The massive ripple effects of COVID-19 have reached every corner of the higher education industry throughout the pandemic. Community colleges in particular have felt the sting.

According to the latest National Student Clearinghouse Research Center enrollment report, community college enrollment fell by 11.3% in the spring 2021 semester. For students between the ages of 18 and 20 (a group that comprises more than 40% of all undergraduates), enrollment declined by 7.2% during that period. The steepest drop in enrollment occurred at community colleges, where it tumbled 14.6% this spring.

To help turn the tide, many community colleges are doubling down on their student engagement strategies. Innovative community colleges are now focusing on ways to actively listen at scale to gauge student sentiment, personalize interactions, and provide empathetic support at precise moments of need — all while fostering a deeper sense of community and belonging.

Evidence proves that web-based chatbots and automated, two-way texting chatbots help community colleges dramatically boost student enrollment. As you strategize on the best ways to take your institution’s student engagement to the next level, consider the ways your industry peers are using this technology to drive positive outcomes for their institutions and students.

Ocean County College Reverses Enrollment Challenges With Behavioral Intelligence

It may take less time and effort than you think to optimize your student engagement strategy. Just ask Ocean County College. After facing decreasing enrollment for six consecutive years, the New Jersey-based community college set some ambitious goals to turn things around. It enlisted the help of “Reggie” — a behaviorally intelligent text messaging chatbot — to engage incoming freshmen and current students. Creative two-way texting campaigns at OCC focused on activities that are proven to drive student success. These included submitting admissions applications, applying for scholarships, completing the FAFSA, paying bills on time to secure fall classes, and reducing summer melt.

Student engagement skyrocketed in Reggie’s first year, thanks to its approachable and conversational answers to students’ questions and timely, proactive nudges. By answering more than 14,000 student inquiries via automated text messaging, Reggie saved six weeks’ worth of staff time — freeing up OCC’s admissions and enrollment experts to focus on complex challenges. By proactively reminding students about important dates and providing personalized support, the behaviorally intelligent bot helped increase fall enrollment by 1.9% and summer enrollment by 7.4%.

South Texas College Meets Students Where They Are to Boost Enrollment 

South Texas College faced similar enrollment challenges. While the McAllen-based community college typically receives a sizable number of inquiries from prospective students, many weren’t completing (or even beginning) their applications.  

STC launched a behaviorally intelligent chatbot named Jerry (after their mascot, Jerry the Jaguar) to encourage those students who inquired about the school to complete their applications and enroll in classes. Jerry made it easy for STC’s admissions team to segment their communications based on exactly where each student was in the inquiry-to-application process. They used the bot to provide friendly nudges via text message to help keep prospective students on track and engaged throughout the entire process.

The results speak for themselves: Application yield at STC increased from 7% to 13.7% for summer inquiries and from 7% to 22.2% for fall inquiries — a 217% increase, overall. 

Dallas College’s Web Chat Engages Students 24/7

Not only did COVID-19 tax existing communications systems, it also impacted community college staff members in unprecedented ways. As one of the largest community colleges in Texas, Dallas College, staff worked tirelessly to support their students during a time of great uncertainty. As soon as the pandemic began, they received an especially high volume of student inquiries about school closures, remote learning options, and available resources. 

The team at Dallas College partnered with AdmitHub early on to create Ali, a personalized web chatbot that instantly and automatically answers students’ questions around the clock. More than 15,000 students used Ali in the first two months alone. The bot saved 847 staff hours and made it possible for the teams at Dallas College to focus on the high-touch, complex challenges students faced during this difficult time. 

As a result of this early success, the college soon expanded its multi-channel engagement strategy to include automated, two-way text messaging. The institution also began using Ali to reach out to their current students with proactive retention campaigns. By actively listening at scale to students’ needs and sentiments, and by capturing aggregate student data across multiple channels, Dallas College could better understand how to serve their students throughout their higher education journey. 

Behavioral Intelligence for Today’s Community Colleges

Community colleges enroll nearly half of all college students today — their value to society cannot be overstated. AdmitHub makes it easy to prioritize student engagement, so your community college can improve enrollment and retention rates, build institutional resilience, and empower staff members to truly support students. Request a personalized demo today to find out why hundreds of colleges and universities partner with us to drive long-term student success.