How Institutions with Limited Online Options Can Attract & Retain Adult Learners


As technology becomes more integrated into higher education, institutions with limited online programming are facing increasing pressure to go digital. This pressure has been multiplied by COVID, as remote learning became the norm over the past year, and some students started seeing more value in online course delivery than they had before.

Consequently, colleges and universities lacking online courses are experiencing higher-than-average attrition and tuition revenue decline.

However, ReUp has partnered with many institutions with limited online programs and supported enrollment success throughout the pandemic. Our experience validates that there are opportunities to improve your enrollment and retention rates, even with limited online programming.

In this post, we use our insights on in-person offerings to outline three key actions you can take to start seeing enrollment success as early as this fall and show how these approaches have impacted some of our partners.

Support the students better suited to in-school learning

Despite the major challenges faced by colleges and universities with limited online programs due to COVID, many students are eager to return to an in-person experience.

In particular, stopout students, who tend to be more vulnerable than the average student, are more likely to be affected by digital inequalities, especially as a result of COVID-19. Unreliable internet connections or limited access to computers are some of the reasons that many students struggled to stay in school during the pandemic. For those students who lack access to technology, returning to campus typically means more reliable access to classes and resources.

Additionally, adult learners are more skeptical about fully online programs than other groups. While students over 25 have become more fond of online learning over the course of the pandemic, a majority still prefer either a hybrid model or fully in-person class settings.

Understanding and catering to the needs of students who rely on campus resources and services is an opportunity to support this population that lacks digital access while promoting your institution’s focus on in-person learning.

ReUp’s engagement model, which leverages our growing database of interactions with stopout students, allows us to predict which students are most likely to engage with ReUp, allowing us to properly support their process of returning.

And as a part of our network, partners have access to a large population of students, allowing them to find the best-fit students for their institutions. For our partners with limited online programs, we are able to identify the students who most value the in-person option or other valuable offerings that come with that institution as a destination, supporting their path back to the institution that best suits their pathway to success.

Increase student engagement

Post-COVID, uncertainty about going back to ‘normal’ remains high. Almost half of the students in a survey conducted by McKinsey say they are considering changing their enrollment plans. Many are also struggling with personal and economic burdens as a result of pandemic conditions.

Consequently, it’s important for institutions with limited online programs to increase their engagement and support of students as in-person learning returns. While a lack of online programming may not be as much of a hurdle as some perceive, online communication with students is critical. This support is especially true as many students will need extra motivation and support to get back on track post-COVID.

Thus, communication efforts to locate, contact, and engage stopped out students can be crucial to supporting them through to completion. These efforts may include email campaigns and texts or phone calls from a university staff member. Such engagement can let students know they are seen and give them a chance to ask for help with their questions about returning to classes.

In addition to boosted communication, institutions can utilize coaching to give extra support to the students struggling most to re-enroll. Research by ReUp  has shown that the more quality relationships students have in their lives, the more likely they are to return to school. And personalized coaching can not only be one of those relationships but also help the student improve their connections with others, including peers and school staff.

ReUp’s Success Coaches have just the expertise to provide this personalized support to students. They connect with stopout students, motivating them to return and helping them create a tangible plan to earn their degrees.

Additionally, our innovative natural language processing technology provides Success Coaches with deeper insight into students’ motivations and preferences and thereby understand how to best encourage and support stopout students, including evaluating the best modality to meet the student’s academic needs.

Use student feedback to identify areas for improvement

As a result of the pandemic, more students appreciate the flexibility of hybrid models and specific aspects of the learning experience that have moved online.  For institutions with limited online programs, this is an opportunity to experiment with integrating digital tools and other online features into their classes.

For example, a student may prefer to return to entirely in-person classes but would also like to access online readings instead of physically purchasing expensive textbooks.

ReUp’s partners receive regular insights based on feedback from their own students, as well as comparisons to our ever-growing dataset. This includes operational insights, performance metrics, and strategic consulting to help institutions improve and adapt to students’ needs.

Success with ReUp: Case Studies

ReUp has worked hard to improve enrollment for our partners by engaging and supporting their stopout students, including our partners with limited online programming.

Here are 4 institutions, all with limited online programming, that have successfully brought back stopout students with ReUp’s support.

Case 1: Large, public research university

This institution has been partnering with ReUp since mid 2018. The university provided a list of students who had stopped out up to 30 years ago. 65% of this list had missing contact information, and ReUp was able to enhance information for 54% of that list, leveraging our proprietary solutions to engage students. In total, ReUp was able to reach out to over 13,000 stopout students.

Since the partnership began, 360 students have re-enrolled, 124 former stopouts have graduated, and over $1.5 million in tuition revenue has been recovered, all with ReUp’s support.

While the university lacks online programs, they have been working on offering new ones so students have access to more options that fit their lives. In communicating with students, ReUp supported the institution in promoting these new options. Through feedback, we have learned that this has motivated some students to return as they are able to access a mix of remote and campus-based services.

Case 2: Small, public HBCU

This university provided a list of 1500 stopout students to ReUp in Fall 2018. So far, ReUp has been able to recover over $361,000 in tuition revenue, with 89 students re-enrolled and 26 graduated in two years.

One student was concerned about wasting time in school as her original academic track didn’t match her life expectations. This is why she stopped out. Once she decided on her career aspirations, she wanted to return, but wasn’t sure of the next steps or if she would feel welcomed. She worked with her Success Coach to channel her motivations and connect with the resources she needed to feel confident re-enrolling. She has since re-enrolled and persisted and is on track to graduate.

Case 3: Small, private 4-year university

Although ReUp’s partnership with this institution only recently started in Spring 2020, 99 students have enrolled and the university has already recovered over $300,000 in tuition revenue. As ReUp persists in locating and reaching out to this university’s list of 6,000 stopout students, these numbers will only continue to grow.

The main reason that students reported leaving this institution was not due to limited online programming. Instead, students’ top reasons for stopping out were 1) finances, 2) life balance (having other personal commitments that conflicted with school), and 3) professional commitments. Leveraging this information,ReUp engages with their stopout students to develop a re-enrollment plan that works with their lives and jobs.

Additionally, as part of the ReUp Network, the university has access to a wide population of transfer students who may be interested in their unique course offerings and campus culture.

Learn more about how to re-enroll your stopout students

ReUp is committed to supporting students to get their degrees and achieve career and life success. We adapt to and support each of our partners depending on their particular needs. This is why our partners with limited online programs have seen enrollment success as a result of ReUp’s work with their stopout students.

Our revolutionary technologies and approaches have brought just shy of 16,000 students back to school, with over 3,500 graduating since 2015. We have achieved this through our expertise in the various barriers that stopout students face, our vast and growing dataset, technology, and personalized coaching.

What’s more, we offer these holistic, game-changing services at no upfront cost to our partners, meaning there is no risk for you; we are only compensated for success.

Connect with us today and learn more about how ReUp can be your partner in enrollment improvement and success.