Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have played a vital role in shaping the landscape of higher education. Not only do these institutions provide opportunities for Black students to earn undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate degrees — but they also promote intellectual growth, social equality, and culture.
Over the years, HBCUs have made many notable breakthroughs in higher education. For example, they outperform non-HBCU institutions in graduating first-generation, low-income, Black students. However, they also face a number of challenges with enrollment and retention.
Many HBCUs are tapping into chatbot technology to impact student success. Mainstay is currently working with nine HBCUs and partnering with them to achieve a variety of their goals. Let’s explore some of the priorities a few of these HBCUs are addressing, and how they’re actively solving challenges with behaviorally intelligent chatbots.
How HBCUs Combat Summer Melt
Like many higher education institutions, HBCUs encounter a series of enrollment challenges. One of the most critical issues is summer melt — when a student accepts an institution’s offer of admission, and then fails to enroll.
In 2017, North Carolina Central University was determined to decrease their instances of summer melt. Using Mainstay’s Student Engagement Platform, NCCU launched a campaign to engage more than 11,000 students. In just one year, they increased overall enrollment by 1.35% and increased new student enrollment by 4.5%. By proactively communicating with prospective students to understand the reasons why they choose to enroll or not, NCCU became able to provide more relevant, timely support to students moving forward. Now prospective students can access the information they need, when they need it — on the channels they prefer to use, like texting, social media, and web chat — enabling NCCU to initiate and simplify the enrollment process.
How HBCUs Drive Retention With Behaviorally Intelligent Chatbots
While HBCUs make up only 3% of higher education institutions in the United States, they graduate more than 20% of Black students nationwide. However, at an institutional level, on average HBCUs have a graduation rate of 35%. The national average graduation rate for colleges and universities is 60%.
A contributing factor to this challenge is HBCUs historically admit a higher-than-average population of underserved and first-generation college students. Administrators need technology solutions that enable these students — who are traditionally among the most at risk of leaving an institution before graduating — to develop persistent behaviors and support their long-term success.
In 2017, Winston-Salem State University originally used Mainstay’s platform to increase incoming freshman yield. After experiencing undeniable success with a 2% increase in overall enrollment, WSSU introduced a retention-focused chatbot to engage with their entire undergraduate student population, all the way through to graduation.
Their retention bot’s behaviorally intelligent communication led to record-breaking engagement levels. WSSU experienced a 74% increase in bills paid on time, 36% fewer inbound calls, and a 37% increase in immunization compliance. This technology is not only removing the guesswork for students, but it’s also eliminating a significant amount of work that would otherwise take administrators away from the high-value interactions with students that they excel at.
How HBCUs Foster Meaningful Student Engagement
Enrollment and retention are driven by understanding what students are saying and thinking. Developing an engaging communication strategy is proven to establish trusting relationships with students, which leads to higher graduation rates.
There is a gap in the way many higher education institutions communicate with this generation of students. That’s why several HBCUs have already tapped into the power of behaviorally intelligent chatbots to proactively and reactively text students to actively listen to their needs and concerns at scale.
For example, Hampton University Online was struggling with the volume of calls and questions in the admissions office. To assist students and relieve stress on their staff, HU Online implemented Booker T., their campus chatbot, in 2020. To their delight, 99% of students’ messages were handled automatically by Booker T. through Mainstay’s student engagement platform. This collectively saved their staff more than 61 hours of time — providing them opportunities to focus on student challenges that required a human touch. As a result of students’ increased engagement with the bot, HU Online was able to listen to students at scale and gather more information — like insights about students’ intent to enroll, and feedback on areas that needed improvement.
Support Student Engagement at Your Institution
Behaviorally intelligent chatbots are proven to help HBCUs streamline success. To explore how other higher education institutions use empathetic communication to foster student success, check out our free white paper, “Building an Empathy Engine for Meaningful Communication”.