There were only four community colleges in the State of Illinois that saw positive enrollment growth for the Fall 2020 semester. Lincoln Trail College was one of the four colleges with a three percent growth in enrollment.
“In Crawford County, I think the Lincoln Trail Experience is highly valued and respected. Those two qualities seem to remain in-demand even during a pandemic,” says Amber Malone, who serves on LTC’s Enrollment Management team. “We are elated that we can deliver this high-quality education to as many students a possible, but we also know there are many more students out there can benefit from additional training to advance in their job as well as maybe some recently graduated seniors who didn’t quite feel ready to begin. We would like to encourage both of these groups to call us now to explore opportunities and financial aid for their program.”
Tona Ambrose serves as LTC’s Director of College Access and she says the seeds for growth were planted well before the start of the Fall Semester. “Two years ago, we put a focus on intentionally reaching out to our local high school guidance counselors to offer support, relevant professional development workshops on our campus, and to come alongside them in any way that we could. As a community college, building these relationships and assisting in all the hard work that they do to ensure their students are successful only makes sense. Additionally, we were focused on making sure that high schoolers knew specifically about all the affordable programs and degrees that LTC offers, as well as the amazing dual enrollment opportunities and we set out to visit schools as often as possible. Various faculty and staff visited schools to purposefully engage with students and to answer their questions about the entire college-going process, as well as their career/technical field options. I believe that these bridge-building efforts made it easier for even more students to enroll at LTC this fall and to trust that we are committed to helping them attain their educational and personal goals, as well as delivering an exceptional education to each of them.”
The COVID-19 pandemic brought enrollment concerns to colleges across the country, but LTC’s Enrollment Management team responded by finding ways to keep students and prospective students engaged throughout the spring and summer. LTC offered a variety of virtual events for students, including an online version of the college’s biggest on-campus recruiting event Senior Blitz as well as events like Adulting 101 and a series of Zoom panels on a variety of college-related topics. The college also turned to YouTube with a series called Two Minute Tuesdays featuring LTC students talking about their experiences and Faculty Friday where LTC faculty talked about their programs and classes. Ambrose says the goal of all of these programs was to make students feel welcome, ease the pressure of transitioning to college, and to make students feel totally connected to Lincoln Trail even before starting classes in the Fall.
Malone says another part of this is personal attention. “Individual attention begins from the first moment students apply to Lincoln Trail. I think that personal touch found in our communications and virtual interactions with students has helped us to maintain an ongoing relationship with our students. We focus on each student and meeting the needs they have for a successful and enjoyable college experience. We match students with programs and activities that are engaging and challenge them. Our goal is for all of these experiences to assist them in securing their first job or advancing in their current line of work.”
Internally, Lincoln Trail College has placed an emphasis on Strategic Enrollment Management. The idea is to line up different departments to work collaboratively to come up with strategies to build enrollment.
“Together, as Recruitment, Admissions, Records, Financial Aid, Advising, and the Business Office, we have been able to stand in student shoes and identify barriers or “bumps in the road” which might hinder a first-year freshman or returning non-traditional student during their time at the Trail. By evaluating our processes, we have paved an educational road that is more convenient, more cost-effective, and overall creates a smoother student path to success,” says Malone.
Ambrose says the teamwork from the Enrollment Management team has been very important. “Teamwork is imperative and really has been the key component to our success. Most importantly, our continued focus on teamwork remains the catalyst that ensures we are helping our students in the best and most holistic way possible. Our interdisciplinary team consists of professionals who work in admissions/records, recruiting, marketing, advising, retention, college access, and so on. This collective and collaborative effort is essential, and we all look forward to watching our students grow personally and academically and succeed.”
Malone says work is already underway to find students for the Fall 2021 Semester. “We are already building relationships for next year’s freshman and hope to do as much as possible in this increasingly virtual environment, which has its own challenges. We hope parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and employers like our Facebook page to see the many updates as LTC expands both physically with new buildings and virtually to accommodate the current situation. If you have a child, grandchild, niece, nephew, or cousin who maybe lives hours away but is looking for a personalized educational experience, we hope they will take a virtual tour and see what LTC has to offer them.”