Co-written with Pamela Lee, Market Research Consultant, Noel-Levitz
This is the first of a two-part series.
How do human beings make decisions? Neuroscience tells us that humans have both a logical, conscious “system” and a non-logical, unconscious “system” that provide input as we make decisions. We like to think of ourselves as highly logical creatures, but in fact our choices represent a mysterious blend of influences. Many researchers suggest that the subconscious is actually the dominant driver of human decision-making. (Here’s one study on the subject.)
On the topic of college choice by traditional-age students, the logical factors have been well researched. UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, Noel-Levitz, and other organizations have investigated top student choice factors such as institutional location, academic reputation, available majors, cost and financial aid, educational outcomes, faculty teaching and credentials, and enrollment size.
Given what science says about decision making, enrollment managers need to understand—and respond to—what students are feeling as well as what they are thinking. To ignore this key component of student choice would render our understanding incomplete.
We know anecdotally that emotions play a significant role in the college decision. How often have you heard a student use emotionally charged language such as?
“I fell in love with the campus.”
“It just felt right.”
“I knew I would belong here.”
This research study shows just how completely the decision process is awash in emotions such as excitement, anxiety, stress, and hope.
For this study, Noel-Levitz was invited to include questions in NRCCUA’s “Mapping the College Search” survey, deployed online in January 2014. Our quantitative sample included 5,240 students who expected to graduate between 2014-17 and who also planned to attend four-year institutions, community colleges, or technical/career colleges. In addition, we completed 16 qualitative follow-up queries to explore specific emotions in more detail and add “color” to our research.
The study revolved around this central question we posed to students:
Continue reading “New research on student emotions in college choice: Part 1” »
The explosion of digital marketing, social media, and the sharing of information online has triggered many concerns about privacy among prospective college students. Social media outlets in particular have fueled privacy concerns that are only likely to increase as campuses consider platforms like Snapchat to recruit students.
As part of the 2014 E-Expectations study, we asked students and their parents about privacy issues during the recruitment process. The table below shows the percent who said they were concerned or extremely concerned about the following privacy issues.
These concerns do not necessarily interfere with students providing information. For instance, while 52 percent said they had privacy concerns about providing their name and email address, 96 percent of students in the E-Expectations study said they had provided prospective colleges with an email address during their college search process. On the other hand, while the number of students who said they visited a college Facebook page jumped from 41 percent in the 2013 study to 51 percent this year, the number who “liked” a Facebook page fell from 53 percent to 36 percent.
Regarding social media, many campuses do appear to check on the content prospective students post to social media. We asked campuses about this practice in our 2014 E-Recruiting Practices Report, and here’s what they said:
Continue reading “Privacy concerns among prospective college students and their parents” »
Jeffrey Selingo, the author of College (Un)Bound, was a keynote speaker at our Noel-Levitz National Conference in Chicago in July. He had a lot of great observations on today’s world of higher education. In particular, he highlighted four benefits of a residential college experience, which resonated with me since my daughter Kylie is about to start her sophomore year at a Midwest, residential, liberal-arts college. You may have been following my blog series on Kylie’s experiences through the college search process, orientation and move-in, and my own observations on the parent communications I received during her freshman year.
These are Jeffrey Selingo’s four benefits of a residential college experience, and I asked Kylie to reflect on her first year within the context of his observations. If you are affiliated with a residential college serving traditional students, you may want to consider how you are highlighting and promoting similar experiences that your students may be having.
Benefit 1: Offering faculty as mentors to students
Kylie felt that building on relationships with her faculty members from the very beginning was essential and that she was able to build strong relationships with many faculty members during her first year. She appreciated the opportunity to get to know her faculty advisor. He was the first faculty member she met during orientation and he also taught her section of her required freshman seminar course, further developing their relationship. For her other courses, Kylie liked that they were smaller, discussion-oriented classes rather than lecture style. Through these classroom discussions, and by taking advantage of meetings with the professors during office hours, she got to know the faculty. Kylie shared that she was able to bond with the faculty members as they gained a better understanding of her values and beliefs. She expects that these relationships will continue to grow during her sophomore year.
Does the number of students enrolled at an institution influence the satisfaction levels of those students? Colleges and universities certainly tout the benefits of enrollment size—smaller institutions in particular highlight class size and personal attention. But does it impact how students feel about their college experience?
