Welcome Back: Former Students, Graduates
Mar 21, 2018
I just finished reading an interesting article written by Michael B. Horn entitled “The Forgotten Student” and it got me thinking about the opportunities available to colleges with two segments – “Some college, no degree, and former student” as well as “college graduate, a former student, alumni”.
Horn focuses on the first segment – those that were enrolled in your programs but left prior to completing the program and earning the credential.
Focusing on the forgotten students just hasn’t made as much sense from a cost perspective to universities.
That really jumped out at me because, to be perfectly honest, that hasn’t been our experience. As a matter of fact, motivating a former student to return and complete your program should be significantly less expensive than recruiting someone that has never attended your institution.
Think of it. You already know who they are. You already have a relationship with them. You know what they want. And you have the transcripts and records on file.
The big issue is most likely this – why did they leave in the first place.
If it was something outside your control, like a professional or personal matter, you need to understand if the issue(s) has been resolved and if the former student is ready to return to school.
If it has, great.
If not, be empathetic and ask when it might be a good time to touch base again.
If they left because of something you do control, you must know if that situation has changed or if that issue/obstacle/challenge/impediment still exists.
Hopefully, if that issue has been resolved – discuss it with the former student so they can decide if the change is an improvement that would make returning a good decision.
If the issue has been changed but not in a way that the student feels is a value, you both should probably move on.
And if the issue hasn’t been changed, no need to reach out and try to re-enroll them in the first place.
Re-enrolling Former Students That Didn’t Graduate Should be An On-going Activity
Since increasing retention is everyone’s goal, there should be some focus on understanding why the student left and what would motivate them to return and complete the program.
As for “expenses”, that’s a couple of phone calls and/or an automated email campaign. A couple hundred dollars, maybe. Most likely, a lot less.
Let’s Remember the Graduates – Alumni Need More than Fundraising and Trip Offers
The other often overlooked segment of the target market are those folks that successfully completed your program and earned their credential.
Think “lifelong learning” and “Lifetime value”!
Most institutions are quick to send out the fundraising messages and the invitations to journey to far off, exotic lands with other graduates – but few reach out and ask, “Are you ready for your next credential?”
In many areas, an undergraduate degree is not enough to build a long, successful career on, so the student will be searching for options. What can you provide?
Maybe it's a project management certification. Or leadership training.
Certificates. Certification. Another undergraduate degree. A graduate degree. And over the next 20 to 30-years, it might be several rather than just one. So why aren’t you aggressively re-recruiting your graduates?!
Again, this shouldn’t be expensive either. You have their contact information while they were still enrolled – have a plan in place for staying in contact with them so you stay in contact and can use the opportunity to learn about possible wants and needs, continue to deliver value through networking or mentoring and then be there when they realize “…I need something else…”
Patrick McGraw is VP of Higher Educaton Marketing Services and has more than 25 years experience in market research, competitive intelligence, business intelligence including database marketing and CRM, strategic planning, brand development and management as well as operations/campaign management. His work has consistently helped his clients and employers develop and implement more efficient ways to attract and retain profitable customers, enter new markets and launch new products. His areas of focus include the education, hospitality, travel and tourism, hi-tech, telecommunications, financial services, and retail industries on both the agency and customer sides.