How Strengthening Ties with Employers Can Boost Undergraduate College Enrollment

As postsecondary costs go up and enrollments go down, it’s becoming ever more imperative for colleges to demonstrate that the education they provide will lead to students’ ultimate aim: getting a job.

One way to do this is, of course, by imparting valuable knowledge and critical thinking skills students will need to succeed in the working world. But, given that this is the understood purpose of every college and university, another way to stand out is by strengthening relationships with organizations that might hire students after graduation.

Doing so can help connect students with prospective employers long before they “need a job,” equip them with real-world work experiences and raise your institution’s profile with both students seeking a competitive career advantage and employers seeking a pipeline of reliable workers. Having this sort of “light at the end of the tunnel” can help boost undergraduate college enrollment.

Increase Emphasis on Real-World Work Experience

One way colleges can help students increase their overall career readiness is through experiential learning. The most traditional route colleges take is facilitating internships with companies and nonprofit organizations, either during the semester or over the summer. However, if your institution only offers traditional internships, it might be time to think more broadly.

For instance, micro internships are short-term professional projects that offer experience, academic credit, and the chance to build professional relationships. Getting such an endeavor off the ground is no small feat, but it also isn’t something that a college needs to undertake alone. Organizations such as Parker Dewey partner with schools to facilitate micro internships between students and companies spanning a variety of industries.

There are also numerous work experience opportunities that go beyond internships. Three noteworthy options are Credegree programs (earning industry-recognized credentials along with a degree), co-ops (alternating academic study with full-time periods of paid work), and work-study placements.

Some organizations, like Riipen, are even taking the idea of work–college integration further by encouraging companies to embed professional projects within college curriculums. By setting up these experiential learning opportunities for students, your college can forge connections with prospective employers and position your institution to students as a stepping stone toward employment.

Raise Your Profile with Prospective Employers

As helpful as it is for students to be connected with internships, work-study placements, and co-ops so they can gain real-world experience during their college years, it is just as helpful for your college to raise their profile with potential employers; year over year, the direct funnel of hardworking students you have created will generate a good brand name for your school as one that produces quality workers. (And, of course, this funnel also gives employers the advantage of “trialing” students before electing to hire them full-time!)

Finally, you can increase your visibility with prospective employers via your institution’s alumni. Former students are in a great position to promote their alma mater as a source of top talent, ultimately influencing which students’ résumés are selected for review and who gets an interview. Depending on their level of seniority, alumni may even influence their company’s decision to recruit new workers directly from your school. 

Boosting college enrollment starts with listening to what students need for their life after college. And what do they need most? A job. Therefore, it’s to your school’s advantage to connect and partner with companies and other organizations looking to employ people with college degrees.

These connections will ultimately help students find career success faster, improve the institution’s career placement statistics (and bragging rights!), and bring more students in the door when they can confidently answer, “What’s the value of enrolling here?”