This is the third in a series looking at the connection between student satisfaction and various institutional factors as defined by IPEDS. So far, we have looked at satisfaction and graduation rates along with satisfaction and tuition levels. What about the influence of the enrollment size of the institution? To answer this question, we looked at national data from the Student Satisfaction Inventory™ within the context of IPEDS data variables. We grouped schools into three categories based on these variables for enrollment size:
Here’s what we found:
At four-year institutions, satisfaction held steady across all enrollment groups, while community colleges had a slight decline as enrollment size grew. However, at career institutions, satisfaction jumped substantially with each enrollment tier. Altogether, these results go against the assumption that students at smaller institutions are inherently more satisfied than students at larger institutions.
In addition to looking at summary satisfaction scores, we also looked at the range in satisfaction scores for specific items.
Students at four-year privates and four-year publics were much more satisfied with the variety of courses that were available to them as the size of the institution increased. This is not surprising considering the perception that there are more options at larger institutions. Items related to concern for the individual decreased in satisfaction at both institution types as the size increased (financial aid staff, library staff, academic advisors, faculty, and administrators).
Students at community colleges were more dissatisfied with academic advising services and items regarding concern for the individual as the institution size increased. At two-year career schools, items regarding resources increased in satisfaction along with enrollment size, including computer labs and library resources being adequate.
I encourage you to consider what you know about your own levels of student satisfaction and consider them within this broader national context based on your own enrollment size. Are there areas where you may need to work harder at adjusting student perceptions about the experience that you are offering?
Read the full report
We have published the findings from these three blogs as well as additional details in our new report, The Relationship of Student Satisfaction to Key Indicators for Colleges and Universities. I encourage you to download the report, and please email me if you have questions about the findings or about conducting satisfaction surveys with your students.
Enrollment management is a common practice in undergraduate admissions. Most campuses practice it to some degree, using more data-informed approaches to recruit undergraduate students, creating strategic enrollment plans, and centralizing their admissions structure. For graduate programs, however, enrollment management is often a foreign concept—especially for the individual departments that are often charged with generating new student enrollment. Many graduate and professional programs still “recruit” students as they always have—hauling in interested students like fishermen casting their nets and checking later to see what they caught.
That approach, however, does not fly in an increasingly competitive graduate and professional higher education market. The market is crowded, and with overall graduate enrollment taking a hit in recent years, graduate and professional programs need to get more strategic, coordinated, and aggressive in enrolling new students.
That is easier said than done. I have worked as a consultant with academic and professional graduate programs for 20 years, and in that time, I have seen five key issues that undermine new graduate student enrollment.
1) Decentralized recruitment. Culturally, graduate recruitment has been mostly decentralized, with the academic affairs and graduate college/school leadership hesitant to micro-manage the recruitment efforts of individual certificate, master’s, and doctoral programs. However, this often results in a recruitment process that lacks focus and organization, leading to a scattered, ineffective graduate recruitment effort.
2) Lack of accountability. In most cases I’ve seen, the chief academic and the chief financial officers have a clear understanding of where they would like to see graduate enrollment metrics in terms of new and continuing students; typically, however, these goals are not cascaded further down than the dean of the respective college/school. This can also be traced to the decentralized nature of graduate recruitment. The result is that no one takes charge, therefore no one is responsible. This also leads to a lack of understanding as to what the new student enrollment goals are for each program.
Continue reading “Overcoming common issues that undermine graduate enrollment management” »
In today’s increasingly complex higher education environment, there is great demand for skilled professionals in enrollment management. Whether you are new or experienced in this field, here are five ways you can take your career to the next level.
You only need to complete six courses online to earn Noel-Levitz Certification in a program offered at Bay Path University. Finish in one year taking one course at a time. An accelerated eight-month schedule is also available. All of the coursework applies toward a master’s degree at the same time (see next item). A recent graduate, Brandy Cartmell, shared this: “The Certificate program has catapulted my career. I am now overseeing admissions, financial aid, student success, first-year programs, and the registrar’s office. My earning potential has more than doubled.” Learn more and apply.
A master’s degree program offered by Bay Path University consists of 12 courses and can include Noel-Levitz Certification. Even if you already have an advanced degree, this master’s degree will increase your ability to make a difference for the campuses you serve, with courses such as Enrollment Management Principles and Practices, Leading Change in Higher Education, The Contemporary College Student, Student Personnel Services, and Higher Education Marketing and Communications. Learn more and apply.
When you work side-by-side with a qualified enrollment management consultant, you can learn what he or she knows about successful strategies that have worked for others, including the types of tracking data that are critical for effective decision making. You are also likely to improve your personal track record of enrollment success—a platform that could advance your career or propel you into consulting. This doesn’t mean you need to leave your full-time campus job, as some consultants manage occasional assignments while remaining employed full-time. Did you know that Noel-Levitz has 80 people consulting this way?
