How the StraighterLine Enrollment Team Prepares Students for Success

How the StraighterLine Enrollment Team Prepares Students for Success
Beth Dumbauld

For students, making a decision to take a course outside of their college or university — even if that course is online, self-paced, and costs less than their regular classes — can sometimes feel overwhelming. They may not understand how to find the right course, what to expect, or they might be anxious about whether their college will accept transfer credits from the online program.

StraighterLine’s enrollment team sees these anxieties daily — and they’re here to help. StraighterLine offers high-quality, affordable self-paced college courses online to help college students complete their degrees, pre-college students get ready for their college careers, and students whose college careers have stalled get back to school. StraighterLine is an attractive solution for busy working adults who need flexible college options.

Although StraighterLine works with a network of more than 130 partner schools and universities who accept its course credits, making the decision to enroll may be a challenge for students. They may not be able to find their college in the network, they might not be able to find the course they need at first glance, they might wonder how course transfer works, or they might just need help understanding how to enroll.

That’s where the StraighterLine enrollment team comes in. It’s the job of the enrollment counselors to address these concerns so students can get into the right courses, earn their credits, and get closer to graduation.

The StraighterLine enrollment team

StraighterLine’s enrollment team is made up of counselors who communicate with prospective students by phone, email, and chat. Often, the counselors reach out to students who requested more information about StraighterLine or signed up for a free trial online.

Because the enrollment team is often a student’s first interaction with StraighterLine, Senior Enrollment Manager Jennifer Mercer provides ongoing training to be sure enrollment counselors are always on top of their game. This includes teaching counselors about new enrollment trends at schools — for example, some non-partner schools highlight their partnership with StraighterLine on their sites and counselors need to be aware of these referrals.

For new hires, the onboarding process includes training on StraighterLine systems, roleplaying and shadowing existing team members as they talk to students. Senior team members also mentor new hires, teaching them the ropes on the job.

“Our entire team is laser focused on helping our students succeed, so we all are invested in the training process, and we are continually learning from and supporting each other,” says Mercer.

Giving students the tools they need to succeed

The end of summer is a busy time for students, many are in search of a flexible solution to help them move closer to their goals. Some students are trying to finish their prerequisites before they can enroll in classes while student athletes are trying to make sure they have all the credits they need for sports eligibility. Still other students are attempting to complete courses so that they can finish their degrees.

In many cases, academic advisers at both StraighterLine partner schools and non-partner schools will refer these students to StraighterLine. But often enrollment can seem like another hurdle for a busy student, and sometimes they need a little help.

"The enrollment team's main job is to assist students in deciding if enrolling in our courses is the right choice for their situation,” says Mercer. “A lot of the time we’ll get students that call in, and they’re not exactly sure if their course will transfer to their school.”

Some of the most common questions the enrollment team hears from students are:

  • What is StraighterLine and how does it work?
  • Does my school accept StraighterLine courses for credit?
  • If it doesn’t, how do I talk to my advisor about transferring my StraighterLine credits?
  • Does StraighterLine offer a course equivalent to the one I need for my degree?

Some questions require more engagement than others. Some students, for example, may never have taken an online course, and need help to get started.

For those students, enrollment counselors often suggest a free trial, so students can see what StraighterLine’s platform is like.

“We’re giving them the necessary tools to make sure that they feel comfortable in these courses and letting them know what's available to them,” said enrollment counselor Sharde Torres. “We try to give them confidence when it comes to actually navigating the platform.”

They also let the students know that help is always available–seven days a week–to help students navigate the platform.

The enrollment team regularly goes above and beyond to help students. Recently, Torres worked with a student who needed ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accommodations added to his account, a process which was a little more complicated.

“I worked with him and basically tried to help him understand how to get enrolled, and then how to get started with the process of getting accommodations added to his account,” she says.

Counselors regularly put in extra time to make sure students get the help they need. Torres has stayed late, worked from home, and regularly sets reminders to contact students because she knows those students need to enroll and are counting on her to help them get started as quickly as possible.

“We are their champions,” she says. “We just make sure that they get the support that they need overall to be successful.”

Success looks different for each prospective student. Occasionally, success means not enrolling a student.

“Sometimes we’ll have students who will be in a bind, especially at this time of year,” says enrollment counselor Brandon Wright. “They’re trying to get courses done and they’ll say ‘the semester starts in two weeks, do you think I can do this course in a two-week period?’”

StraighterLine’s courses are designed for 75 total hours of study, and take 4 to 6 weeks to complete on average. If a student is working full-time, they might not be able to complete a course in two weeks. And while many students are able to complete a course in less than one month we know that might not always be the case.

“Sometimes we just have to be direct with the student about how much time they think they have, and make sure that they're seeing the big picture,” says Wright.

Enrollment counselor William Thompson told the story of a mother who wanted to enroll her high school daughter in a course, but didn’t know if the credits would transfer to the school her daughter wants to get into. Rather than enroll the student right away, Thompson worked with the mom to confirm her daughter's target school would accept the credits.

“As much as it would have been great to get that enrollment, it's even better to make sure that if she is enrolling, she’s sure that those credits will work for her,” he says.

This sort of approach — rather than an ‘enrollment at any cost’ approach — is important to the enrollment team, who are focused on making sure students have a positive experience in their courses.

“It's better in the long run for them and for us as a company to make sure that the students are enrolled in a program that will work for them,” says enrollment counselor William Thompson.

A new way to provide education

Many times, when students call into StraighterLine, they’re apprehensive about taking a course from an unfamiliar provider.

“A lot of times, the go-to alternative for students to take a course outside of their institution has been community college,” says Mercer.

While StraighterLine’s courses are backed by the American Council of Education (ACE) and students are often referred by partner schools, many students are uneasy because StraighterLine is so outside the norm for them. The classes are self-paced and the prices are much lower than what students are used to in their own colleges and universities.

Once the enrollment team has explained StraighterLine’s model, however, students are often much more at ease, and they’re excited to learn.

“StraighterLine has offered a completely new way to look at education,” says Mercer.

StraighterLine is a student success and college readiness company that delivers affordable online courses. To learn how your school can partner with us, visit: partners.straighterline.com

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