Almost every program has them—students who pause along the path to completion for one reason or another. These stop-out students may intend to return and finish their program of study, but plans are easily derailed. They might not return unless you reach out. To re-engage learners and get them back on track, you need a well-designed stop-out campaign.
Before you start calling every student who missed the enrollment deadline, you need a strategy. An effective stop-out campaign is efficient, scalable, and focused. It reaches out only to those students who are eligible to return. And it provides them with both the information and support they need to re-enroll.
Why do students stop-out?
A stop-out is any student who has started making academic progress toward their degree but is no longer enrolled in academic credit toward completing their program. These students join the 36 million U.S. adults who have some college but no degree.
There are dozens of reasons a student might stop out: Changes in employment or family status, unexpected expenses, academic challenges, illness, the list goes on. Some of these circumstances may disqualify the student from re-enrolling, but others can be overcome with communication and support. In many cases, reconnecting with the student can help you prevent a temporary pause from becoming a permanent stop.
The benefits of re-engaging stop-out students
Most stopped out students will need more than a phone call from admission to bring them back to your program. Just like prospective students, stop-outs benefit from multiple touchpoints and relevant messaging. You might wonder if all that effort is worth it, but the truth is that re-engaging stop-out populations benefits your programs and your students. A well-thought-out stop-out campaign can:
Fulfill your commitment to helping students achieve their personal and academic goals. Sticking to this promise builds goodwill with students and improves the reputation of the program.
Help you recoup your investment. Marketing your program, generating prospective student inquiries, and converting them into enrollments is an investment. When a student stops out, your program loses tuition revenue. To get the full return on investment, you need to guide the student through to completion.
Improve your completion rates and other vital performance metrics. Most programs keep a close eye on persistence, retention, and graduation rates. Bringing back stop-outs can help improve these metrics.
5 steps to plan your stop-out campaign
Jumping into a stop-out campaign too quickly can waste time and resources. You might even do more harm than good. Start off on the right foot by getting these elements in order first.
1. Identify Your stop-out Population
Knowing how many stop-out students you have is a vital first step. It helps you allocate resources and ensure that no student falls through the cracks. This might be more challenging than it sounds. Many institutions track stop-outs at the program level. If you silo your data into programs, you may not realize the true scope of your stop-outs. Plus, it’s less efficient to duplicate efforts across multiple programs. Better to put all your stop-outs in one bucket and train one team to work with them.
2. Refine Your List
Next, you’ll want to refine your list and remove any student who is not eligible to return. This may include students who are academically disqualified and those who have outstanding financial balances or other significant academic or financial barriers.
Refining your stop-out list doesn’t just reduce the time and resources needed to launch effective outreach, it also decreases the risk of providing a negative student experience and damaging the institutional brand among your stop-out population. No one wants an awkward phone call where the student has to explain that they’d love to finish their degree, but can’t maintain a passing grade point average; especially when this type of information is likely easily verifiable prior to outreach.
When you remove ineligible students, you’ll end up with a smaller list of those who may be interested in returning to their program of study.
3. Create a Scalable Outreach Plan
Decide how you will reach out to students. Phone calls might seem like the obvious answer, but targeted email campaigns and text messaging can help too. Include both if you have the technology to do so.
Then plan how often you will reach out and what message you will deliver. Ultimately, this comes down to resources. You might not have the in-house team and technology to contact your whole list in a timely fashion. In that case, you may need support from an education services partner like EducationDynamics to create a robust process.
At this stage, you can also consider how you will keep track of engagement levels. With the right technology resources, you can easily retarget those stop-out students who engage.
4. Train Your Coaches
Your enrollment coaches should be ready to guide stop-out students through the process of re-enrolling. That means they should be trained in both delivering the right messages and in the process of re-enrollment.
Students who choose to re-enroll may need to work with multiple people across different areas of the college or university. A dedicated enrollment coach can act as a single point of contact to coordinate and simplify the process.
Keep in mind that some stop-out students may need more support than others. They left the program for a reason. It’s up to enrollment coaches to help them find a strategy that addresses those limitations and concerns.
5. Have a Feedback Collection Process in Place
Helping students re-enroll is your main objective, but along the way, you can collect valuable feedback. As enrollment coaches work to understand student motivations for stopping out, they may discover insights that can help improve your programs and reduce stop-out rates in the future. Without a mechanism for saving them, these insights may disappear without you ever hearing about them.
Ideally, you would capture student reasons for stopping out in your CRM. At a minimum, you should have a shared spreadsheet where enrollment coaches can store such information. Then you can analyze student feedback to identify strategies that can help keep students in the program.
Start with a scalable process
A repeatable, scalable process for providing consistent outreach will help you re-engage stop-outs. Along the way, you’ll hopefully gather the information you need to reduce stop-outs across your programs. But it takes more than one phone call or email to re-engage stop-out students. You need a robust stop-out engagement strategy.
Ready to amplify your stop-out campaigns and recover more students? EducationDynamics can help you develop a stop-out contact strategy from list cleaning to one-on-one student interactions. We have the technology and the expertise you need to scale your stop-out campaign. Contact us today to start identifying your stop-out population and the steps you can take to re-engage and re-enroll students.