In the findings of a new, spring 2013 Noel-Levitz poll, campus officials across higher education rated honors programs and first-year student programs among the top three of 11 programs aimed at retaining specific student populations. These two programs also made the poll’s overall list of the “top 10 most effective strategies and tactics” for student retention and college completion initiatives.
As shown in the tables above, 74 to 90 percent of respondents across sectors rated honors programs and first-year student programs “very effective” or “somewhat effective” based on a rating scale that also included the options of “minimally effective” or “method not used.” Other student-population-targeted programs that were ranked (not shown above) included programs for international students, adult learners, transfer students, online learners, veterans, and second-year students.
Interestingly, while honors programs were rated highly, the poll also found that many respondents weren’t offering them, including 26 percent of four-year private institution respondents, 13 percent of four-year public institution respondents, and 40 percent of two-year public institution respondents.
Watch for the complete findings from the poll to be released in July in the forthcoming 2013 Student Retention Practices Benchmark Report for Four-Year and Two-Year Institutions. To receive the report by e-mail, visit www.NoelLevitz.com/Subscribe and select “New trend reports and white papers.”
Noel-Levitz partners with campuses for student retention strategy consulting. If you have any questions about strengthening your institution’s initiatives for student retention or college completion, or about the findings above, please contact us.
This blog is excerpted from the first section of the 2013 Noel-Levitz white paper, Seven Categories of Admissions Data to Guide Decision Making.
Tracking historical admissions trend data is foundational to building an effective strategy for marketing and recruitment. You want timely, meaningful data for comparisons, so you can stay on top of campus trends. The data should be date- and year-specific, for example: “On this day last year, we had 221 applications from Los Angeles County. This year, we had 277 applications from Los Angeles County, a 25 percent increase.”
For effective benchmark comparisons, we advise campuses to store and analyze three-to-five years of comparative data. Student data should be organized into carefully-defined categories, such as the following eight stages:
1. Prospects (students who have not yet expressed interest in the institution, such as students whose names and addresses were purchased from a list vendor)
2. Inquiries (students who have expressed interest in the institution)
4. “Stealth applicants” (students who made their first contact by submitting an application without inquiring beforehand; often categorized dually as applicants and inquiries)
5. Applicants who fully completed the application process
You will also want to track students in defined target groups, such as those listed below, depending on your unique enrollment goals, trends, and circumstances:
• First-year vs. transfer
• Adult vs. traditional-age
• Geographic market area/counselor territory
• Academic profile
• Academic and co-curricular interest (noting if certain majors are rising or falling within your pool)
• Racial/ethnic category
• Financial need level
Further, you will want to group and track your applicants and admitted students by FAFSA institutional position, ACT institutional position, predictive modeling scores, and qualifying codes used by the institution to rate enrollment likelihood.
With the above data set in hand, one can project fall enrollment and yield by monitoring and comparing each target group’s rates of movement toward enrollment in each week of the recruitment cycle. This also highlights the need for targeted interventions. For example, groups of students who are moving slowly from admit to matriculant (the yield rate) require different interventions than those who are converting slowly from inquiry to application.
To keep reading about the critical data you need in admissions, download the complete white paper, Seven Categories of Admissions Data to Guide Decision Making. You can also e-mail me any questions you have about collecting, analyzing, and acting on your admissions data.
Most institutions collect data. However, few institutions use that data to understand trends or patterns that should be monitored and instead use data to establish annual enrollment strategy. Leaders may look at a particular data element and set a goal to change it, deciding, for instance, to set a goal of increasing the number of inquiries or applicants. Meanwhile, many campus leaders fail to consider aligning both internal and external data with trend data to determine the real issues the institution faces. For example, few institutions are prepared for the 10-year prediction that traditional enrollments will decrease.
A data-informed institution, on the other hand, takes the all-important next step of analyzing its data and drawing a more informed awareness of its situation and environment. The institution uses that awareness to make decisions that align with its mission while allowing it to adapt intentionally to the future instead of simply reacting to it. A data-informed institution asks, “Does our data allow us to understand our context and draw implications about how we will need to change in order to fulfill our mission and vision in the future? Does our current state align with the future needs, demands, and trends? If not, can our institution sustain itself?” Such institutions are, in effect, developing a kind of data wisdom that provides an impetus to move forward. This data-informed strategy also drives the Strategic Enrollment Planning process that our campus partners use.
As challenging as this might seem, there is nothing magical about data. They are simply a resource that can be neglected, exploited, or understood. Frequently, a campus will have reams and reams of data with no one purposefully assessing it, considering its implications, or suggesting ways to change institutional behavior based on what it indicates. A campus must charge key personnel with taking the data and drawing conclusions from it, as illustrated in the following figure.
Many of you who read these blogs on a regular basis have joined me on my journey as the parent of a prospective college student. My daughter Kylie graduated from high school as a member of the class of 2013 in May. Over the course of the past two years, I have written about her initial reactions to college direct mail, e-mail, and Web sites, and I have talked about how important it is to involve parents in the recruitment process, as well as shared our observations on college visits. Now as high school has been completed, we are looking more forward to the college experience ahead of her. This kicked off in earnest with Kylie’s initial registration, orientation, and advising session at her future college in May.
