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How Higher Education Can Increase Mature Student Recruitment

There is no one definition of a mature student, but the term is most often applied to students older than 21 years old at the start of their studies. In the United States, 33.4% of college students are now aged 25 years and older. In the UK, 37% of undergraduate entrants at universities were over 21 during the 2019/2020 academic year. 

We’ve looked at ways to increase student enrollment in past blogs, but mature students are unique. They often face a different set of challenges and circumstances that higher education often fails to properly understand and cater to, particularly within their recruitment efforts.  

In this blog, we’ll look at some strategies that higher education can adopt to meet the unique needs of mature students and increase mature student enrollment. 

The College Enrollment Decline – A Complete Breakdown of the Data

The College Enrollment Decline – A Complete Breakdown of the Data

Find out the figures behind the college enrollment decline, with the latest enrollment data broken down by sector, region, gender, and major.

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1. Provide convenient support 

All students face the challenge of juggling an academic schedule while maintaining other commitments, but it’s clear that mature students often have considerations that younger students don’t. As older students return to school, they may do so on a part-time basis while maintaining a family and a career. Schools looking to increase mature student recruitment need to keep these commitments in mind and do more to ensure that mature students have convenient ways to receive support and get their questions answered. 

Live chat has become the most popular communication channel partly for its convenience, with 73% of customers agreeing that it’s the most satisfactory method of communication. Sitting in the bottom right-hand corner of a site, live chat is easy to use and delivers real-time communication so students can quickly ask a question, get their answer within seconds, and get on with their day. 

Colleges and universities offering live chat have seen excellent feedback, particularly compared to traditional communication channels like phone which is increasingly falling out of favor with students. Lachlan Todd, Communications & Systems Coordinator at Thompson Rivers University, explains: 

“The traditional way of communicating over just phone and email has become antiquated, especially within higher education. If you’re only offering phone and email support, you aren’t providing your students with the experience they need and expect, and this could damage everything from enrolment to drop-out rates.” 

Keep reading: Thompson Rivers University adopts Comm100 Live Chat & Chatbot across 5 departments 

2. Focus on student connection and personalization 

Returning to school as a mature student can be socially-isolating. Many older students worry about fitting in. We also know that mature students are more likely to drop out than younger students. In the 2016-2017 academic year, 15.2% of mature undergraduate students in the UK did not continue in higher education after their first year compared to 7.8% of young students. The numbers show that being a mature student isn’t easy, but how can schools curb the high drop-off among mature learners? 

The first step is personalization. Mature students are more likely to value a connection with their school and seek it out when choosing which school to join. Offering personalized communication is a perfect way to demonstrate this, and the only effective way to do this is with an omnichannel student engagement platform

Omnichannel student engagement platforms connect every channel into one agent console. As a result, when a student sends a question in – whether through live chat, email, or social media – the agent knows who the student is. They can find out their conversation history, what they’re studying, how old they are, and so much more. With this information at hand, agents can better understand the unique needs of each student and provide personalized support every time. 

3. Deliver 24/7 support 

A survey of mature students found a strong preference for online and blended learning. It’s not difficult to see why mature students are attracted to online options given the many commitments many need to accommodate alongside their studies. Schools should keep these same student commitments in mind when they consider when these students are most likely to seek support.

With a plethora of commitments, mature students often don’t have time during the day to visit a campus for support, or even call in from 9-5. For these students, it’s vital that schools offer 24/7 support so they can reach out when it suits them. While offering around-the-clock support staff isn’t feasible for most schools, thankfully chatbots are now available that make 24/7 support in higher education a reality.   

With a single chatbot in place, schools can make sure that they can connect with students no matter the time of the day. Thompson Rivers University adopted Comm100 AI Chatbot in 2020 and now the bot handles 83% of all incoming chats throughout the day, while allowing them to offer 24/7 support without any human supervision when the team is offline. Without any technical knowledge or coding experience, TRU were initially wary of adopting a chatbot, but found it incredibly easy to program and build: 

“I don’t have a computer science or programming background so finding a chatbot that was simple to build and code-free was crucial – and Comm100 Chatbot delivered on this. With a little learning and guidance from Comm100’s bot architect team, I built our bot from scratch with no technical knowledge. I think anyone who has a social media account can build a Comm100 Chatbot.”

Lachlan Todd, Communications & Systems Coordinator, Thompson Rivers University 

Wrap up 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, undergraduate enrollment has dropped by 9.4% across the United States. With enrollments down across nearly all levels of higher education, mature student recruitment is becoming increasingly important. 

Reaching these students requires the very best engagement tools. Comm100’s student engagement platform offers every key digital communication in one agent console, including live chat, chatbots, email, social media and SMS. Find out how schools like Stanford University and San Jose University are using Comm100 to help boost their recruitment efforts. 

The College Enrollment Decline – A Complete Breakdown of the Data

The College Enrollment Decline – A Complete Breakdown of the Data

Find out the figures behind the college enrollment decline, with the latest enrollment data broken down by sector, region, gender, and major.

Get the data
Kate Rogerson

About Kate Rogerson

Kate is the Content Marketing Manager at Comm100. She has extensive experience in content creation for technology companies across the world, including the UK, Australia and Canada. She specializes in B2B messaging, branding and soccer trivia.