Eduventures® Report Examines the Effects of COVID-19 on College and University Enrollment Patterns

August 19, 2020

Using Comparative Research from Eduventures Survey of Admitted Students™, Report Unveils Student Enrollment Decisions that Effect Melt, Retention Risk, and the Next Recruiting Cycle 

Boston, MA – August 19, 2020 – ​ACT® | NRCCUA®, an educational data science and research organization, announced today the publication of the 2020 Eduventures Insights Report, What Student Enrollment Decisions Say About Melt, Retention Risk, and the Next Recruiting Cycle. Eduventures is the research division of NRCCUA. This report looks at comparative data from Eduventures Survey of Admitted Students in 2019 and in 2020 in order to examine the real effects of COVID-19 on enrollment patterns. Understanding these complex issues is important for finalizing fall 2020 class enrollment, anticipating student retention issues for this same class, and for considering alterations to the fall recruiting cycle.

Changes in Enrollment Due to COVID-19

This year’s undergraduate recruiting cycle is coming to a grinding and excruciating end with a never-ending season of uncertainty for both students and institutions alike. Even though students have placed their deposits to signal an enrollment decision, the year and the path ahead is still uncertain as they approach their freshman experience. It is equally uncertain for institutions as they begin recruiting the class of 2021. Data from this report give institutions insights into how they can keep the class of 2020 engaged and enrolled while initiatives to enroll the class of 2021 move into full swing.

Key Findings in this Report include the Following:

Changes in enrollment patterns: In times of economic turmoil, public institutions are seeing a surge of in-state students arriving at their doors. Research in this report shows a 6% increase in students choosing to attend an in-state public institution. This movement toward lower-cost education comes at the expense of higher-cost options, especially the out-of-state public choice, which dropped by 5%. The choice to attend a private institution has also dropped by 3%.

Distance from home: The COVID-19 crisis has had a strong effect on the distance some students are willing to travel for their education. The sudden angst of shutting down the 2019-2020 academic year is not long forgotten. The travails of students making quick (and expensive) arrangements to return home from campus may have left an indelible mark.

A change in value proposition: Getting students to make the decision to choose an institution means making a sharply convincing argument about the value of a particular college education in a time of heightened concern about price and safety. The comparative data in this report indicates a shift in the focus on value. This year, students place more importance on two key components of the college decision: academic strength and affordability.

Confidence in enrollment choice: Research in this report shows 30% to 40% of students indicate some uncertainty about their enrollment choice leaving many institutions with a mammoth wave of continuing melt and retention risk.

“Every institution is still working to reduce melt and waiting to see which students will make it to enrollment whether on campus, hybrid, or remote,” commented Kim Reid, Principal Analyst and author of this report. She added, “Even if a student makes it to the first day of class, the environment is sufficiently uncertain, and students will continue to melt away after enrollment. The collaborative work that enrollment offices have with their academic and student affairs colleagues will be more important than ever to ensure that student transitions are as seamless as possible.”

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