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Overcoming the Enrollment Cliff in Higher Education

The current landscape is prompting institutions to rethink college recruitment strategies. How do you establish a competitive advantage in a shrinking pool of prospective students? It starts with the campus visit.

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The recruiting race in higher education has never been more complex or competitive. Challenges ranging from declining birth rates to increasing interest in virtual learning options have left institutions in uncharted waters. With already-slowing enrollment rates predicted to fall by more than 15% after the year 20251, universities must find forward-thinking ways to recruit from a noticeably smaller pool of both domestic and international students. 

Addressing these enrollment challenges is not a one-size-fits-all approach. However, creating memorable, innovative and remarkable on-campus experiences is a proven place to start. At DI, we live and breathe those experiences – helping higher education institutions nationwide establish a strategic advantage that supports recruitment and alumni engagement efforts.

Whether it be a digitally-driven welcome center or a first-of-its-kind community education and research facility,  elevating the campus experience through branded storytelling, immersive design and technology interactives is paramount. Here’s what we mean.



Looking to create a hub for campus visits in a way that had never been done before, the University of Kansas (KU) teamed up with DI and partners to bring to life the Jayhawk Welcome Center – a tech-forward, highly-personalized experience that puts visitors at the center of their own story. 

The innovative space includes five unique KU-branded experiences, all equipped with touchscreens and digital interactives that illustrate what it means to be a Jayhawk. Prospective students receive a QR code before their visit, which invites them to share details regarding their field of study and any other relevant interests. KU staff can then cultivate a personalized journey for each visitor before stepping foot on campus. 

Jayhawk Welcome Center Jayhawk Welcome Center Jayhawk Welcome Center

“We know statistically the campus visit is the most important element of [the students’] decision on where they go to school,” Doug Girod, University of Kansas Chancellor, said. “The campus visit becomes the culmination of all of our work for recruitment. It’s kind of the key point of whether we’re going to seal the deal.” 

KU’s approach to campus visits goes beyond swag bags and nametags. The Jayhawk Welcome Center supports the university’s recruitment strategy, aiming to foster an emotional connection and sense of belonging for all who enter the space. 

It’s important to note that igniting a personal and meaningful on-campus connection doesn’t necessarily require a project of this caliber. It’s about formulating an experience that tells your institution’s story, honors your past, and paves your future.


The campus should feel like home for all of your returning alumni. Aspiring to cultivate a modern yet welcoming campus hub for students and alumni of all ages, The Texas A&M Foundation partnered with DI for a complete design refresh of their headquarters inside the Jon L. Hagler Center.

While preserving the building’s classic framework, our team transformed the space’s interior to reflect the foundation’s history, values and vision through branded experience design and sculptural “wow” moments. Impactful and scalable donor recognition was an important element for Foundation stakeholders. Using a digital kiosk display in addition to the limestone tribute wall, the Texas A&M Foundation can now honor its growing list of donors in an interactive and contemporary way with seamless updates.

The Texas A&M Foundation The Texas A&M Foundation The Texas A&M Foundation

As a warm and welcoming space accompanied by modern accents, the Jon L. Hagler Center continues to serve as a home base for Texas A&M Foundation staff and members to build campus connections, honor donors and alumni, and engage current students – now with an approachable yet sophisticated interior. 

Designated alumni centers are not uncommon university landmarks – however, if the space does not attract and connect alumni and students, it can quickly become just another campus building. Creating a space that recognizes and excites donors and catches the eye of visitors in new and innovative ways helps incentivize alumni involvement and endowment. This, in turn, works to grow and evolve your recruitment footprint and strategy.


Navigating today's competitive collegiate landscape means engaging the next generation in a way that sets your institution apart from the rest. Colorado State University (CSU) Spur aims to do just that, inviting young learners to explore all things agriculture, water and animal science through accessible, hands-on interactives.

The Denver-based campus includes three unique buildings – all of which highlight CSU-led research, academia, careers and sustainability efforts surrounding health, food and water in their Colorado community and beyond. Since its 2022 opening, CSU Spur has hosted over 18,000 visitors and more than 200 field trips. The campus has also welcomed 42+ CSU programs, which will soon be hosted onsite. 

Colorado State University (CSU) Spur Colorado State University (CSU) Spur Colorado State University (CSU) Spur

Accessible and open to the public, CSU Spur is an international front door to the university’s innovative research, renowned academia and sustainability initiatives. Establishing a branded footprint outside the main campus empowers CSU to extend its community outreach and engage students at a young age while sparking their interest in agriculture and animal health opportunities. 

What could a community space or education center look like for your institution? Creating a memorable experience showcasing your university’s differentiators not only serves as a promotion for your higher education programs but also gets young visitors excited about the university at an early age.



While these projects differ in scope, content and functionality, their overarching purposes remain the same – to attract new visitors, boost alumni relations and create a competitive advantage in today’s collegiate landscape.

Pressures and expectations will only continue to grow. Therefore, investing in spaces that elevate the recruitment path and capitalize on in-person experiences can be a real difference-maker when it comes to a prospective student’s big decision. 

Drew Berst

Drew Berst linkedin

Executive Director

At DI, Berst is the single point of accountability for all collegiate clients and his main focus is to live and breathe the on-campus experience.

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Every big opportunity starts with a small step forward. We're here to help you! Let’s jump on the phone, say hello, and discuss your virtual meeting or experience need, in a quick 15-minute FIT call. Prefer email? That's cool, too! Drop us a line - we're always happy to connect.

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Every big opportunity starts with a small step forward. We're here to help you! Let’s jump on the phone, say hello and discuss your need, idea or project in a quick 15-minute FIT call. Prefer email? That's cool, too! Drop us a line - we're always happy to connect.



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