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This post is based on an article in the current issue of University Business
Cohesive college admissions and marketing teams are now more vital than ever, when missed targets for enrollment and tuition revenue are the new normal for campuses. This year’s Chronicle of Higher Education’s survey of small colleges and mid-sized universities reported that almost 3 in 10 public institutions and more than 4 in 10 private institutions missed both their enrollment and their net tuition revenue goals this year. Well-coordinated college admissions and marketing offices ensure that institutional branding messages speak to recruitment needs, while admission recruiting communications encourage brand awareness and market penetration that resonate with students, faculty, staff, and alumni. A shared reporting structure is one way to break down campus silos, creating synergies among professional staff that may not exist otherwise. So too, less formal alliances developed among staff members can be key to ensuring messaging and marketing materials that speak to campus culture while working to meet enrollment goals.
Marketing a campus’s value proposition is also critical. According to the Ruffalo Noel Levitz 2016 E-Recruiting Practices Report for Four-Year and Two Year Institutions, 63 percent of high school seniors and 61 percent of high school juniors expect to see job placement outcomes on college websites. Prospective students want compelling webpages that speak authentically to student success, outcomes, and the particular attributes that make a campus unique. Furthermore, traditional platforms are becoming less relevant. RNL’s 2015 High School Students’ and Parents’ Perception of and Preferences for Communication with Colleges reported that 61 percent of student respondents had searched for colleges by viewing online videos and almost half used social media.
‘Closing the deal’ when it comes to college enrollment is everyone’s job
In order to meet expectations that demand both a relationship marketing strategy and a well branded presence, campus leaders must:
- Foster collaboration between the college admissions and marketing arms of the campus.
- Challenge the two departments to work together to develop strategic and long range enrollment marketing plans – translated into actionable steps.
- Provide an expectation for data-driven reports and communicate progress to faculty and staff, boards, and other influential campus constituents.
- Encourage partnerships among the development office, career services, financial aid officers, faculty, athletics, institutional research, residence life, and even auxiliary services to facilitate the publication of authentic material.
- Make sure the team stays current on prospective student preferences.
- Ensure differentiated marketing outreach to address individual concerns, tailored to reach specific students.
- Involve every department that communicates with prospective students and their families in order to ensure that brand consistency, stylistic preferences, delivery methods, and timing is synchronized.
- Engage professionals from the marketing arm of the institution to assist in training admissions recruiters and others in the campus community.
- Create a culture where any member of the campus can seamlessly articulate the costs and benefits of education at the institution.
- Give the enrollment marketing team a voice at the leadership table. Their expertise on trends, market volatility, and demographic shifts can provide much-needed context for enrollment and net tuition revenue projections.
LeAnn Hughes, vice president for enrollment and marketing at Illinois Wesleyan University, describes the value of this approach, “Much of my work at the cabinet level is to ensure our team is mindful of the impact of decisions as they pertain to enrollment outcomes. When discussions occur that have impact on budgets, tuition, discount rates, or headcount, I am able to communicate the possible implications in real time…. I have the ability to ensure marketing budget allocations of the institution are centralized and are invested in ways that will have the greatest possible impact toward driving revenue generating goals, rather than being unnecessarily diluted in initiatives that will do little to drive toward positive outcomes.”
In short, a coordinated structure where college admissions and marketing teams act collaboratively, and are then encouraged to provide a data-driven and informative voice to leadership, will provide the best opportunity for success.
For more on this topic, visit the February edition of University Business.
Today’s challenging environment is pushing marketing and enrollment management to new frontiers. Attend our upcoming Summit to take a deep dive into the latest trends, research, and innovations for nurturing student engagement. It’s not too late to register.
Unable to attend the Summit? Contact us at 800.876.1117 or send an email to discuss enrollment opportunities, confidentially, with an expert from Ruffalo Noel Levitz.
This is part two of a two-post series on opportunities associated with the new FAFSA PPY (Prior-Prior Year) regulations which went into effect in fall 2016. See part one.
How well is your enrollment team tracking the impact of FAFSA PPY? Are you maximizing your early filer conversion and yield rates?
In September of 2015, the Department of Education announced that we would be moving to Prior-Prior Year (PPY) or Early FAFSA Filing for the fall 2017-18 academic year. This change was largely supported by higher education institutions, policy groups, and lawmakers with a number of goals in mind:
- Simplify the aid application process
- Increase FAFSA completion
- Increase the accuracy of the FAFSA
- Provide families an earlier and more accurate idea of their anticipated financial aid and college costs
- Provide all students more time to plan and make informed enrollment decisions
And of course the ultimate goals: greater affordability and greater access for students.
