The Covid pandemic has been a thorn in the side of the higher education industry for over a year. Many of the challenges institutions are currently facing can be attributed to the virus, and the decline in international student enrollment is no exception.
While the pandemic didn’t cause this trend—reports show that international enrollment has been declining since 2015—it most certainly catalyzed it. With university operations going virtual, students were essentially kicked off campus and U.S. borders were closed. According to the Fall 2020 International Student Enrollment Snapshot, new international student enrollment in the U.S. and online outside the U.S. has decreased by 43 percent.
Can we reverse the trend?
Allan E. Goodman, president of the Institute of International Education, theorizes that we will soon see a boost in international enrollment due to the forthcoming end of the pandemic.
“All of our records show in the past that when it’s safe to resume travel, we’re dealing with surges of students that have deferred, that set their plans aside, that were granted deferments and want to come. I think there’s no reason to suspect that at the end of this pandemic, we won’t see the same thing.”
To address the decline in international student enrollment, many colleges (84 percent, according to the Institute of International Education) have redesigned their international recruitment strategies. As with most other industries, higher ed has gone virtual and that includes recruitment. Virtual college fairs and one-on-one Zoom meetings are now the norm with international recruiters.
Preparing for increased international interest
If the above speculation proves to be true and the remodeled recruitment campaigns are effective, how can colleges and universities prepare for an influx of international interest in their institution? One way is to implement a chatbot.
Chatbots enable higher ed institutions to deliver a personalized experience to prospective students at scale. With the ability to speak over 100 languages, chatbots immensely improve the admissions experience for international students.
In the 2019-2020 academic year, China held the top spot for the largest share of students at U.S. colleges. India and South Korea came in second and third place. Spain and Bangladesh had the highest percentage increases with gains of 9.5 and 7.1 percent, respectively. Each of these countries has an official language other than English, so it is imperative that admissions offices have a reliable way to communicate effectively with prospective students and their families.
With recruitment practices moving to an online format, it’s even more important for interactions to not get lost in translation, literally. Pre-pandemic, recruiters traveled to one location to speak with one demographic of prospective students. With a virtual model, this is no longer the case. A recent Cornell admissions event had over 1,000 attendees from countries around the world. A multilingual chatbot can vastly simplify the challenge of fielding questions on-demand and at once from multiple students who speak varying languages.
Another benefit of integrating AI technology into international recruitment strategies is the ease of gathering demographic information. A chatbot is available to address student inquiries around the clock. When overseas students request information at 2 a.m. ET, the bot is there to help them and subsequently provide admissions staff with a report of the countries in which these prospective students are located. Using this data, higher ed institutions can tailor their recruitment tactics to deliver optimal results. An added benefit to recruiters is the ease of use for the prospective student. Rather than being directed to a separate page to enter their information, the chatbot can get this information directly, removing the additional step and increasing lead generation.
Like many industries, the pandemic is likely to have made a permanent impact on higher education. From cost savings to convenience, virtual recruiting in some form is here to stay. If the predictions are correct, international interest in U.S. higher education institutions will be on the rise once again.
If your institution is interested in enhancing your international admissions process via a multilingual chatbot solution, schedule a demo with Ivy.ai today!