Coronavirus forcing local colleges to come up with unique ways to attract students

CSRA News

AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) — Several colleges in the CSRA said that all summer courses will be online. With no one allowed inside campus buildings, potential first-year students won’t be able to tour different campuses to make a final decision on which college they will attend. Officials at one Aiken college say that they have a plan is in place.

“What we’ve been able to do is have what would be traditional tours of campus done virtually through our YouTube page as well as on our college website,” College President Dr. Forest Mahan told NewsChannel 6’s Shawn Cabbagestalk.

In addition to the virtual tours, potential students at Aiken Technical College can even talk with faculty from virtually anywhere. “Students are able to explore programs by going online and then reaching out to different individuals if they have questions about admissions. If they have questions about financial aid and application,s we can be reached,” he added.

Fall enrollment is difficult to predict thanks to the current climate. We’re told the school usually sees a freshman class of about 35 percent of total enrollment.”Traditionally when there is job displacement, we do see an increase in enrollment, but because of the very unique nature of this situation, it’s a little too early to tell what this will do for summer or fall enrollment,” Dr. Mahan shared.

Applications are rolling in for areas like health sciences, computer technology, general education, and cyber. Those areas are ones that can be easily accessible online.”So there’s no one field in more demand than others but there is interest across the board for all of our programs,” he said.

Many are facing extreme financial hardships with layoffs or reduced hours at work. Grants and scholarships available from the Department of Education that would still allow people to take advantage of educational opportunities. “The goal, of course, is to keep our tuition affordable, to keep the college accessible. Based upon the curriculum, a student may choose grants and scholarships can basically help cover their tuition based upon a unique package for their financial aid,” Dr. Mahan stated.

A wide range of classes including hands-on training are offered at the campus. A contingency plan is in place to make sure current and future students can receive the instruction they need.

“We’re looking at several different varieties of options for scheduling for those hands-on programs that may require, maybe, an adaption to the number of weeks in the summer term. But we can’t really make any definitive decision until we know when we will be able to reopen,” Dr. Mahan said.

While some universities across the United States are flirting with the possibility of canceling in-person classes until 2021. Officials at Aiken Tech say that no matter what the circumstances are they are prepared to help freshmen and returning students reach their career goals in any way possible.
“Even then we understand that we will probably have to go through certain social distancing and other adaptions as we sort of begin to ramp up and go back to what would be considered a normal schedule,” Dr. Mahan said.

We’re told right now, it’s still too early to tell whether tuition will be frozen where it is this year to help attract new students.

University of South Carolina Aiken officials declined to speak with Shawn on camera about their plans. They sent him the following statement instead.

“This time of year is always a busy — and exciting — as we work with prospective Pacers, ushering them through the enrollment process and ultimately welcoming them on campus as part of the USC Aiken student body.

“While we have had to make some adjustments, we continue proactively engaging high school and transfer students. This year, we have leveraged technology even more to create many online virtual experiences, events, and tools for future Pacers.

“Even more than ever, we are engaging them where they already spend a lot of time — in the virtual, technological landscape. In addition to the events outlined below, these efforts include a smartphone-based, admitted new student portal and the continuation of our exciting new artificial intelligence system which students can use 24/7/365. We launched this AI system last fall.

“We continue to take a personal approach, which is the hallmark of USC Aiken, reaching out via phone to prospective students, and we implemented the following virtual activities to facilitate students’ decisions and experiences:

Virtual Information Sessions
Every Monday, Thursday, and Friday at 3 p.m.

Virtual Enrollment Express
Every Thursday ( until May 28) at 4.pm.

Virtual Admitted Student Celebration
Was held on April 11 at 2 p.m.

Virtual Open House
Saturday, April 25 at noon

“We continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation very carefully. As of right now, we have every intention of operating as normal this fall. We look forward to having our incoming freshmen and transfer students on campus as soon as possible.”

DANIEL ROBB
Associate Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management

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