Now that PPY and fall 2017 recruitment are well under way, it is important to review the early results of FAFSA PPY and identify specific strategies to maximize filer conversion and yield rates.
Early FAFSA PPY filing rates: What the data show
FAFSA PPY filing started off quickly in comparison to previous years but slowed during December. In the absence of previous filer rates for October, the Department of Education in its reports decided to compare FAFSA filing rates from 2016 to 2017 by week. For example: Week 4 of 2017 included filing data through October 21 compared to Week 4 of 2016 which included data through January 22:
Above, we can see the first 4 weeks of filing this year were exceptional with 497,884 filers compared to 390,819 in the previous cycle, a 27.4 percent increase. The FAFSAs submitted were also more accurate, with the number of rejected ISIRs dropping by 12.6 percent in the first month. This translates to a 34.1 percent increase in the number of completed FAFSAs submitted during the first four weeks of the FAFSA cycle for 2017.
We all live in and enjoy the benefits of a sharing economy, where individuals are able to borrow or rent assets owned by someone else. We see this regularly when the price of the asset is high (a car, a home) and not fully utilized all of the time, think Airbnb, Uber. But it can also apply to the sharing of information technology and intellectual resources. It’s that sharing of intellectual resources, specifically, college student success assets, that I want to focus on today.
As educators, the reality of our work today is that we face intense pressure to address our college student success needs. Think performance-based funding, budgeting and net revenue issues, accreditation, local, regional, and national employment trends. And student needs are changing as demographics change; we have less time and resources to design an effective solution, not to mention we have very little room for error. Instead of designing something from the ground up, we often take advantage of our student success sharing economy and frequently look to established best practices, associations, vendors, and colleagues for an idea that can be customized to fit our unique needs and situation.
Descriptions of more than 170 award-winning retention programs
I hope you’ve taken advantage of the body of knowledge Ruffalo Noel Levitz contributes to the student success sharing economy. One way we contribute is by celebrating effective college retention programs with the Lee Noel and Randi Levitz Retention Excellence Awards (REAs). More than 170 colleges and universities have been honored with Retention Excellence Awards and they all have shared their retention assets via our compendium. If you’re looking for new ideas to serve minority students, to create a comprehensive retention plan, to recruit back stop outs or virtually anything else, check out the retention assets your colleagues have shared.
Apply for a Retention Excellence Award
Naturally, giving is as important as receiving in the college student success sharing economy. I invite you to share your retention assets by applying for a 2017 Retention Excellence Award (REA). Applications are now being accepted and must be completed by March 17, 2017. The application process is brief and is similar to submitting a proposal to present at a conference. Up to three winners will be recognized and the honor includes a free conference registration to the National Conference on Student Marketing Recruitment and Retention being held in Denver, July 26-28, 2017. Winners are featured in a national webinar hosted by Ruffalo Noel Levitz and will serve as a judge in selecting the 2018 winners.
Please take the time to contribute to the student success sharing economy. I encourage you to review the application and consider applying. The process is easy, and the rewards for your campus and our student success sharing economy are many!
Questions? Please contact me directly by email or call me at 800.876.1117, ext. 8787.
This post is the first part of a two-post series on opportunities associated with the new Prior-Prior Year regulations which went into effect in fall 2016.
Prior-Prior Year is now in its fourth month. How well prepared is your campus for the new realities of today’s marketplace? And how are you making a stronger case for your affordability using P-P-Y for today’s cost-conscious families? Consider:
- 2 million students will graduate from U.S high schools every year for at least the next 10 years (Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, 2016).
- Approximately 62 percent of American students annually will consider postsecondary education (National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, 2016).
- The price tag of higher education has nearly doubled in the last 20 years (Perry, 2016). There are no consumer goods or services that have increased more than the annual cost of college education since 1996. If we compare the overall consumer prices of all goods and services during this same period, the cost of higher education has increased in real dollars by more than 94 percent.
