The Truth about Post-pandemic Higher Ed Admissions

RJ Nichol
Jul 1, 2020

Troubling new data provides stark evidence that higher ed admissions offices can no longer rely on yesterday’s strategies to meet tomorrow’s recruitment and enrollment goals.

For example, most recently surveyed college students (56%) believe they are now unable to afford to pay tuition. And whereas only about 50% of college leaders have said their institutions are “very likely” to resume in-person classes this fall, most students (56%) have described online-only classes as “unappealing.” Another survey revealed that only 2% of 18-to-24-year-olds want to attend college exclusively online.

This news, in turn, raises an important question: What can higher ed admissions offices learn from the current crisis to limit the potential damage caused by future societal and economic disruptions?

According to several recently interviewed higher ed admissions leaders, the solution involves more than just maintaining the size of their traditional applicant pools. It also requires schools create bigger — and better — applicant pipelines. One proven way to do so, they say, is by joining Liaison’s Centralized Application Service (CAS™) Community.

A proven higher ed admissions remedy

A CAS is an online recruiting and application platform that allows colleges and universities to save time and money. It grows enrollment and simplifies admissions through a paperless, cloud-based platform to recruit best-fit students. With a CAS, which is available to institutions at no cost, admissions offices have experienced up to a 70% reduction in time to decision. They also reported a roughly 90% reduction in manual administrative application processing tasks while avoiding the need to add headcount to manage growing application volumes.

Setting up a CAS was “quick and easy,” said Kyron Carter, Manager of Enrollment Analytics at Howard University. “We were up and running within six weeks.”

Sean Pitzer, Associate Director of Graduate Admissions at St. Cloud University, saw a similarly quick implementation: “With Liaison’s help, we were able to launch a new application for our 60 graduate programs within about five weeks.”

Wider reach, deeper applicant pools

When potential applicants log on to a CAS, they can search for the programs that interest them at every participating college and university. As a result, those who were previously unaware of your programs are able to discover them and upload their application materials quickly and easily.

How effective is joining a CAS for schools interested in boosting enrollment?

“After our first cycle in BusinessCASTM [the first and only CAS for business programs], we’ve seen a 44% increase in our class size,” said Dee Steinle, Executive Director of MBA and MSB Programs at the University of Kansas. “We were expecting significant results when we saw a 50% increase in applications just one month after launching the CAS, but this is beyond what we even imagined.”

Toby McChesney, Ed.D., Senior Assistant Dean of Graduate Business Programs and Special Assistant to the Provost at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business, said his institution also experienced dramatic results — even after the onset of the current pandemic. “Despite the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak — and the concerning trends related to graduate management education applications that predated it — we’ve seen a 33% increase in applications for Fall 2020,” he said. “For our Summer Online MBA alone, we saw a 180% increase in applications and a 163% increase in matriculants.”

Faster results, better higher ed admissions outcomes

Before adopting a CAS, Oregon Health & Science University’s admissions team manually processed all applications and supporting documents. Automating document management with the CAS was “like moving from the Stone Age to an iPhone,” said Richard Goranflo, Ed.D., Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs. Application processing times have decreased by 99%. “I’d say we do 5% of the manual processing we used to do,” Goranflo said. “It’s shocking how little time we’re spending on admissions compared to the past, and it’s fantastic.”

By processing applications on weekends, holidays and even during campus shutdowns, Liaison helps programs overcome potentially debilitating staff and time limitations — no matter what’s going on in the world. In other words, a CAS allows your institution to protect itself from disruptive events and maintain “business as usual” admissions operations even if physical campuses are forced to curtail their operations.

Whether your institution is trying to recover from the impact of COVID-19 or better position itself to deal with the next crisis that may threaten its recruitment and enrollment goals, joining the CAS Community offers immediate and lasting benefits that can pave the way to a better future.

RJ Nichol

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Over the last three decades, Liaison has helped over 40,000 programs on more than 1,200 campuses more effectively manage admissions through its Centralized Application Service (CAS™) technology and complementary application processing and support services. The higher education technology leader supports its partner institutions’ total enrollment goals by pairing CAS with its Enrollment Marketing (EM) platform as well as the recently acquired TargetX (CRM) and advanced analytics software Othot.