If the last two years have highlighted anything, it’s that life is unpredictable and that no matter what stage we are at, we may have to take a step back from our path to assess the best course of action.
Probably no one felt that more than students enrolled or looking to enroll in higher education. Nevertheless, postsecondary enrollments dropped 2.5% in the Fall of 2020, nearly twice the rate of decline from a year earlier, and 3.5% by Spring 2021, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
This drop-in enrollment prompted the resurgence of the increasingly popular Gap Year. According to a Spring 2020 poll by the Baltimore-based Art & Science Group, nearly one in six graduating seniors indicated that due to the coronavirus pandemic, they were revising their immediate plans of attending a four-year college to take a gap year.
With the cost of tuition skyrocketing and many institutions instating a virtual learning world, many students felt that their experiences weren’t as impactful without the real-life social aspects of higher education.
Others may have experienced the concern of eventually returning to an in-person learning environment as we learn to live as a society with COVID-19. A more digital lifestyle may have also prompted a change in students, who found they could live and study in the environment of their choice, whether that be home or even a different state or country. This flexibility may have been hard for some to give up as institutions return to in-person learning.
It seems that even early into 2022, we’re beginning to see a shift in thoughts on higher education as more and more students opt to take a Gap Year, considering the progress we’ve made through COVID-19. However, it’s still unclear whether those who opted to take a Gap Year will return to their academics at the same rate as previous years following the current pandemic.
To combat dropping enrollment rates and ensure the return of their students, Higher Education Institutions may want to consider taking the proactive approach of talking to prospective and current students to recognize their consideration of taking a Gap Year. This could include targeted email blasts or direct mail that communicates the institution’s support and willingness to work on a plan with the student. Institutions may also want to consider marketing a one-class curriculum that students can take on their Gap Year versus full matriculation. This will keep the student engaged while supporting their need for flexibility.
GMLV has decades of experience in the Higher Education sector, having worked with large and small schools in both the public and private domains.
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