Need evidence that cost is a growing concern? The Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) Freshman Survey is part of the Higher Education Research Institute, which is part of UCLA. The survey, which has a fifty-year history, is administered to incoming first-year students before they start classes, allowing campuses to understand student perceptions about college prior to time on campus and in classrooms. The 2015 CIRP Freshman Survey indicated that the top reason students chose the institution they attended was academic reputation—not surprisingly, this has remained the number one reason for several years. The third and fourth reasons focused on financial aid and cost. The overall amount of financial aid offered was the third reason, and the overall cost of attending the college was the fourth (Cooperative Institutional Research Program, 2016).
In addition, a study by Ruffalo Noel Levitz found that Caucasian and African American students are more likely to have discussions regarding college financing versus parents of Hispanic and Asian American students. Of the parents who are “very involved” in the college selection process, as many as 72 percent have had conversations with their students about college financing (Ruffalo Noel Levitz, 2016).
Address the cost conversation earlier—Prior-Prior Year brings new opportunities
There is no doubt that institutional awards and state financial assistance affect students’ choices of postsecondary institutions; unfortunately, students and families often are not informed of their financial aid package or other sources of financial assistance until after students are admitted (Renn & Reason, 2013). This is changing, however. Fall 2016 was the first fall in which campuses were able to begin awarding financial aid to admitted students as early as October 1—which many campuses are referring to as Prior-Prior Year awarding. Because many students and families have an unrealistic understanding of how they will pay for college, the additional time in the process to assess financial aid and determine how much a family can contribute to total cost of attendance is beneficial.
Last month the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education (WICHE) released updated high school graduate projections through 2032 . The report contained the following findings and observations:
- The steady growth in high school graduates that led to significant expansion of higher education in the United States in recent decades is coming to an abrupt halt. While the percentage of graduates grew 30 percent from 1995 to 2013, the number of high school graduates is expected to show virtually no growth for the next seven years.
- Dramatic increases in graduates who are Hispanic or Asian/Pacific Islander will continue. The racial/ethnic mix of high school graduates in the United States will shift significantly toward a more diverse population of graduates fueled primarily by large increases in the number of Hispanic (50 percent) and Asian/Pacific Islander (30 percent) public high school graduates through about 2025.
- Marked regional differences will continue as well. There is significant regional variation, with the Northeast and the Midwest experiencing continuing declines in the number of high school graduates, while the West will see slight increases and the South significant and steady increases. Most notably, the South is the engine of growth for high school graduates.
The enrollment challenges noted in these findings are probably not a surprise to most higher education leaders who are already feeling the impact of weakening student demand. Indeed total enrollment in degree-granting institutions declined by more than 800,000 students between fall 2010 and fall 2014 according to IPEDS. The National Student Clearinghouse, which produces data ahead of IPEDS, has now reported enrollment declines for ten consecutive terms through fall 2016.
As I have observed from conducting Enrollment Opportunity Assessments on community and technical college campuses over the last two years, times are indeed changing. Following peak enrollments a few years ago during what has been termed the Great Recession, enrollments have been declining steadily for many of the nation’s two-year institutions amid the continued economic recovery. Compounding the problem are changing demographics, flat or declining state and local financial support, increased accountability for student outcomes through performance-based funding, and an extraordinarily competitive marketplace. Together, these forces are prompting a more aggressive and strategic approach by community and technical colleges to attract and retain students.
When we conduct on-campus analyses for two-year institutions, looking for ways to be even more efficient and effective in attracting and retaining students, we now focus more on enrollment “right sizing” rather than striving to return to peak enrollment levels achieved some five years ago at the height of the economic downturn. Our collaboration and discussions center more on identifying the headcount and full-time equivalent student number that actually provide the desired and necessary level of enrollment, revenue stability, and vitality.
Checklist of 10 questions to assess enrollment opportunities
The following questions provide some structure and guidance for two-year institutions that are reviewing current enrollment-oriented approaches and determining the “right” enrollment size for 2017 and beyond:
- Is there a three- to five-year strategic enrollment plan and, if so, is it an accurate reflection of the institution’s strategic plan?
- Does your institution have realistic enrollment goals rather than enrollment projections based on budget needs? Are the goals based on a recent environmental scan and demographic review of the district served, the programmatic needs and interests of the service area, and an understanding of the real capacity of the institution? Is there an ongoing plan to identify and fill those programs that are under-enrolled?
- Is the college sufficiently nimble and flexible to diversify its enrollment streams, including responding to the needs and interests of adults, online learners, and other potential audiences for existing and possible new programs and services?
