Like many of you, I once was a director of admissions in an office that was staffed by just one recruiter, two support staff, and me. On a campus with over 4,000 students and an open door, drop-ins were welcomed. The time commitment and pressure were a lot, with responsibilities to new students, stop outs, dual enrolled students, transfers, and veterans.
I still think back to how many students I know we weren’t fully supporting. The student that needed us at 8:00 at night, or the student who called us on their break at work only to be stuck on hold. Despite our best efforts, we were completely overwhelmed.
In partnership with Qualtrics, Blackboard Research released a survey, Student Perceptions of Support & Post-Pandemic Takeaways for Higher Education that reveals just how much students’ support needs have changed as a result of the pandemic. When asked how institutions can look to improve their support services, learners indicated they value continual availability (24 hours a day, 365 days a year) as a premium requirement (43% selected in top three), followed closely by speed (41%), and ease-of-access (38%).
However, with small teams, limited office hours, and limited time, it can be difficult to meet these expectations.
How small teams can support student needs
Don’t fret! Here are four steps you can take right away to help scale your student support efforts.
Centralize call operations:
Funneling students through a common, centralized, consistent “front door” to the institution allows for consistency of information, faster resolution times, and frees your team up to work on more complex problems.
Proactively reach out:
Often, students come to us if they have questions, rather than us going to them. Proactive, timely, human outreach to applicants, stop outs, and even existing students shows that you are invested in keeping learners on track. Our research demonstrates that at risk students are far more reluctant to reach out for help – including for academic concerns and financial aid – making proactivity essential for effective student support. See how we’re helping institutions in this outreach via campaign and coaching solution.
Provide clear communication for financial aid:
Our research shows that financial aid is tied with mental health as the most important area of support, and where students have financial difficulties the possibility of them stopping out increases significantly. It is essential to not only respond quickly to enquiries about financial aid, but also to provide concise, simple information that students of all backgrounds can easily understand and act upon.
Extend your hours:
Many students are working during the day, and our experience has shown that students are most likely to connect between the hours of 4pm-8pm. Extending your hours will help reduce call times, emails, and frustrated students. Our One Stop solution can field calls, 24/7/365, to free up your team’s bandwidth.
Creating more opportunities for students to connect with you, proactive outreach, and longer service hours remove barriers and increase access for learners, especially underrepresented students. Our survey showed that at-risk populations which were less likely to have received support in the past or have struggled to locate it were less likely to believe their school cares about supporting them. This population also had much lower confidence that their support needs would be met at school in comparison to their peers.
Get more insights into students’ support needs, perceptions, and priorities in Student Perceptions of Support & Post-Pandemic Takeaways for Higher Education survey and executive report. If you would like to learn more information, start here.