The four-year private, liberal arts college that Kylie has selected is within easy driving distance of our home and draws from a predominantly Midwestern student population. They offer their initial orientation sessions primarily in June, but also offer a daylong option in early May. Since the June dates didn’t work for our schedule, Kylie chose to participate in the May session, and we squeezed the Saturday event into our other end-of-the-high-school-year activities. Talk about feeling like we had our feet in two worlds! But the college event also served to help Kylie focus on the future rather than looking back.
Although Kylie was admittedly a little nervous about being on campus again and meeting her new peers, she had already begun to connect with other students in the college’s class of 2017 through their Facebook page. She was even able to meet one young woman in person during the event, and they both felt more comfortable with each other right away because of their previous Facebook interactions. (Is your campus using social media to build relationships for your incoming students? If not, I highly recommend it. The college also has a Facebook page for the college parents, which I learned about at orientation and immediately connected.)
A new, spring 2013 research study from Noel-Levitz has found that prospective students are receiving a record number of written contacts (direct mail, e-mail, and texting combined) from colleges and universities, with increases especially evident among students being recruited by four-year public universities.
As shown in the table above, officials from four-year public universities confirmed that they are sending three written communications at the median to prospective students who had not yet inquired; eight written communications at the median to students who had inquired but not yet applied; and 10 written communications at the median to admitted students; for a total of 21 written contacts at the median. Both the admitted student figure and the inquired-but-not-yet-applied figure were up from two years earlier.
Leading the way in the number of written contacts were four-year private institutions with a total of 26 written contacts at the median.
In a related finding, the study also found that four-year public institutions are now purchasing a similar volume of student names from search list vendors such as NRCCUA, The College Board, and ACT compared to four-year private institutions.
Watch for the study to be released in June: 2013 Marketing and Student Recruitment Practices Benchmark Report for Four-Year and Two-Year Institutions. To receive the report by e-mail, visit www.noellevitz.com/Subscribe and select “New trend reports and white papers.”
Noel-Levitz also partners with campuses for direct mail and e-mail for student search and application generation. If you have any questions about optimizing communication and marketing strategies for student recruitment, or about the findings above, please e-mail us.
According to the most recent Open Doors report , the number of international students enrolled in the United States has increased steadily since 2006. The number of new international students enrolling for the first time jumped 6.5 percent between the 2010/11 and 2011/12 academic years. With a growing market abroad, many institutions may look to expand their international recruitment, especially as the number of prospective domestic students levels off or declines.
Noel-Levitz and CollegeWeekLive surveyed nearly 2,000 prospective international students during spring 2013, examining their expectations and attitudes toward researching potential American colleges. The findings show that international students are primarily concerned about funding and see aid from U.S. campuses as their top resource for paying for college.
I was talking with a client recently and she pointed out that many times the data that colleges collect on student satisfaction end up residing in the Institutional Research office. We know that satisfaction data can be critical for accreditation documentation which is often why campuses administer a student satisfaction survey. The satisfaction report becomes one of the many data points that are collected for institutional assessment purposes. Yet all too often, it gets checked off a list of must-do assessments and remains on file, leaving many on campus unaware of the valuable data available to them.
It may be time to make friends with your institutional researcher and ask him or her if you have recent student satisfaction data, like that collected by the Noel-Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventory. Satisfaction data can provide valuable information to a variety of campus offices—and you don’t need to be an expert in statistics to have the data reveal something that will help you to do your job better.
If you are responsible for enrollment management on your campus, student satisfaction data can:
In my previous posts about college direct marketing, I covered five strategies that every campus should use with their direct marketing. To sum those blogs up:
But how does this work in practice?
As college costs continue to rise quickly, developing a successful financial aid strategy is more important than ever. But which strategies help create the most successful financial aid plans?
My colleagues and I at Noel-Levitz have consulted with many, many campuses about financial aid, and while every campus has its own individual challenges and goals, the following eight steps can start you on the path toward constructing, implementing, and evaluating your strategy.
The first step to developing this framework is to understand the purpose, or goal, of your aid strategy. At many campuses this goal is simple:
A framework should take into consideration a student’s ability to pay (EFC-Expected Family Contribution) as well as willingness to pay best demonstrated by the enrollment rate of those students receiving no aid to attend your institution (full pay).
Understanding the behavior of various groups of students can help you assess where you may wish to redirect additional institutional financial aid resources. If you wish to enroll greater numbers of students from a specific state or geographic region, it is important to understand how those students currently react to your aid strategy. If you wish to support your recruitment efforts with a targeted aid strategy in order to increase the enrollment of a specific major, it’s important to know how many of these students are currently being attracted to the university.
A new study of slumping motivation among last year’s sophomores has found that many respondents indeed did not feel energized by their courses and shows some of the reasons why—including relatively low satisfaction in areas such as students’ frequency of communication with advisors and the availability of work experiences associated with students’ career interests. The findings shed light on the mindsets behind the substantial dropout rate of second-year college students nationally, reported earlier this year by Noel-Levitz.