- Is the annual enrollment plan (both student recruitment and student retention) driven by goals, data, and strategy, with incremental objectives that reflect the longer-term institutional strategic enrollment plan? Or is the plan simply a “grocery list” of activities to be carried out during the year without continuous measurement?
- Has the college quantified, internalized, and shared with faculty and staff the value of the net revenue per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student from all sources? A college community needs to know the real impact financially of the gain and loss of each prospective and currently enrolled student. This information also helps the institution to better understand the return on investment with the resources that are devoted to attracting and retaining students.
- Is there a cohesive, integrated approach to attracting and retaining students and the avoidance of silos? To assure a well-conceived, efficient, and effective enrollment program, it is important to have all enrollment components (admissions, marketing, recruiting, financial aid, institutional research, institutional technology, web development, orientation, retention, etc.) aligned and rooted by well-understood goals and objectives that contribute to enrollment success.
- Is there involvement and support in meeting enrollment objectives from the president and senior cabinet? Are they helpful in mobilizing the campus community in understanding the important role each person plays in attracting students? Does the campus community (board, administration, faculty, and staff) understand and appreciate the issues and challenge of meeting enrollment objectives in an ever-changing and highly competitive marketplace?
- Is there a working enrollment management task force with the ability to identify and obtain the necessary resources to produce a successful enrollment program? Does the college have continuity and stability among enrollment professionals with an ongoing professional development program to help them stay current on the latest best practices in meeting enrollment objectives? Is the staff structured and aligned properly in recognition of enrollment goals, including market segmentation initiatives?
- Is there a person specifically assigned to developing and implementing a goal- and strategy-driven retention plan with the benefit of the necessary data (analytics, diagnostics, surveys) to impact student persistence, progression, and success? If an institution wants to grow by 10 percent, a well-conceived and coordinated retention effort to realize at least half of the growth from “closing the back door” can contribute significantly to right-sizing the institution.
- Is the institution monitoring the influence of cost and the availability of student financial aid from all sources in a student’s ability to enroll and continue at the institution? Is the college tracking the ability to meet a student’s financial need and the amount of the need met with gift aid (grants and scholarships) versus self-help (work and loans)? Is the college proactive in monitoring and promoting the real affordability of the institution to maximize enrollment?
Each of the above items depends on a data-driven approach to inform enrollment goals, strategies, and decisions. Is there agreement collegewide, and do the key decision makers know which data are needed, in what form, for what purpose, and with what frequency? Are enrollment management status reports developed for review by staff on a weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis and, importantly, is the data being used to inform 30-, 60-, and 90-day enrollment action plans for both attracting and retaining students? Finally, is the data being used strategically to further improve efficiency and effectiveness of each and every strategy and tactic toward “right sizing” the institution?
Is your college considering adding online programs or graduate programs? If not, should you be? Based upon enrollment trends and future projections, the answer is YES. Traditional undergraduate programs will not bring growth to a campus. Diversifying with both online delivery and graduate programs holds a stronger promise of growth.
To explore this opportunity further, consider the following eight facts drawn from the latest available reports of Babson Survey Research Group, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and Ruffalo Noel Levitz.
FACT #1: Despite an overall enrollment decline in higher education, we continue to see modest growth in the number of students who choose to complete courses and entire degree programs via online delivery. Of the 20,207,360 college students enrolled in fall 2014, 5.8 million (28.8 percent) pursued coursework through online delivery formats. That’s an increase of 2.8 percent over fall 2012’s online percentage of 26 percent.
Clearly, if your college has not implemented online courses and programs, you are failing to meet the needs of a growing number of learners. When enrollments from traditional delivery methods slip, turning to alternative delivery modalities makes sense. Students now seek entire degree programs which are offered online. We’ll understand why a little later in this blog as we look at the demographic of this learner.
