college experience, download the online presentation and recording.
Want to learn how your campus can make better use of technology to meet student needs? Visit our website to learn more about how Blackboard Connect can help you improve the campus experience.