College enrollment more than doubled to 18 million from 1980 to 2010. While enrollment has dipped a bit recently, easy access to loans has meant that going to college is a foregone conclusion for many. The only question is the choice of college. Somewhere in this crazy race of college choices influenced by college rankings, we’ve forgotten about the actual program that a student enrolls in. 20 to 50% of students enter college with undecided majors and 75% change their major at least once. According to a 2013 study by the Federal Bank of New York, only 27% of graduates are in jobs related to their major. Close to 30% of students dropout of college within the first year, often because they don’t see a reason why they should be in college.
Impact of advising siloes
Siloed advising groups in universities, lack of career guidance in high schools has meant that the choices of college, programs and careers are all disconnected. Academic advising is now only about course choices and Career counseling is about helping students find jobs and rarely do they meet. Close to 50% of college students don’t even engage with career services and those that do are engaging only as they approach graduation. Unfortunately, the die has already been cast for the student at that point. There is a massive correlation between the first job and lifetime earnings.
Pragya’s core mission is to help learners connect their academic choices to careers. We started our journey focusing on students in college. Advising siloes and the aforementioned information gap adversely affects students from disadvantaged backgrounds far more, because they don’t have the family support systems to bridge these gaps. Pragya created an AI-powered self-guidance app that puts relevant career and academic information together, directly in the student’s hands. It brings awareness of careers earlier in a student’s journey, when they need to make choices of learning pathways to pursue, instead of during job search.
Importance of early guidance
However, this wasn’t early enough. The awareness of linkages between programs and careers needs to happen when students are evaluating their post secondary options. As the cost of attending college has continued to rise, ROI is now a crucial factor in the decision making of prospective students. If other lower cost paths to a high paying job are available, going to college is no longer a foregone conclusion. It has become imperative for higher ed institutions to show clear links between program offerings and career pathways. Pragya took the solution we built for holistic advising to address the career relevance issue that colleges were facing in enrollment.
As we dug deeper into problems faced by colleges in enrollment, we identified two distinct, but related problems. Step 1 is identifying leads for prospective students, and step 2 is engaging prospective students who are interested to ensure they enroll. Colleges have historically approached the first step with traditional marketing approaches designed to increase the top of the enrollment funnel. The second step has historically centered around campus visits and other forms of manually intensive engagement. However, the results are just a 2% conversion rate from first contact to enrollment. Even worse – many of those who enroll either drop out or pick career pathways disconnected with their program of study.
Career Relevance every step of the way
Pragya’s approach is to use career relevance as the glue that connects yield capture to prospect engagement to retention. Showcasing career relevance helps universities enroll best-fit students who are more likely to persist, because they come in making an informed choice. Pragya provides colleges with a web widget, powered by labor market data from our partner Burning Glass, that can be plugged into any page on their website within minutes to showcase career pathways of specific program offerings. The widget has engagement hooks to capture qualified leads, who are interested in learning more about the career outcomes of a program. These interested candidates get a personalized app for a deeper engagement and exploration of college programs and learning experiences. Students get to keep this app through their entire college journey to ensure that they stay connected to their career goals. It empowers them to pivot to a different pathway based on their interest and aptitude. Pragya’s widget and learner app seamlessly integrates with the enrollment and marketing workflow that universities already have in place, including the CRM. Counselors and advisors get organic insights into student interests that can inform their engagement with them. Institutions ranging from liberal arts colleges to community colleges have partnered with us to drive tangible impact. Institutions ranging from liberal arts colleges to community colleges have partnered with us to leverage ROI to drive tangible impact in enrollment.
Everyone wins if the focus is on the long term career outcome of the learner!