FACT #2: While online enrollments have grown, graduate enrollments are also experiencing a rebound following a five-year decline from an all-time high of 2,937,011 in 2010:
FACT #3: Graduate students represent a high percentage of the total number of students pursuing courses and programs online. In the fall of 2013, a total of 30.8 percent of all graduate students enrolled in online courses, consisting of 23 percent who pursued their entire programs online and 8 percent who enrolled in at least one online course:
FACT #4: When you move your programs and courses into an online delivery modality, you are able to attract a different type of learner. These learners are most likely to be female, in their mid 20s to mid 50s, married or single with children, Caucasian and African American, study fully online, work full-time, and be enrolled full-time. Based upon national demographics collected by Ruffalo Noel Levitz on over 118,000 students using our Priorities Survey for Online Learners we also know this about the characteristics of the online learner:
- Gender: 69% female; 31% male
- Age: 12% are 24 and under; 29% are 25-34; 28% are 35-44; 22% are 45-54; and 9% are 55 and over
- Ethnicity: 61% Caucasian; 21% African-American; 6% Hispanic; 3% Asian
- Marital status: 29% single; 15% single with children; 17% married; 35% married with children
- Employment: 65% full-time; 13% part-time; 22% not employed
This post was originally published on the Ruffalo Noel Levitz fundraising management blog. Because it covers both enrollment and fundraising management, we wanted to share it here.
Texas State University has devised an innovative approach to maximizing the effectiveness of their call center: they concurrently call alumni and prospective students.
Combining the enrollment and fundraising outreach takes a lot of organization and a commitment to training the callers, but the returns on both activities have made it well worth the investment. Program center manager Odies Moore was kind enough to discuss the strategy behind this innovative approach, how he trains his callers, and what it takes to make it work.
Can you explain how you prepare for both fundraising and enrollment calling at the same time?
All of the student supervisors and callers are trained on both types of calling. I usually start all new callers in fundraising. The students tell me that they feel the fundraising calls are more difficult, and I want to give them the most intense thing to start, sort of a boot camp. Callers who prove themselves move over to enrollment calls.
Why do you think the students feel that the fundraising calls are more difficult than enrollment ones?
More often, they’re talking to people closer to their age in recruiting calls. Fundraising calls also have additional metrics that callers are judged on. We do see some students gravitate toward one type of call or another, but I think it’s very important to have them experience both.
How do you organize a call center for two types of calls?
The center is divided in half, one side for fundraising, the other for enrollment. We have two student supervisors each night who assist. They can both work either division, but they focus on one side for the night. Sitting the callers next to someone who is doing the same type of call as them is helpful. New callers hear how veteran callers deal with fundraising objections and proceed with the call. They can also learn from other callers how to correctly go through the process of an enrollment call. Now, you have to be sure your veteran callers are doing the right thing, or you’ll have a lot of bad calls going out!
What can you do to combine enrollment and fundraising outreach, and increase the expertise of your callers?
My colleagues and I can help you set up a combined enrollment and fundraising communications effort, the way we have done for other campuses through our CORE Communication Center. Please feel free to send me an email and I would be happy to answer your questions or continue the discussion with you and your colleagues.
We also invite you to attend the Telecounseling Supervisor’s Workshop in Boston on July 7-8. This hands-on event will discuss strategies for calling, creating scripts, and managing telecounselors. Take a look at the agenda to see what you can learn.
How effective is your campus enrollment team at managing continuous change and at monitoring the changes in today’s students? Is your enrollment strategy “playbook” in need of updating?
For an overview of the latest keys to enrollment success, I encourage you to attend Noel-Levitz’s upcoming 2015 Enrollment Management Workshop Series. At this workshop, I will be presenting a top-line overview of the ever-changing world of enrollment management, including the complexities of responding to changing demographics and the critical elements of a successful student recruitment and marketing program. My observations will be drawn from over 50 campus visits I’ve made in the last year or so, and from keeping an eye on the latest research.
I won’t share everything here that I’ll share at the workshop, but I will share some key points. In the current environment, understanding and organizing for the “new normal” isn’t an option. To be effective, campus enrollment teams, together with their senior colleagues, must address today’s increasing calls for accountability, affordability, and efficiency, while delivering enrollment and revenue outcomes, relevant academic programs, and improvements to all aspects of the student and prospective student experience. Adding to the pressures are increasing levels of competition and an accelerating use of technology and data to continuously fine-tune strategies and react to changes.
How I see colleges and universities responding to today’s environment
In response to these and other challenges, I observe today’s colleges and universities finding ways to become more strategic, efficient, and effective through initiatives such as:
- Developing longer-term plans
- Identifying and eliminating barriers to enrollment
- Knowing the profile of the persister
- Cultivating current students
- Identifying and responding to the marketplace
- Integrating campus silos
- Conducting meaningful market research
- Mobilizing the campus to assist with recruitment, marketing, and retention
The use of data is growing, too, as more campuses are employing analytics, tracking, and research to drive their decision-making and goal-setting.