5 areas for community colleges leaders to take stock in 2023


5 areas for community college leaders to take stock in 2023

And resources to help sustain your post-pandemic momentum


Now that community colleges have weathered the storm of the pandemic, it’s time to take a moment to recognize all you have accomplished, and then to begin to steer the transition from a “crisis” mindset to a sustainability one.

You might be looking at all the changes you made during the pandemic and thinking, How do I know what is a temporary change versus a permanent practice? And how do we begin to plan for the future knowing that colleges, students, and staff may have very different priorities than three years ago?

Here are five areas to take stock of where you are and consider where you want to be. We’ll share resources to help you identify and sustain your most impactful practices in the upcoming year and beyond.

5 areas to take stock in 2023

1. Talent management

At the peak of the staffing crisis in spring 2022, community colleges were down 14% of their workforce, which caused disruptions to student services, and created burnout across all departments. By October 2022 some recovery in staffing was evident, and while this is positive, we still need to rethink how we both retain our current teams and engage incoming talent.

Now is a good time to review your hiring practices in preparation for staffing for fall 2023. This includes how your job descriptions are written, how career progression opportunities are prioritized, and how you communicate your employee value proposition. Recent data shows that revising job descriptions and demonstrating clear career ladders could help you to build a more attractive environment for staff:

  • Two-thirds of higher education job descriptions don’t state if an applicant would receive benefits
  • 39% of higher education professionals don’t think their college is invested in their professional development
  • 46% of higher education professionals don’t see a way to progress up in their current role

Job seekers are also citing salary, remote work, and flexible options as the top things they’re looking for in their new roles. Knowing this, your team might benefit from rethinking how you orient your job descriptions, including front-loading with what makes your college a great place to work, as opposed to starting with a summary of the role and qualifications needed.


If you are considering reviewing your talent strategy our Employee Recruitment & Retention Center can equip you with tools, resources, and best practices.

2. Recruitment communications management

As the number of traditional-aged students continues to decline, community college leaders must focus on enrollment and recruitment strategies within their control. One thing is clear—the shrinking birth rate, declines in young adult enrollment, and growing skepticism of higher education make each interaction with a prospective student all more important.


Since 2020, more than 8 million high school graduates aged 18-24 have opted out of attending college according to EAB analysis of American Community Survey data

Our analysis shows that when researching post-secondary education, lower-income students are less likely to rely on parental support than higher-income students, as are Black or Hispanic students compared to Asian or White students. Knowing that these students are highly represented at community colleges means that prospects are likely looking to the college as their main reference point when exploring their enrollment options. Thus, coordinated email communications are critical to closing equity gaps.

Taking time to review how you collect prospective student leads, coordinate communication, and track your impact can help you make the most of all the touch points you have with students. We recommend taking a four-phase approach: 1) locating and organizing prospects 2) leveraging technology to improve communication 3) streamlining onboarding and 4) tracking your outcomes.


EAB’s Community College Prospect Diagnostic tool can help you assess places where prospective students might fall between the cracks, and Navigate’s new Recruitment Management module can streamline your recruitment communications strategy in one place.

3. Standardized advising strategy

You may have experimented with different advising models over the past three years or had plans for advising innovations that were sidelined. Often, student success supports are siloed in different offices, and everyone who is helping the student may not have the whole picture of their situation. This lack of integration and standardization can cause students to churn between offices, and to receive conflicting information.

Over the course of the pandemic, EAB’s secret shopper research revealed that students were experiencing difficulty connecting with student services offices, like advising, which slowed down their enrollment momentum. Additionally, students reported that they wanted more guidance on program choice, which is difficult for advisors to do when they are wearing too many hats.

As you consider ways to modify your advising strategy, consider evaluating what roles faculty, advisors, and self-service tools can play to avoid duplication of effort, so students can get answers faster.


EAB’s white paper, Breaking the Advising Stalemate: Building a Consistent Advising Experience to Address Students’ Needs, can help set the ground work for starting a holistic advising conversation on your campus.

Also, read how Pueblo Community College increased their faculty progress report response rate by 11.2% and increased Navigate student app usage by 42% in the 2021-22 academic year by standardizing advising processes.

4. Strategic enrollment management planning

Your strategic planning may have stalled, or shifted, over the past few years, and you might be finding yourself in a place where you are ready to regain momentum. But your priorities have likely changed since your last planning session, especially as both student and employee needs and expectations are shifting. Considerations for your new planning cycle might include:

  • Growing numbers of community college students who are citing mental health and basic needs barriers as reasons for not persisting in community college
  • How rising wages for young adults might shape the value proposition of community college
  • How to keep the momentum of recovering dual enrollment numbers
  • Ways to reengage stop-out students who could be ready to return
  • How changes in your staffing landscape could create holes in your student success strategy


As you consider how to reignite your planning process, EAB’s SEM toolkit can help you to take inventory of where you are, where you want to be, and how to measure the ground you are covering.

5. Data management

All too often, it’s difficult to standardize data across multiple systems—like SISs, CRMs, and LMSs—into a common language that allows you to tell a holistic story of how your college is performing. Having access to accurate, easy-to-interpret data is more important than ever as community colleges need to have a clearer understanding of what practices are working in regard to enrollment, fiscal decisions, course scheduling, and equity, so you can double down on what’s yielding results.

Unfortunately, having easy access to data isn’t the reality for many community colleges. Compounding the fact that data systems don’t “talk” to each other are the manual processes for pulling and reporting data, and the bottlenecks this can create—especially as colleges are losing IR and IT staff in record numbers.

Unifying your data management, governance, and reporting strategies will not only reduce the stress on your staff, but it will also give you access to the information you need to make data-informed decisions and streamline tedious but critical workflows like compliance reporting.


Northampton Community College struggled to complete annual mandatory reporting efficiently due to limited staff and an ineffective data management process. Northampton partnered with Edify, EAB’s education data platform, to automate their compliance reporting process by creating saved, repeatable workflows that mirrored both IPEDS and state report structures.

Watch this on-demand webinar to discover how Edify transformed Northampton’s reporting process—ultimately saving them hundreds of hours of staff time and from a $950,000 loss in state funding.

Review what's working—and what isn't

As your college launches into 2023, taking an inventory of your goals and priorities related to talent management, recruitment, advising strategy, strategic enrollment management, and data strategy can help set a strong course for the year. Reviewing what is working—and what isn’t—in your practices can help provide a better student experience and make the best use of your assets.

Connect with an expert

Want to learn more about how EAB’s technology and research solutions can help streamline your community college’s recruitment and retention efforts and simplify data management? Send us a note via the form below.

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