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Amid COVID-19, Small Schools Jump On Big Opportunities

Heather Sumperl May, 12, 2020

Colleges and universities around the globe are being faced with widespread challenges in the wake of campus closures and an uncertain fall semester due to impacts of COVID-19. Institutions were forced to react under immense pressure with most choosing the safety of their staff and students as a priority. Soon after the peak of dealing with these immediate concerns, colleges are now having to make decisions about the future of their operations.

It should come as no surprise that the institutions that will be most affected by the pandemic in the long-term are smaller schools and private institutions without large enough endowments to supplement funding. While some colleges have had to make the difficult decision to cease operations, a larger group is jumping on the digital transformation bandwagon with optimism and great success.

Small university, big opportunities

Wilkes University is a historic, private institution in Pennsylvania with an undergraduate enrollment hovering around 2,500. A small campus with big opportunities, Wilkes offers an enriching college experience set against a picturesque backdrop bordering the Susquehanna River. With a small class size and greater flexibility to personalize the college experience, Wilkes searched for a way to expand their reach in the digital sphere.

A vision for virtual

Wilkes originally contacted StudentBridge to create a virtual experience that would showcase their campus and highlight the student life experience. They launched their new digital platform at the start of COVID-19, and within days, the Wilkes University Virtual Tour received almost 3,500 site visitors, opening the door for greater lead generation and conversions. Through social media campaigns and outbound marketing, Wilkes was able to offer their new platform as a resource to prospective students while growing their future yield potential.

In March 2020, Wilkes' new Virtual Tour received an astounding number of site hits resulting in 25% of those visitors returning for a second look. A total of 1,118 prospective students toured the campus virtually through Wilkes' state-of-the-art Interactive Campus Map. Additionally, the new site experienced a low bounce rate and high visit duration meaning students were engaged in the content presented to them.

As smaller colleges consider their post-coronavirus vision, it is essential they develop a calculated enrollment contingency plan that will not only address the challenges of today, but pave the way toward an innovative future that supports long-term strategic objectives.

There is resilience in recovery and although COVID-19 will have unintended consequences in the higher education sphere, there is always opportunity in the face of challenge. Colleges and universities, of all shapes and sizes, are finding themselves on an equal playing field. And so, while the in-person visits probably won't happen this year, students are going online to virtually visit more schools than ever before making it essential to step up and stand out.

Whether you use StudentBridge solutions or not, we would be happy to discuss your enrollment migration strategy during this accelerated digital transformation.

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