EDU news curated by Kiosk: AI in admissions … and other higher ed news

Admissions Offices Need More Students and Less ‘Drudgery.’ Is AI the Answer?

From The Chronicle: “Artificial intelligence is increasingly enticing to people who work in admissions and enrollment, both for identifying prospective students and tackling ‘administrative drudgery,’…Tools that go a step further… do exist. Student Select AI, for example, can scan essays and personal statements, and render scores on an applicant’s ‘noncognitive’ traits, like positive attitude, or their ‘performance’ skills, like leadership and analytical thinking. (It’s marketed itself as a key to a ‘holistic’ admissions process following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June to strike down race-conscious admissions). But sources The Chronicle spoke with for this article are proceeding with caution, reaching first for what feels like lower-hanging fruit.”


Will AI Be Reviewing Your College Application?

Researchers…used artificial intelligence to assess personal qualities in college admission and concluded that ‘an AI approach to measuring personal qualities warrants both optimism and caution…’ ‘Correlations between human ratings and computer-generated likelihoods of personal qualities were similar across subgroups. Computer-generated likelihoods were as predictive of college graduation as human raters in the development sample…’ The authors conclude: ‘We recommend AI be used to augment, not replace, human judgment. No algorithm can decide what the goals of a university’s admissions process should be or what personal qualities matter most for that community.’


Is AI Affecting College Admissions?

From US “That schools use AI to make ‘final’ admissions decisions may be misleading, experts say. Highly selective schools, with acceptance rates often below 10%, require nuanced application evaluation and final decisions made by humans. That won’t change even as the use of AI in college admissions grows, experts say. But schools that have historically made decisions using a formula or rubric, where they’re pulling data to analyze standardized test scores and GPAs to see if students fit within the school’s admissions criteria, have begun using AI to make some of those initial screening decisions to eliminate applications that automatically don’t qualify.”


Exclusively online students are less likely to complete bachelor’s degrees, research finds

From Higher Ed Dive: “A new working paper from the University of Florida and West Virginia University researchers… found students in exclusively online programs were 8.3 percentage points less likely to complete their bachelor’s degrees than students who took in-person classes. Online students also fared differently depending on what type of institution they attended. For instance, online students at for-profit universities were 11.9 percentage points less likely to finish their bachelor’s degrees than their peers at other four-year colleges.”


Men are driving enrollment declines

From Inside Higher Education: “’Men are driving the decline in college enrollments—particularly at four-year institutions, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. While the number of women aged 18 to 24 in college has decreased by 200,000 since total college enrollment peaked in 2011, the number of men in that age bracket has dropped by a million during that time period. Men currently make up 42 percent of all 18- to 24-year-old college students, down from 47 percent in 2011. The shift has not impacted community colleges, where men make up approximately the same portion of traditional-age students as they did in 2011.”


Harvard Early Applications Take a Dive

From Inside Higher Education: “Early undergraduate applications to Harvard fell by 17 percent this fall, according to data shared by the university…The news also comes as early admissions policies are under renewed scrutiny; many critics believe they give priority to wealthy, white students. However, nationwide early applications increased from pre-pandemic levels by 38 percent this fall, according to preliminary Common App data provided to Inside Higher Ed. Harvard admitted 692 students via early action, a little less than 9 percent of the pool. The university did not release the racial or demographic breakdown of those students, as it did last year.”


This Small College Has a Message: The Liberal Arts ‘Are Not Dead’

From The Chronicle: “Beloit College was in trouble…In the spring of 2023, the college could see that it would once again miss its enrollment targets for the next academic year. Around the same time, Eric Boynton became Beloit’s president…Beloit didn’t set out to cut programs, like many struggling colleges have done. Instead, it aimed to repackage the college’s curriculum. The existing liberal arts majors would remain largely the same. But growing programs like marketing, business management, and finance would be bolstered through new courses, majors, and minors — many of which explicitly integrated the humanities. A business ethics course taught by a philosopher, for example; a literature course analyzing the use of storytelling in business.”


