John Hamblin, executive dean of student development, presented the college’s new web enrollment software, Navigate, to the MHCC District board during its meeting on April 12.
Developed by the Washington, D.C.-based Education Advisory Board (EAB), the software aims to “(streamline) processes and (provide) a more simplified checklist that is real-time for what steps a student needs to complete to get started.” In essence, Navigate seeks to eliminate barriers preventing students from getting to the first day of class after they click “apply” on a school’s website.
EAB did a complete review of Mt. Hood’s application process, both online and through in-person “secret shops.”
As things now stand, only 50 percent of students who apply to Mt Hood continue through to the enrollment process, compared with the national average of 65 percent. Hamblin said he hopes this software will help boost that number, and preliminary results look good: The sample that EAB ran with the college showed around 65 percent of students applying continuing past the initial hurdles typically encountered.
(These results are only preliminary; the program hasn’t officially rolled out, and it will take some time to collect the hard data, Hamblin said.)
Some of EAB’s recommendations include a tool utilizing the Gunning Fogg Index, which “you can use to run your text from a website through a service that evaluates the reading comprehension level of your page,” Hamblin explained. The tool found that some of the wording used on Mt Hood’s website was rated too complex, so changes are likely to occur there.
EAB also assisted the college in “identifying spots where students got stuck and needed more support,” according to Hamblin: “The secret shoppers visited four different offices to partially complete the enrollment process. (While) they were blown away by how kind everyone was, the reality was they had to stop by four different places and still didn’t complete” the enrollment process, he said.
Navigate’s software will also include “scheduling appointments with advisers, building academic plans with a live schedule and one-click registration” and will help potential students who are unsure of what their college careers are going to look like get a better handle on what program they want to take and what classes they want to enroll in, Hamblin said.
“We were able to purchase the Navigate platform for a reduced cost as we are their first client with the Jenzabar student information system,” said Hamblin. Mt. Hood used a state grant to cover most of the cost, which knocked the program’s $100,000-plus price tag down to a much more manageable $15,000, he said.
While it’s entirely too early to see how Navigate will fare when actually put into play, school leaders are hopeful making initial enrollment smoother can assist in student retention and also help budgeting, scheduling and ensuring complete funding of school programs.