The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has transformed the way local and community colleges connect with students — and its presence will continue to be felt into 2021. 


COVID-19 made 2020 an unprecedented year, particularly for higher education institutions. Going forward, COVID-19 will have far-flung effects on local and community colleges and their students — but schools that know what to expect can prepare accordingly. 


What does the future hold for higher ed?


The Understanding America Study (UAS) of 9,000 respondents from across the United States provides a glimpse into what local and community colleges should expect after the COVID-19 pandemic ends. Notable UAS findings include:


1. Most students are still enrolling in postsecondary education.


The pandemic has increased safety and wellness concerns among students, but it has not deterred most students from enrolling in postsecondary education. In fact, UAS revealed only 2% of students did not enroll in fall 2020 classes due to COVID-19. UAS also showed that 3% of students intended to change from one school to another due to COVID-19. 


2. Enrollment rates are virtually the same as they were prior to the pandemic. 


The pandemic drove an immediate shift from in-person classes to remote learning, but this change has had a minimal impact on enrollment rates at institutions nationwide. According to UAS, 11% of students are taking fewer classes now than they did before the pandemic. On the other hand, 10% of students are taking more postsecondary classes now than they did prior to the pandemic. 


3. Students may miss out on opportunities to finish their degree programs on schedule. 


The pandemic has forced widespread delays in many industries, and higher ed is no exception. UAS indicated 20% of students no longer expect to graduate on schedule due to the pandemic. 


How your school engages with students is crucial in the midst of the pandemic and after it ends. If you can keep students connected to faculty, staff, and peers via remote learning tools, you will be well-equipped to help them achieve their degree goals. Plus, you can differentiate your school from other local and community colleges — and show students you’ll do everything in your power to help them succeed. 


4 ways to get ready for the post-COVID-19 world


Don’t wait to embrace the “new normal” surrounding the pandemic. Instead, take the following steps to ensure your school can provide students with the services and support they need to thrive in the foreseeable future:


1. Offer virtual tours


Use virtual tours to show students how your school functions. A virtual tour lets college candidates see your campus, get an up-close look at your classrooms and other facilities, and imagine what it would be like to enroll in your institution. 


A virtual tour lays the groundwork for long-lasting partnerships. It lets your school introduce itself to students and share details about what makes it unique. At the same time, college candidates can access virtual tours from virtually any location at any time. As such, your virtual tours can engage candidates, make it easy for them to see what your school is all about, and help them make an informed decision about whether to enroll in your institution. 


2. Host webinars


Along with virtual tours, host webinars that let students and recruits engage with your school’s faculty and staff. Webinars can be held at different dates and times throughout the year, and they enable you to provide custom content to college candidates in various majors. 


Any time you host a webinar, track the results associated with it. This allows you to see who is viewing your webinar so you can follow up with attendees via email or phone call. Also, ask attendees for feedback, which will help you consistently identify ways to improve your webinar content. 


3. Provide timely, relevant, and actionable email and social media content 


Keep college candidates and current students up to date via email and social media. You can use emails to promote online courses, webinars, enrollment deadlines, and other events. Meanwhile, social media lets you share student stories and other insights that highlight your school’s personalized approach to student engagement. 


A steady flow of email and social media content can make a big difference for your school. With email and social media content calendars in place, you can provide candidates and students alike with timely, relevant, and actionable content that hits the mark with them. 


4. Prioritize your web experience


Update your website to ensure it allows college candidates and students to seamlessly engage with you via any mobile or desktop device. If you can provide an outstanding web experience with your content, that will boost the likelihood that online visitors will be drawn to your site and get the most value out of it. 


It often helps to conduct a website audit to identify and analyze your site’s strengths and weaknesses. Then, you can use these insights to improve your site’s SEO rankings and optimize its performance. 


Take your higher ed website to the next level in 2021 and beyond


The pandemic is challenging higher ed institutions, and it will continue to do so in the months and years to come. However, by adapting to the new normal and embracing opportunities to connect with college candidates and students today, your school will position itself as a higher ed leader in 2021 and beyond. 


At KWALL, our digital marketing thought leaders can help discover ways to enhance your higher ed website. We offer comprehensive higher ed web expertise, and we can help you build a website that meets the expectations of college candidates and students in 2021 and beyond. To learn more or request a site audit, please contact KWALL today.


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