Elon Musk plans to open a new university in Texas

From University World News: “Texas transplant Elon Musk is planning to start a university in Austin, Texas, according to tax filings for one of his charities first reported by Bloomberg News, writes Kate McGee for The Texas Tribune. The charity, called The Foundation, plans to use a US$100 million gift from Musk to create and launch a primary and secondary school in Austin focused on teaching science, technology, engineering and math. Once it is fully operational, the filing states, the school will focus on creating a university. The school intends to seek accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, a necessary first step to launch the school.”


Diversity in College Classrooms Improves Grades for All Students, Study Finds

From EdSurge: “A study published in the journal AERA Open found that students earn better marks in college STEM courses when those classrooms have higher percentages of students who are underrepresented racial minorities or the first in their families to participate in higher education. That was true for all students — and especially true for the minority and first-generation students themselves. ‘Greater levels of representation benefit students from all different backgrounds,’ study co-author Nicholas Bowman, a professor of educational policy and leadership studies at the University of Iowa, told EdSurge.”

Has The Time For Three-Year College Degrees Finally Arrived?

From Forbes: “According to recent figures from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, about 12% of full-time students attending private colleges and 10% of those at public colleges finish a four-year degrees in three years. But these remain 120-hour programs where ambitious students compress four years of coursework into three… Now, a new approach may be changing the equation – and the popularity – of three-year degrees. It’s the ‘College in 3 Exchange’…it invites colleges to fundamentally reconceive the undergraduate curriculum so that the total number of required credit hours is substantially reduced, sometimes to as low as 90 credit hours, for specific programs.”


‘Frustration All Around’: The FAFSA’s Rocky Rollout

From The Chronicle: “The Department of Education began the “soft launch” of the simplified Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, last weekend, but many students and parents so far haven’t been able to access it. That’s because the online form has been only intermittently available …the Education Department released an updated statement explaining that applicants could access the form ‘for periods of time over the coming days while we monitor site performance and respond … to any potential issues impacting applicant experience.’ But the announcement didn’t specify when the soft-launch phase would end or how long the planned outages would last.”

AI in Admissions: A Strategic Edge for Enrollment Marketing

Thought piece written by Founder & CEO, Munir Haddad 

In an era where AI is revolutionizing various sectors, admissions offices are not far behind. The integration of AI in admissions processes represents a significant stride in efficiency and precision. Advanced AI solutions are being leveraged to analyze thousands of applications, identifying the most suitable student cohorts based on diverse criteria. These innovative tools are even venturing into the realm of evaluating ‘noncognitive’ traits, potentially forecasting student success (referenced in Kiosk Education Newsletter, January 11, 2024).

Enrollment marketers have been pioneers in using AI and machine learning, particularly through “lookalike” lists on media platforms and optimizations within these systems. However, the true excitement for prospects lies in understanding how AI transforms the evaluation of their applications. This technological adoption can be a point of pride for institutions, showcasing their commitment to enhanced operational outcomes and student services, including the application review process.

The tangible benefits of AI in admissions – such as expedited application reviews, swifter decision-making, increased accuracy in student selection, and reduced bias in admissions – are not just operational improvements but powerful marketing messages. By promoting these advancements, institutions can heighten prospective students’ interest and improve enrollment yields. Differentiation in service is a key attractor, and broadcasting these achievements externally is a worthwhile endeavor.

Conversely, institutions hesitant about adopting AI can take a different marketing approach. Emphasizing the value of individual application reviews, they can position the longer review process as a unique advantage, akin to the “slow food” and “farm-to-table” movements in dining. Marketing the human touch in their admission process can resonate with prospects who appreciate a more personalized approach.

Ultimately, prospective students will gravitate towards the admission process they perceive as most beneficial. By clearly communicating the nature of their admission process, institutions can set appropriate expectations, reducing potential frustration related to AI-based reviews or longer wait times.

As with any new technological integration, challenges are inevitable. Thus, it is crucial for communication teams to work in tandem with operational teams, ensuring any issues are swiftly addressed.

Embracing innovative tools in admissions not only enhances institutional processes but also offers a unique proposition in enrollment marketing. Effectively communicating these advancements can significantly elevate an institution’s appeal to prospective students.

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