Image credit: EdSurge/Pounce, the mascot and chatbot persona at Georgia State University
Colleges and university enrollment took a hit during the lingering COVID-19 pandemic. Compared to fall 2020, total US undergraduate enrollment declined by 3.1 percent for the 2021-2022 academic year, according to National Student Clearinghouse research. The total two-year decline during the pandemic amounts to 6.6 percent. This means approximately 1,025,600 fewer students are enrolled in US colleges today than there were two years ago.
In fall 2020, the majority of higher education institutions offered only online courses, opting for a remote learning model to keep students, professors, and staff safe. So some students–who wanted the typical in-person college experience–chose to sit out the academic year rather than pay full tuition for online learning.
At the same time, college admissions departments were challenged to showcase their institutions online, as in-person campus visits ground to a halt. Institutions began offering elaborate videos on their websites, as well as virtual information sessions to familiarize students and their parents with their campus and competitive differentiators. While these admissions presentations were effective, they weren’t able to attract and enroll the same number of students as in pre-pandemic times.
Chatbots Can Facilitate Student Enrollment
Today, most campuses are in near-full swing and institutions are once again scheduling in-person prospective student visits. However, higher education is continuing to use the technological solutions developed in the last two years to present classes virtually, enable students and parents to ask questions 24/7, and get information at their convenience.
For admissions and enrollment in particular, schools are using AI-based conversational user interfaces (CUIs) to engage and interact with both prospective and current students. AI-enabled chatbots help students fill out forms and applications, investigate finances, and easily connect to vital information about their prospective or current school.
Chatbots Assist University Staff
Schools that use chatbots can save staff hours of time by responding to common queries and freeing up personnel to do more value-added tasks. Chatbots also can prompt students to meet application deadlines and submit all documentation. The bots can help them complete their applications and also provide information about housing and scholarships.
Many higher education institutions have been using chatbots for years, but others have more recently leveraged the technology more heavily and more strategically for enrollment tasks. For example, Georgia State University introduced a new student portal to guide students through the steps to prepare for the first day of classes and added a chatbot. “Pounce,” a virtual version of the school’s official mascot, answers questions from incoming students via text messages. Its aim was to reduce “summer melt,” referring to students who accept offers of admission but don’t actually enroll.
Georgia State University turned to AdmitHub – now Mainstay – to launch the text-message-based chatbot. The company specializes in chatbots for higher education enrollment management and student persistence. The Pounce chatbot can engage in conversations with incoming students. It can guide students filing for financial aid, applying for housing, and more. The chatbot can also answer thousands of other questions about the university, available student services, and costs.
When the school first switched on the chatbot, 3,114 admitted students began texting, representing a 90 percent opt-in rate among admitted students. In the first year using Pounce, the University was able to reduce summer melt by 22 percent.
- Learn More about Chatbots
- Get the specs of the Mainstay engagement platform.