This white paper is the fourth installment in Blueprint for Enrolling a Diverse Student Body, a four-part research series about how to identify, engage, and recruit students from underrepresented populations.
Many high-achieving underrepresented students do not enroll in college. Qualified underrepresented students are held back by three key concerns: They may doubt their ability to afford college, to be admitted and succeed academically once enrolled, and to fit in on campus. Even when these students attempt to apply and enroll, they may encounter procedural barriers and receive insufficient support to navigate the lengthy and complex admission and enrollment process.
In the near term, colleges and universities should enroll more of these qualified students. To do so, enrollment managers (EMs) must alleviate student concerns and minimize the process barriers that undermine their enrollment. Download the white paper or explore the nine best practices below to craft an application process tailored to the needs of each underrepresented applicant.
This resource is part of the Improve Recruitment of Underrepresented Students Roadmap. Access the Roadmap for stepwise guidance with additional tools and research.
Even qualified candidates fail to enroll
Even the most qualified underrepresented students are more likely to enroll at less selective institutions and community colleges or to opt out of higher education altogether. Analysis of data from the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 by the Education Trust found that high-achieving black and Hispanic students are less likely than similarly qualified white students to enroll at four-year institutions.
This enrollment gap is even wider by income. While 85% of high-achieving, high-income students enrolled at a four-year institution, only 55% of high-achieving, low-income students enrolled at four-year institutions.
2 key barriers for underrepresented applicants
Underrepresented students may fail to initially enter the enrollment process and/or do not make it through the process to the point of matriculation. There are two main reasons why high-achieving students from underrepresented backgrounds do not apply and enroll: student concerns and process barriers.
To enroll more high-achieving underrepresented students, colleges and universities should address student concerns about affordability, ability, and fit and implement tailored interactions for underrepresented applicants.
Address student concerns about affordability, ability, and fit
Students are stymied by concerns about the affordability of higher education, their admissibility and academic ability, and social fit on campus. Use the below practices to alleviate these three concerns and make enrolling at four-year colleges and universities seem like an achievable goal.
Notify high-achieving underrepresented students of their academic qualifications and scholarship potential early in the process.
Create opportunities for underrepresented applicants (and their families) to interact with students and alumni of similar backgrounds.
Use social media to convey the experiences of campus individuals from underrepresented backgrounds to prospective students.
Train institutional staff to elevate informal community interactions into moments of prospect engagement.
Implement tailored interactions for underrepresented applicants
Even when high-achieving underrepresented students attempt to apply and enroll, they may encounter procedural barriers and receive little support navigating the lengthy and complex admission and enrollment process. Use the below practices to mitigate the procedural barriers these students face.
Redesign applications to automatically waive fees for low-income and first-generation applicants.
Provide counselors with the information needed to help students complete applications.
Match underrepresented applicants with dedicated admission counselors.
Recommend alternative majors to ensure admissible applicants are not rejected.
Extend high-touch yield efforts to underrepresented students in the middle of the admit pool.
Read the other white papers in this series
While higher education leaders agree on the need to increase diversity, long-standing preparedness gaps create critical barriers for enrolling a diverse class. This white paper explains the resulting pipeline problem, especially at selective colleges and universities, and three contemporary forces that make increasing diversity on campus more difficult than ever before.
A proliferation of college access programs fails to combat under-enrollment of underrepresented minority and low-income students. Discover how colleges and universities can increase the college-going rate of underrepresented populations through pipeline improvement efforts.
Parents are key influencers on college enrollment for all students, but the parents of first-generation students are less likely to expect their children to enroll in college than parents with postsecondary experience. Explore our white paper for four best practices to increase first-generation student enrollment by engaging their parents.