College enrollment is down. It has fallen each of the last several years. Why is this happening? It is a combination of things, but the biggest problem might be that tuition costs have risen dramatically over the last two decades. The median cost at state schools in the United States is roughly $25,000 annually. At private schools, it is double that. People either cannot afford to go, do not want to be saddled with student loan debt until retirement, or do not want to spend the money in the first place.

In some fields, such as software design, there are many places offering “boot camp” diplomas that can get people jobs without incurring crushing debt or four years of invested time. College administrators see this handwriting on every wall and are changing their approaches to take control of the situation. Here are some of the things they are doing to boost student recruitment:

1. Making the application process simpler.

The idea behind this approach is to eliminate complexity in the first step as opposed to “playing hard-to-get” with a confusing application process.  Why throw up a barrier immediately?

  1. Courting nontraditional students. People are going back to school after having families. They are also returning because they have changed jobs, often without a choice. To attract these students, colleges are tailoring their programs to include a wide range of online courses and degree programs so adult’s students can work-from-home. And they are updating their curricula to be relevant for these students.
  2.  Creating a connection during student recruitment, especially for traditional college students…and their parents.Gone are the days of “we-regret-to-inform-you” or “we-are-proud-to-welcome-you” form letters. Admissions staff members are now reaching out to prospective applicants and students personally so that they feel valued and important.
  3.  Providing exceptional accommodations and facilities for those who will live on-campus.By making the dormitories, student unions, sports stadiums, and concert halls more attractive and of higher quality than ever, colleges are seeking to catch students’ collective eye and present an appearance of delivering value.
  4.  Conducting student tours virtually.Many times, students do not have time or extra cash to travel all over the country to see their universities of choice. Colleges are leveraging the power of the internet to conduct interviews and tours by Skype™ or Face Time”. They are also coupling these interviews with recommendations to “start now” so that students do not lose out on any of the presented opportunities.

    6. Scholarships and grants.

    Nothing says, “Come join us and start now!” more than a scholarship, which makes both the student and her family proud, or an “institutional grant,” which is really a tuition discount.

Of course, not every college is trying all of these methods, and some colleges may be creating their own methods to take control of their destinies as institutions of higher learning. As noted by “The Chronicle of Higher Education,” something must be done to ensure the health of the American college.