As a former campus-based enrollment officer, I remember July 1 holding a certain ‘joie de vivre.’ Sure, it was a new month, and the mid-point of the summer, but it was also a brand new fiscal year ($$$) and the heavy lifting of the enrollment cycle was done (or nearly done).
It’s a time of year I remember fondly.
Considering the current circumstances, I cannot help but think that July 1 will have scenarios and situations that are somewhat, if not drastically, different in 2020.
I want to believe the onset of summer will bring about some semblance of normalcy — like the opportunity to return to “the office” and re-immerse ourselves into our long-missed campus culture. The usual activities of May and June will be past, but planning travel, updating digital and print communications for the rising senior group will still be needed. And the usual work of planning fall open houses will still need to happen. There also will be student search to buy in late August and individual campus visits to schedule … right?
The reality is that this might not be the case at all.
As we get further along into the pandemic, it sounds more and more like life that was once called “normal” might be further off than we ever imagined. Search names might be an option in late August, but college fairs are not likely to make the cut due to the mass of people that they could bring — so there goes fall travel and maybe fall open house. And, while communication flows should be deployed in similar ways, at this point, they might be the only items that are “sure things.”
So, this leads to the bigger question: Are we really ready for this?
We all know that this spring, with its historic disruptions, took colleges and universities by surprise in both instruction and enrollment/marketing. This has led to the pressing questions:
- Are our business models equipped to handle this paradigm for the long haul?
- Do we have the necessary tools to understand and make the best investment into our pipeline?
- Have we lined up the right tools to make our unique selling proposition appetizing and memorable?
- Can we see and understand how prospects from (now) changing markets are interacting in our virtual storefront?
- Have we invested properly in modeling so that we can realize even more savings — just in case we miss the class (maybe by a lot)?
What will the July 1, 2020 vantage point show us? My inner optimist hopes to see a familiar view forward, but the more realist part of me says this summer will be the start of a very new and sobering reality for higher ed — with a shifting paradigm still in frenetic motion.
By Jamie Gleason, Director of Undergraduate Initiatives, Capture