Evolving Needs of Students: Trends to Watch in 2020

Evolving Needs of Students

It’s no surprise that the landscape of higher education is different today than it was a decade or even five years ago. Colleges and universities are kept on their toes anticipating and meeting the evolving needs of their students.

As a conduit for improved student engagement, increased revenue, and streamlined operations for higher education auxiliary services, we have seen, first hand, the challenges and opportunities facing today’s college campuses. Being in the business of CX (customer experience) technology gives us a unique perspective on the latest trends impacting higher education in 2020 and beyond.

According to the latest report released by Hanover Research, an information services company that offers high-quality research & analytics for corporations and higher education, they purport:

Institutions have seen enormous shifts concerning the face of the student population, the support services they require, the most effective strategies to engage and recruit them, and more. In this state of flux, many institutions are pursuing innovative strategies to thrive amid uncertain funding and to provide the support students need most.

In other words, the most pressing issues in higher education today relate to finances and the student experience.

Here are the six trends in higher education to watch in 2020 and our take on what you need to know from the perspective as a leader in auxiliary services. 

1. Boosting International Enrollment

According to Hanover’s research, international enrollment to U.S. institutions is down 9.5 percent. Increasing enrollment among international students is a priority to keep revenue up. 

Auxiliary services can support this effort by creating more inclusive offerings at your locations to anticipate language and cultural differences and help international students feel more comfortable. From menus and signage in different languages, the type of food offerings, and more can help close this gap. Initiating and maintaining a real-time feedback program can inform and track student responses to your proposed and implemented changes, ensuring you are moving in the right direction to reach your goals and improve the student experience. 

2. Preparing Students for the Workforce

Offering non-traditional educational studies is another trend that has emerged in 2020 according to the research published by Hanover. This includes employment preparation in jobs that require specialized training but not necessarily a two or four-year degree. 

Skill development for adult learners and others seeking more specialized training is something community colleges have adopted and that other universities are also considering to better meet the needs of students and the ongoing development of the workforce. 

These types of non-traditional educational studies often necessitate flexible scheduling. Online courses, night classes, and weekend sessions. Auxiliary services can respond to this growing trend by adjusting hours of operations and offerings to best meet the needs of these non-traditional students. Even childcare may be a worthwhile service campuses consider offering if they have enough students with children. 

3. Enhancing the Student Experience for the Underrepresented

One third of all college students are first generation college students according to the study, and one in three of them wind up dropping out by year three as compared to 14 percent of their peers whose parents hold a degree. 

To support this underrepresented population of students, Hanover details ways in which more peer and financial support can be provided. With more support services being identified as a necessary way to enhance this particular group of student’s experience on college campuses, higher education has an opportunity to create environments conducive to student success.

One such way auxiliary services can help to better meet the needs of first generation students is by offering more information and orientation about the services available to them. Signage, real-time information and announcements, and proactively soliciting and collecting feedback can inform a population new to the college experience and help them take full advantage of the offerings available to them. 

4. Revenue Diversification

With government funding to higher education decreasing and costs rising, colleges and universities are scrambling to diversify their streams of revenue. Revenue distribution in 2016-2017 show auxiliary services representing 2 percent of private for-profit institutions, 7 percent of private non-profit institutions, and 7 percent of public institutions.

There is a clear opportunity for auxiliary services to aid in higher education institutions need to diversify their revenue streams, as it is the least represented source of revenue for all institution types.

On campus auxiliary services can expand their offerings and also consider making these services available to non students for a fee, leveraging existing resources on campus to generate more revenue. 

5. Increasing Alumni Engagement

According to the data, engaged alumni donate more money. On average, just 11.1 percent of alumni donate to ranked institutions, but the top ten leading schools see upwards of 40 percent of alumni donations. Other important figures cited in Hanover’s research reveals that 56 percent of donors would give again if they received personalized messages and that having a “giving day” contributed to 8 percent of donations received in 2017.

Real-time feedback programs with your auxiliary services helps universities keep track of students’ – past and present – interests, likes, and dislikes. In the same way you can monitor student feedback on campus, institutions can expand their real-time feedback programs to alumni outreach and engagement initiatives. Collecting and using student feedback makes it possible to create better and more effective personalized experiences.

6. Improving Marketing Efforts

Lastly, schools need to keep enrollment up. Tuition is still the leading source of revenue and staying competitive to attract more students is a trend that won’t be disappearing anytime soon. 

Keeping a positive brand image is a key consideration among prospective students. From school rankings and peer reviews, prospective students pay attention to the overall quality of a school. Auxiliary services may not directly influence enrollment, but it does impact the lifestyle aspect on a campus. Auxiliary services can do its part by ensuring a positive student experience at each managed and self-service location. 

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About the author

Johann Leitner is the founder and president of Touchwork, a marketing management software company.