What Higher Ed Recruitment and Retention Strategies are Truly Effective

College enrollment is critical to the continued success of higher education.

Recruitment and retention strategies take center stage when universities consider how to attract and keep the best students at their campuses, and every strategy comes down to one simple concept: build relationships through recruitment and retention.


The first step in increasing college enrollment is recruitment. The college must not only attract potential students, but they must also get students to commit to enrolling in courses. That requires the strategic planning of a marketer.

Getting students to enroll in a university is what marketers call a conversion. A student who converts makes a conscientious decision to join a university class. Some students may commit early because of a legacy; their parents or other family members went to the same school. Other students need more convincing to enroll.

The most effective recruitment strategies involve creating a relationship with prospective students. That means making as many as five or six contact attempts to attract students and get them converted. The marketing funnel includes letters to prospective students, financial aid information, faculty profiles, rationales for university enrollment, and an invitation to the campus.

Recruitment initiatives are labor intensive, but multistep strategies have proven to be the most effective in attracting students to higher education.

Once students enroll in a school, the university must immediately begin retention strategies.


Colleges have worked on their student retention rates for years, and with good reason.

Only 40% of students earn a bachelor’s degree within four years of matriculation, and 60% will complete their degrees within six years. University students are not making it to graduation quickly, and the longer they are enrolled in the university, the more likely they are to leave without completing their degree plans unless retention strategies are in place.

Universities devote money and effort to provide instructional opportunities and support services to keep their students motivated and in school. Spending more money to create healthy relationships is how universities can retain students.

Colleges with the best retention rates do more than throw money at their challenges. They use data-driven interventions that help them create instruction-based relationships with each student. If students feel as though they are receiving a personalized education, they will be more likely to remain enrolled in the university and get their degrees.

In summary

University grads reap huge rewards from the relationships developed with their school and their peers during their college years.

College recruitment and retention are critical to our nation’s success. Chron reports that workers with bachelors degrees earn $2.27 million more throughout their lifetimes than workers without a degree.

The earning power of college graduates makes our communities stronger, and that’s all the more reason why universities should be focusing on using effective recruitment and retention strategies.

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