How Daytona State College Rebounded Summer Enrollment From -30% to 1% Above 2019

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Just a few weeks ago, leaders at Daytona State College were able to take a more granular look at their data systematically. This new perspective surfaced emerging trends quickly, and as a direct result, that meant they were able to implement adjusted strategies immediately. Doing this improved the trajectory of students at their institution, and it’s starting to mitigate some of the challenges caused by COVID-19.

Managing and Understanding Their Data

Every year, Dr. Karla Moore, Dean of Institutional Effectiveness & Assessment at Daytona State College, leads the critical evaluation of academic programs and student services. This work requires deep analysis and investigation. But it also means that cross-functional teams, including faculty, advisors, student affairs, institutional research, and institutional effectiveness, are able to band together to review their data, identify new strategies, and define measurable next steps.

Institutional research, through a series of queries and reporting, would spend 3-5 days building out assessments for each academic program cluster. In other words, this took three months–every year (just to get the data needed for the meetings). They would build reports on enrollment, graduation & retention, placement, course success, but invariably, these reports were built on outcomes from students enrolled in the previous term. Using new capabilities in the student success analytics solution, Illume, the full program analysis can be accessed anytime within Illume.

Each report now takes less than a day per program, saving 70% of the time previously spent on a very manual reporting process.

And, perhaps more importantly, each program and stakeholder can get this information on-demand, meaning they’re able to see what’s going on during the current term and identify a path forward to help students faster.

“We had this information before, but it was always in multiple places,” said Dr. Moore. “We didn’t have a connected, comprehensive view of the data or trends. This meant it was incredibly difficult to benchmark our work and understand where we can improve. Now, we can explore our data and apply filters quickly, ensuring we can not only deliver the reports we need but also take action immediately.”

Dr. Moore knew that their deeper intelligence on student success trends, including new course success and persistence insights, could be used to design strategies to optimize course sequencing, programs, and credentials. Because the information was immediately accessible to an expanded group of campus stakeholders, leaders across Daytona State quickly had clear consensus on an emerging problem.

Their next-term enrollment was 30% lower than the previous year.

Like institutions across the world, COVID-19’s impact on Daytona State was precise and swift. Faculty were teaching remotely, students were learning in new virtual environments, advisors weren’t able to meet in-person, and leaders were having to make tough decisions in a changing environment. Now though, COVID-19’s wake was impacting future terms, challenging academic continuity, student progression, and the ever-important sense of belonging that can connect a student to an institution.

Taking Action on Emerging Trends

When they realized that their summer 2020 enrollment was down, they weren’t completely surprised. This was repeated in headlines across the country. The silver lining to the mounting challenge? They knew immediately and precisely which students had not yet enrolled.

And, they could see exactly how enrollment was trending each day, without having to wait for a report or official update. This meant they could get the list when they needed it and then coordinate strategic outreach to drive re-enrollment for specific student cohorts.

Michelle Goldys, Director of Academic Advising, Career Services & Dual Enrollment at Daytona State College, knew that now, more than ever, they needed to focus on two things:

  1. Make sure Daytona State students have a seamless experience, and
  2. Remind students that the Daytona State family was there for them.

She knew that delivering a thoughtful, seamless student experience meant a more personalized approach to services and outreach. Instead of mass invites for everyone, she worked to make sure the communication was focused, with specific resources tailored to student need. They could have a more proactive, informed strategy because they could see needs and trends sooner.

To take that approach one step further — and in spite of the distance created by COVID-19, Goldys knew that regular messages from specific people at the institution would help cut through the chaos their students were facing. Goldys and team took a tiered approach to more targeted student outreach, which included:

  • Provost’s weekly message
  • Segmented nudges from advising leadership
  • Direct 1:1 emails from advisor to student

Based on previous experience, Goldys already knew that the nudges needed to come from her account, rather than a generic department account. She could see that her nudges received a 50+% open rate, versus those sent by a generic department account, which typically hovered around a 30% open rate.

Timely emails from someone specific, combined with thoughtful messages about belonging and staying on course made a meaningful difference. Feedback from students poured in.

Through Illume, Goldys was able to identify enrollment trends for target populations, find specific, dynamic student lists, personalize messages inspired from email templates, and quickly send out nudges to encourage students to continue on their path. If these messages weren’t opened — Daytona State advisors then knew who exactly who to call or follow up with.

Enrollment Trends for Daytona State, from Illume

Every week, they watched the enrollment trend to see if their strategies and campaigns were working. Enrollment began to increase, and within a month, Daytona State’s summer enrollment had increased by 31 percentage points, to a number higher than 2019’s summer enrollment.

Their success is promising, but the work continues. Daytona State and others in our community of practice are working tirelessly working to apply effective strategies that support re-enrollment and increase next-term enrollment. Now, they’re equipped with the learning infrastructure they need to develop, implement and scale strategies as they learn what works best in a changing environment.

Together, we can help more students continue on their academic path despite the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19.

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