Recruit & Retain (Metropolitan College of New York)
New Faces, New Spaces
- By Collette Ann Garrity
- October 1st, 2016
It’s not enough to just recruit students. You must also retain them. Delivering
a positive education experience that
entices men and women to remain in college —
and complete a degree or certificate program —
benefits the students, the school and the communities
we serve. This is true for colleges and
universities throughout the United States.
Metropolitan College of New York (MCNY) in New York City
has recently joined the ranks of other colleges and universities that
are investing in new campuses to better serve current and future
students. At MCNY, 67 percent of our undergraduate enrollees are
women, and the average age is 32. These adult learners are committed
to completing their full-time education, but many also have
full-time jobs, children and a host of other obligations.
And although these students are highly motivated, they are juggling
a tremendous amount of responsibility, which makes it contingent
upon us to provide a supportive learning system and empowering
environment. That’s why MCNY is dedicated to assessing and addressing
the numerous factors that affect both recruiting and retention.
A Smart Move
For the first time in our 50-year history, MCNY has moved from
rented facilities to new permanent locations in the Bronx and downtown
Manhattan. This shift away from rental property provides our
school with financial stability, enhances programmatic offerings, offers
greater flexibility in space utilization and provides correlating economic
development — factors that will ultimately have a positive effect
on our students as they strive to achieve their academic and life goals.
While it’s easy for those in an organization to get excited about
the celebratory aspects of a new facility — open houses, ribbon
cuttings and tours — our leadership was determined to not let the
student transition become a secondary focus.
Because administrators took a proactive approach to retain
current students, in spite of moving to two new locations in less
than six months the retention results were better than expected.
Here’s how we did it.
Gaining Early Buy-In
In addition to Town Hall meetings with MCNY’s president,
students were given the opportunity to don a hard hat and take
part in administrator-led tours of the unfinished facilities. Seeing
the new facilities first-hand translated into increased support
from students and staff alike.
The most important element of the plan was to share our enthusiasm
through consistent, clear communication to the student
population. Knowing that education doesn’t occur in a vacuum,
we delivered regular updates about how the moves would affect
the quality of life from both academic and non-academic aspects.
Student-centric communication includes:
- campus features and locations;
- maps of the areas with points of interest, parking and eateries;
- information about accessible subway lines;
- the option for earlier-than-normal registration; and
- multiple reminders to complete financial aid forms ASAP.
When I came on board in February as MCNY’s vice president
for Enrollment Management, the college had already implemented
its plan to retain students through the move. This made it easier
for me to be “keeper of the sheep while moving the herd,” as well
as using the appeal of new campuses to recruit new students. In
spite of the fact that neither new facility was finished, we were
able to incorporate the excitement about our transformation into
recruitment advertising, media relations and events.
We shared our “purpose-centered learning and constructive
action” approach with prospective students, assuring them that
this model will continue… but in a beautiful new facility that is
better equipped to meet their needs.
Conveying the Culture
With convenient transit options, proximity of restaurants
and other points of interest, we believe that our new locations
will appeal to our nontraditional students who have busy lives
outside of school. This culture of caring contributes to greater
The focused efforts of college administrators, staff and faculty to
successfully retain and recruit in the midst of a complex move —
within a condensed timeframe — demonstrates that strategic, contingency
and creative planning can result in a positive outcome.
This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of College Planning & Management.
Collette Ann Garrity, Ed.D., is vice president for Enrollment Management at Metropolitan College of New York (www.mcny.edu), a not-for-profit, accredited, independent college offering highly motivated adult learners an education that combines applied skills with professional knowledge to effect personal transformation and positive change in the workplace and community.