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There has been a lot of media attention lately in the higher education community about FAFSA position codes. Unfortunately, at least a couple of these articles had sensationalized headlines implying that this very important data was being misused by schools, against students.
First of all, what are we talking about? On the paper FAFSA application, students are given the option to indicate up to four colleges where they wish to have the FAFSA data sent. On the electronic application, they can include 10 institutions.
While the text on the FAFSA does not ask the student to rank the student’s choice (i.e., which school is the student’s first-choice institution), the order a student lists an institution does appear to correlate to a student’s interest in that college or university. Consider the following results from campuses using Noel-Levitz financial aid services:
In an analysis of 153 of our campus partners, students enrolled at a 64 percent rate at the campuses listed first on their FAFSA. The yield dropped to 22 percent in position two and to 16 percent in position three. Students yielded at about the same rate in the remaining positions as those who did not file a FAFSA at all (12 percent). These trends were similar for both public and private colleges/universities.
Co-written with Brian Jansen of Noel-Levitz
As the National Candidates’ Reply Date of May 1 quickly approaches, you may find yourself looking back on the past recruitment cycle and weighing how well your team was able to cultivate your prospective student population for the incoming class. As you do so, consider the following questions in your evaluation:
- Did you use a shotgun approach when purchasing names in your student search efforts? Did you experience less than stellar response and conversion rates? What percentage of your enrolled population came from your search name purchases, and are you satisfied with the outcome?
- Were your counselors struggling to build early and solid relationships with prospective students due to a large inquiry or applicant pool? Do you feel that your counselors are unable to truly make impactful and influential phone contacts with students/families due to the size of your pool of students at each stage of the funnel?
- Was there a lack of prioritization or absence of segmentation when communicating with prospective students? Would you deem your communication flow/plan as a “one-size-fits-all” approach?
- Did budget cuts limit your ability to work the prospective student funnel efficiently and effectively?
- Did the size of your inquiry and/or applicant pool shrink?
- Did your counselors travel extensively in secondary and tertiary markets?
Our new white paper, 7 Categories of Admissions Data to Guide Decision Making, discusses how your campus can use admissions data to make strategic decisions and measure and set institutional enrollment goals. Of the seven categories, historical trend data—including conversion and yield rates—play a major role when analyzing performance, identifying trends, and setting future goals.
In its analysis of conversion and yield rates, the paper introduces two “new” metrics (pictured in green above) among the following seven measures of admissions funnel performance, which help to guide the recruitment, admissions, and enrollment process:
Graduate enrollment has long been an important component of many institutions’ overall enrollment picture. However, in recent years, we have seen institutions giving even greater attention to their graduate recruitment and enrollment practices, especially in the many areas of the country where the high school graduate pool is shrinking and undergraduate enrollment is challenged.
This increased interest in graduate enrollment is raising new questions about the most effective practices for attracting and recruiting graduate students. To help address this need for information, Noel-Levitz and the National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals (NAGAP) partnered this spring to survey the nation’s graduate recruitment and admissions professionals to find out what they think are the most effective recruitment practices to recruit master’s degree students.
The survey asked graduate recruitment professionals to assess the effectiveness of nearly 80 practices across all stages of the graduate recruitment funnel. And because many graduate admissions professionals often ask Noel-Levitz consultants to help them benchmark their funnel rates—especially admit rates and yield rates—the survey also asked for funnel rates, and for practices regarding name purchase practices, as optional questions. (Doctoral student recruitment is often different from master’s recruiting so the survey focused on recruiting master’s students as a starting point for building the knowledge base.)
The report, 2012 Marketing and Student Recruitment Practices for Master’s-Level Graduate Programs, provides an analysis of responses for each of four different Carnegie institution types: private doctorate-granting; public doctorate-granting; private master’s/baccalaureate/specialized institutions; and public master’s/baccalaureate/specialized institutions. (Keep in mind that the survey focused on master’s recruitment at each of these types of institutions.)
A new study by Noel-Levitz, OmniUpdate, CollegeWeekLive, and NRCCUA® (National Research Center for College & University Admissions) finds that 94 percent of college-bound high school students said it was important to communicate with colleges during the search process. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) said they wanted to communicate with campuses before and after applying.
