Today’s community college students are more non-traditional than ever before.
They are adults who support families and typically work multiple jobs. This means flexibility and personalization is top-of-mind. They are also looking for an immediate impact from their educational experience and an opportunity to climb the economic ladder, so labor market relevance is a chief priority.
At the same time, these non-traditional students expect consumer-minded best-practices and efficient processes, and it’s not because they’re prima donnas like some leaders (especially in the ivy-covered segment of higher education) tend to believe. These students have competing priorities. Time is a huge resource for these students, and they want to spend their time efficiently. They are highly unlikely to go through the same administrative rigmarole as traditional students. It puts them off and they will drop out, which would end up defeating your community college’s mission.
As Ian Roark, Vice President of Workforce Development at Pima Community College, said in an interview on The EvoLLLution:
“They’re working adults and they need customization—not out of a sense of entitlement, but because their lives are complex. Customization is about access—something we educators often value from a social justice standpoint—and the customer satisfaction that comes from it is an added bonus.”
So what can you do to meet their needs? How can you support your students and create value?
To find your answer, start by focusing on student experience and success. You need to clearly define the value-adding factors that can improve the experience for your students. One major factor that non-traditional students value is simplicity… which makes sense for an audience juggling work and family responsibilities while pursuing their education. They want to be able to make course payments, register, order transcripts and track their progress without having to talk to support staff during office hours or follow mundane and inefficient processes. They want to focus their efforts on their education—not on bureaucratic red-tape.
This is where applying technology and using modern business practices becomes important. Leading eCommerce providers like Amazon have set our service expectations of every industry, including higher education. Just like Amazon, you can move to a more self-service oriented model that equips your students to manage their own experience, and ask for intervention only if needed.
Creating such a model requires a fundamental shift in the way you have been serving students. It means changing the traditional administrative approach to take the burden off students and make it easier for them to engage with your community college.
By prioritizing the student experience, you will be able to keep your students feeling satisfied and confident about their decision to enroll with your community college. What’s more, it’s common knowledge that it’s easier (and cheaper!) to retain a customer than to bring in a new one. Offering a great experience to your students is not only going to show up in your customer satisfaction surveys, but will also help you retain them for life.
In an article on The EvoLLLution, Audrey Penner, Vice President of Academic and Student Success at Northern College, talked about the prioritization of student experience.
“Learners want/need to have the institution demonstrate a culture that puts students at the centre and provides the personal touch assuring their needs are met,” she wrote. “Both the culture and the personal touch generate better student experiences, which generates better student outcomes, greater retention, and more learning.”
Still thinking about the importance of delivering a superior student experience? Read our digital eBook and explore this topic in greater detail. This curated set of EvoLLLution articles and interviews provides fresh insights about the student experience and shares some actions you can take to ensure that your community college delivers one that is exceptional.