Continue reading “Five ways to advance your career in higher education enrollment management” »
Earlier this spring, Noel-Levitz, OmniUpdate, CollegeWeekLive, and NRCCUA conducted our annual E-Expectations survey. This is the ninth year we have done it (we’re already making plans for the tenth next year!), and as we have done every few years, we included parents in our study. The helicopter parent has been a mainstay of college admissions for years, and the era of social media, mobile devices, and constant contact appears to have made it easier for those parents to hover.
While campus personnel may sometimes wish parents were less involved in the lives of students, it’s also true that as parents have become more involved in the admissions process, they also have become advocates for campuses. Colleges and universities now have many, many ways to recruit parents in addition to recruiting students.
So how do we reach parents? The 2014 E-Expectations Report offers insight by looking at the differences between parents and students. The report touches on a wide range of topics—webpages, email, social media, and the influence of resources. The following graphic summarizes some of the more significant and interesting differences:
Continue reading “Communicating with college-bound students and their parents: New findings from E-Expectations” »
At the 2014 National Conference on Student Recruitment, Marketing, and Retention a couple of weeks ago, my colleague Scott Bodfish and I presented a session entitled, “Do Lower Prices Increase Student Satisfaction?” To answer this question, we looked at national data from the Student Satisfaction Inventory™ within the context of IPEDS data variables. We grouped schools into three categories based on these variables for tuition:
In addition to looking at tuition levels, we looked at graduation rates (see my blog from June 19) and enrollment size to observe differences in satisfaction with these indicators.
This article features excerpts from a popular Noel-Levitz white paper originally released in 2000, The Earth-Shaking But Quiet Revolution in Retention Management, by Randi Levitz and Lee Noel, founders of Noel-Levitz. Download the original white paper here or read additional excerpts online.
The real reason students do not succeed or stay at many institutions goes even beyond the lack of a cogent map; it is the fact that they have expectations for themselves in and after college that they do not know how to activate. Many of these expectations are really at the most basal level of integration into campus life. For example, students may not even know how to meet their expectations for social life. On campuses nationwide students complain, “There’s nothing to do here.”
A large research university actually counted the number of activities on its campus in one month. The total, 1,072, was staggering, yet students said there was nothing to do. What does that say? Probably that students don’t know how to participate. Many residence hall students don’t know how to join a campus group, whether before, after, or even during dinner. Similarly, commuter students don’t know how to get involved, even when their work/home schedule permits them to do so.
At the root of these “non-connects” is the fact that we have vastly overrated students’ abilities in these key areas:
Because students cannot articulate their needs, they are unable to seek help to address these needs unless the institution intervenes. Contrary to popular belief, students don’t bring a map of their future to campus—they need help building a plan a step at a time. We need to recognize that even good students need this kind of help and guidance.
We need to dispel the myth that dropouts are “flunkouts.” On nearly every campus in North America, this is the prevailing myth. The fact is, many dropouts are outstanding students. Many institutions have hard data to document this. One campus for example, found that 28 percent of the students in its top quartile for high school GPA and ACT/SAT scores were not enrolled at that institution one year later. This came as a shock to everyone on campus, from the president on down. This discovery has recurred on scores of campuses. A national study conducted several years ago revealed that 37 percent of the students who did not return for the second year at their initial institution had earned freshman year college GPAs of 2.50 or greater. (It is important to note that many institution-specific studies have supported the fact that college GPAs are generally .5 to 1.0 units lower than students’ high school GPAs.)
Continue reading “4 student retention myths to overcome at the undergraduate level” »
At Noel-Levitz’s national conference in early July, participants were actively engaged in discussions about emerging trends that are influencing student enrollments at their institutions. On some campuses, these trends are already aggravating the usual ups and downs of enrollment. I had a number of conversations with campus leaders who were trying to decide if the appropriate response is a more systematic approach to planning, such as the strategic enrollment planning approach we advocate.
Given the prevalence of these concerns, I put together the following Enrollment Stability Quiz to help readers assess how well prepared they are for the trends sweeping across higher education, and to test their readiness for Noel-Levitz’s strategic enrollment planning process. Use these 11 questions to see if your campus is ready for these powerful changes.
Circle yes or no to the following:
Yes No - We include environmental scanning results when we build our annual enrollment goals for both new student and continuing student enrollment.
Yes No - My institution knows how shifting demographics in our primary, secondary, and tertiary markets will influence its enrollment numbers over the next five to ten years.
Yes No - My institution has a written plan to respond to changing demographics in our primary, secondary, and tertiary markets.
Continue reading “Take an Enrollment Stability Quiz – How well prepared is your institution for the future?” »