These students (and their parents, according to responses from that group) said that they place high value on those conversations. When asked which recruitment-activities were the most influential, conversation-related activities occupied three of the four top responses—campus tours, talking with students, and talking with admissions representatives, with the campus Website being in the top four as well.
In fact, when asked who they would want to hear from during a live, online video presentation, 80 percent of high school students said they wanted to hear from admissions representatives. Seventy percent said they also would like to hear from current students and financial aid representatives.
Finally, students expressed significant interest in communicating with campuses via live, online chats. This format was their second most-preferred communication option, after e-mail and slightly ahead of social media.
The report is available at the Noel-Levitz Website.
At nearly every campus I visit, I hear a desire to grow enrollment while also shaping the incoming class. Shaping once meant attracting stronger academic students and was usually synonymous with increasing academic profile. Today, this term often means recruiting student populations that campuses have difficulty attracting and enrolling. While it can certainly still refer to those students with stronger grades and better test scores, more and more it refers to characteristics defined by institutional mission, geography, talent, ethnicity, and many others. Knowing this, campuses are becoming (or should become) much more proactive in the way they build, develop, and cultivate their admissions funnels. In other words, shaping enrollments primarily after students are admitted is too late in the process. An institution should look at the characteristics it desires and incorporate those goals into the funnel-building process.
Data driven, data informed, metrics, analytics—it seems that, as enrollment managers, these terms are at the forefront of all that you do. I recently read an article in Inside Higher Ed that addressed the amount of data that colleges and universities are trying to understand and make decisions upon. The terms “big data” and “actionable analytics” were used to describe efforts to make data-informed decisions that help more students enroll, persist, and ultimately graduate.
We are big believers in data at Noel-Levitz. As my colleague Peter Bryant says, “track everything that moves and don’t do anything twice unless you know it works!” We’ve been giving this advice to campuses for years, and it seems that in today’s competitive and economically challenged environment, more and more campuses are in agreement.
To be effective, though, you have to take action with data. You have to not just track everything that moves, but understand what those data mean. There is one type of data that helps many of our client campuses enroll students much more efficiently: predictive modeling.
At this time of year, most admissions teams at four-year colleges and universities are keeping close, daily counts of their inquiry, applicant, and accepted pools, with yield counts to follow soon on accepts and then on deposits/confirmed students. While all of these totals are important, they can also be misleading. Let me explain. If you follow this explanation carefully, you’ll see how to avoid late surprises by continuously tracking the strengths and weaknesses of your next incoming class—not just the total numbers.
First, let’s look at the way most admissions teams have been using “funnels” to track progress.
For decades, enrollment managers and admissions officers have been monitoring admissions funnels at their institutions and making new student enrollment projections by monitoring such rates as the:
- Response rates to search outreach efforts
- Conversion rates from inquiry to applicant
- Acceptance rates
- Yield rates from acceptance to enrollment
For every 100 transfer student applicants at your institution, how many can you expect to admit, to send in a deposit (or otherwise confirm their intention to enroll), and to actually matriculate? The above graphic provides a basis for knowing what to expect, based on the admissions funnel benchmarks in the Noel-Levitz report released last fall, 2010 Admissions Funnel Benchmarks for Four-Year Public and Private Institutions.
For example, at four-year public institutions, at the national level, 88 of every 100 prospective transfer applicants who complete their applications at the median (88 percent) can be expected to be admitted and approximately 58 of the 88 admits (66 percent) can be expected to enroll/matriculate. In addition, 88 percent of the admits who send in a deposit or otherwise confirm their intention to enroll can be expected to enroll.
As shown in the report, transfer students move through the admissions funnel at different rates for public versus private institutions at the median, at the first quartile, and at the third quartile. In addition, their rates of movement through the funnel are quite different from freshmen, international students, and other student segments. Further, the report identifies trendlines that indicate specific rates that are rising or falling. For example, among private colleges and universities, the admit-to-enroll yield rate has been steadily declining.
To project future enrollments as accurately as possible, these benchmarks serve as a solid starting point. However, it is imperative that campuses track and compare their institution’s own historic admissions funnel rates daily and weekly at each decision stage, so you can know where your future enrollment will most likely end up as each day and week of the admissions cycle unfolds. For guidelines on using admissions funnels, see pages 12 and 13 of the report.
For a copy of the report, visit www.noellevitz.com/changingfunnel.