Developing a financial aid strategy that works to meet your campus goals is a process that involves many steps and requires extensive data and analysis. Not only are there a huge number of variables to account for at each stage, but these variables are dependent upon each other in many ways.
At the upcoming Symposium on the Recruitment and Retention of Student of Color in Savannah, Georgia, I’ll be giving a presentation on designing a financial aid plan that supports both the recruitment and retention goals of your institution. In my presentation, I’ll cover a total of eight things to consider when developing a successful aid strategy. The following three points in particular have helped many campuses make their awarding more efficient and have increased the impact of their award dollars on enrollment.
1. Understand and analyze your desired market segments
While students are not a monolithic group who behave the same way, they will form groups that exhibit similar behavior in terms of admissions and financial aid. By understanding these similarities, you can tailor your financial aid strategies accordingly.
Create clusters of students who may react similarly to admissions practices and financial aid awarding based on geography, academic program interest, residency, athletic involvement, and other factors. Each of these segments should be considered independently in analysis and planning, and then the parts used to develop a better understanding of the whole population.
Creating these segments also allows you to focus on student groups to target for financial intervention.
2. Align your scholarship programs with your enrollment goals
What are your recruitment goals? Is your institution looking to enroll more students? Is your goal to raise the academic profile? Do you need to increase net tuition revenue?
While all of these goals may seem important, it’s necessary to prioritize what matters most to your campus. Once you have a clear understanding of which goals are most important, then you can develop a scholarship program that specifically addresses those goals.
Identify which groups on campus can award scholarships (academic departments, athletics, etc.) and analyze if their awarding aligns with your overall enrollment goals. If not, it is important to resolve each issue through better coordination or reconsidering how you manage awarding. (This is a major topic that goes beyond the scope of this blog, but if you have questions about it, send me an e-mail and I will be glad to discuss it with you.)
3. Control for non-financial variables
Which factors outside of financial aid affect a prospective student’s enrollment decision? Some campuses try to use financial aid as the only way to influence enrollment, but there are many other factors to take into account. Campus visits, specific majors, and early applications are a few examples.
These non-financial variables also impact your financial aid strategy. Consider how these variables affect yield rates and how you can address these factors to reach your enrollment goals.
While these aren’t the only components of a successful financial aid strategy, these three points offer the building blocks for a strategic, data-informed aid program that works to meet campus goals. In addition to these, I’ll cover five more considerations at the Symposium, April 15-17. The event features more than 20 sessions on admissions, retention, and campus diversity as well—you can read more details here.
If you won’t be able to attend this event, or would prefer to speak one-on-one about designing a successful financial aid strategy, please send me an e-mail and we can discuss your goals specifically.
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