As traditional college enrollment has risen over the past twenty years, so has enrollment at technical colleges, from 9.6 million in 1999 to 16 million in 2014. Technical colleges and trade schools offer a wide range of academic and career-oriented programs and typically educate diverse learners of all ages. The need to effectively engage and support these students is a constant focus for administrators at technical colleges, who are increasingly turning to AI to scale this crucial effort.
Because the learner population at technical colleges is diverse in age, educational background, and life circumstances, they have a myriad of needs. Dual-enrolled high school students may be exploring potential career paths for the first time with academic offerings like automotive service tech, cybersecurity, and culinary arts. Recent high school grads may seek to major in business or nursing. Adult learners may enroll in a course or two to garner a new skill set for a career change.
While resources are available online or in-person for these learners, counselors at technical colleges are constantly faced with an inordinate number of mixed inquiries. And because the enrollment cycle at these schools is usually open and rolling, these questions come in year-round. Staff is challenged to provide consistent high-level support for every learner and get them the information they require to successfully apply, enroll, and persist through their studies.
One of our newest partners is Francis Tuttle Technology Center, one of Oklahoma’s 29 Technology Center districts. They provide CareerTech training for dual-enrolled high school students, traditional college-aged students, and adult learners, as well as services for business and industry customers. Francis Tuttle is considered “a vital component of the economic development arm of Oklahoma’s education system.”
Ken Koch, director of marketing and communications at Francis Tuttle, puts it this way: “It’s local dollars, training local people, for local jobs. We’re trying to be smarter and more efficient about how we’re communicating with these students, so they can actually act on what we’re offering.”
An important component of a technical college’s success is the speed at which learners move through the application and enrollment process. One complicating factor is the complex lives that many adult learners live. In short, they have a lot going on! They may be primary caregivers and/or they’re busy working at another job.
Because many of these students have children and full-time jobs, it can take more time for them to research, apply, and enroll in a proper course of study. That’s why it’s crucial to keep these learners engaged through 24/7 support that answers their questions and guides them through processes in an easy-to-navigate way.
Multilanguage web chat enhanced with AI allows learners to instantly find answers to their specific questions without searching aimlessly. Many learners also speak another language, so it’s important to offer them the opportunity to communicate with you and find helpful information in their preferred language.
“That person who is already employed, or underemployed, can visit our website after hours when our office is closed, and they can interact with the chatbot and find useful information right then and there. The chatbot is another tool we now have to tell our story and get the right information in their hands.”Ken Koch, Director of Marketing and Communications, Francis Tuttle Technology Center
Community colleges serve similar populations and face challenges familiar to technical colleges. At South Texas College, only 7% of students who applied in 2019 actually ended up registering for classes. To make matters more complicated, many learners who inquired never completed an application. After implementing one of our AI-powered chatbots in April 2019, not only did STC receive more completed applications, but they also managed to increase their yield by nearly 100% for summer 2019 inquiries and 217% for Fall 2019 inquiries.
Ocean County College in NJ is doing everything in their power to get more first-time learners on campus and retain their currently enrolled learners. We launched a partnership with them in November 2017, with most of their campaigns focusing on application completion, bill payment to ensure classes for the fall were secured, scholarship and FAFSA application, and summer engagement.
In their first year, OCC’s chatbot “Reggie” answered over 14,000 student questions. Given that it takes a staff member at least two minutes to answer most questions, OCC estimated it saved over 200 hours of staff time. With Reggie handling up to 70% of day-to-day questions, staff had more time to work with students who had unique or special situations. Today, student enrollment is up at Ocean County College (OCC), even as many peer institutions saw their enrollment fall by double digits.
For community colleges and technical colleges alike, supporting a diverse group of learners throughout the entire lifecycle is crucial to fulfilling their mission to prepare the next generation for the workforce.
“Keeping learners engaged and supporting them in finishing the process is very important to us,” notes Ken Koch. “We’re really looking forward to providing more and better information to them whenever they need it.”
If you are interested in leveraging AI to scale personalized student communication efforts at your technical college or institution, request a demo with the AdmitHub Team to set up a conversation and get started.