3 Strategies for Colleges and Universities to Drive Student Enrollment


“Fifteen years from now more than half of the universities [in America] will be in bankruptcy,” predicts Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen in an article in The Economist. These are very dire words from an expert in education and business. Although America has the best higher education system in the world, it is also the most expensive. Over the past decade, federal and state government funding has been dropping and online education continues to explode. Meanwhile, new challenges are cropping up which further threaten student enrollment for American residential colleges. These include:

  • Student enrollment declining: Overall higher education enrollment in America continued to decline in 2016. Nationwide enrollments began their slide in 2012 and have now continued for the last 10 consecutive college terms.

  • Too many applications: Concerns over getting in and common applications are causing students (and their worried parents) to apply to many more colleges. This in turn makes it very difficult for a school to get a predictable yield (the size of the incoming class). Accepting too many students causes overcrowding while enrolling too few students causes layoffs.

  • Uncertain immigration laws: The new U.S. administration will most certainly attempt further restrictions on allowing foreigners to enter (or return to) the country. Foreign students are lucrative for American colleges since they rarely are offered financial aid. Even if they are unsuccessful, the uncertainty around immigration will force these international students to look to options outside of the U.S. and force colleges to look for more students domestically.

Colleges and universities can undertake a number of marketing and strategic initiatives to increase student applications and the percentage of students who matriculate (accept the admission offer). These initiatives do not dramatically increased fixed costs compared to the cost of building a new dorm or classroom building.

1. Increase Campus Bookings

Common wisdom says that 50-60% of accepted students will matriculate if they have had a campus visit. If they don’t have a campus visit, this percentage could be substantially lower. Therefore, it is imperative to encourage prospective students to come to campus in your marketing efforts. It's also just as important to schedule phone or web interviews with international students who cannot travel to visit campus to increase enrollment. Once interested, colleges and universities need to make arranging campus visits or phone and web interviews as simple as possible. Appointment booking solutions from BookingBug make it very easy for schools to offer appointments for campus visits, tours, and admission interviews. Once the visit is completed, follow-up surveys can provide an opportunity for feedback and address next steps.


2. Increase Your Geographical Footprint

Expand your college to other locations. There are many examples of this trend. Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, has opened campuses in Boston and San Francisco. Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, has opened campuses in Seattle and Charlotte. These branch campuses don’t have to be large to succeed, and they increase the chance that the school will be considered a national brand. All of these branch locations are located in downtown areas and have close relationships with large companies. Since these campuses are starting from scratch, it is important to encourage as many people as possible to come to campus tours or events. Word of mouth and social media make it easy for your prospects to share the news about your educational offerings.

3. Expand Executive Education

Many colleges offer executive education to working professionals. Companies are eager to take advantage of high quality educational opportunities for their employees without adding additional staffing to provide these classes. Executive education can even be combined with satellite branches for double the impact. For colleges, this is additional enrollment without the need to build more dorms. Common wisdom says that companies and executives are more particular than undergraduate students and therefore require a flawless registration and appointment booking system.


It is quite apparent that many smaller colleges will close in the coming years. Whether your school will close depends on the strategies you employ to increase your brand impact and make your educational offerings as appealing to as many potential students as possible. Don’t forget to strongly encourage prospective students to come for a campus visit, and make it easy for them to set up their desired appointments.

If you'd like to learn more about BookingBug and how campus appointments can increase enrollment, download our brochure!