Community College Recruitment: Breaking old Stereotypes via Student Success Stories
By: Laura Sheehan
Just as I was starting a new digital enrollment campaign for a community college, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released its report on the effectiveness of community colleges as pathways to degree completion. It’s always nice when the research matches the experiences of those who live the day-to-day reality — in this case, the students at Three Rivers Community College (TRCC) in Connecticut.
Perhaps the most striking finding is that 40% of all students pursuing a degree in the U.S. attend a community college. Not only do these students represent a huge piece of the higher education market, but their presence ripples throughout the industry via various pathways. The report notes that:
- 2/3 of community college students who earn an associate degree go on to complete a bachelor’s degree (within 6 years)
- 1/4 those who initially enroll in a certificate program earn an associate or bachelor’s degree (also within 6 years)
Clearly, students see community colleges as a viable option, yet the administrators I spoke to still feel the pressure of an old stereotype (e.g., that they are sub-par to 4-year institutions). In reality, more and more families are turning to community colleges for their quality, affordability, and overall success.
Let it Work for Recruitment
So how can community colleges use this information to more effectively recruit? Start by capturing students’ success stories. Build a story bank and let their words and experiences fuel your marketing efforts.
To build a digital campaign for TRCC, I am interviewing dozens of students and alumni. Recent graduates Alani and Alycia exemplify TRCC’s success: they are stellar students who chose to complete their first 2 years of college at TRCC.
Like many incoming first year students, Alani didn’t know what she wanted to study. “I saw they offered a lot of majors so I figured I’d find something I like,” she said. And she did, in an Accounting class taught by a dynamic professor. Alani graduated in May and is transferring to a state university to complete her bachelor’s degree. Looking back, she said, “I loved my time at Three Rivers. It’s an intimate community with small classes, incredible professors, and lots to do for students — plus, I graduated with a ton of knowledge which I’ll carry with me.”
Like Alani, Alycia graduated this May with an associate degree, no debt, and is transferring to a state university. “I didn’t spend a dime on my TRCC degree — financial aid covered all the costs,” Alycia said. But most important to her was the quality of the education and the support she received. “I credit the faculty for my success: they know how to push students beyond their limitations and inspire them to learn. They care about our success and help us in so many different ways.”
In interviewing students, I ask them to share their perspective on key selling points: academic quality; academic & career support; affordability; campus life & activities; and outcomes (transfer/career).
By doing so, I fill the story bank with authentic and useful testimonials. With a community rife with students like Alani and Alycia, why not ask them to share the truth of experiences?