I remember when I had to write my first financial aid brochure as a young marketer at Wilkes University, my first job in higher education. I was working from an existing resource and frustrated by the dull, dry tone of the copy and the challenging steps my readers had to take to qualify for financial aid or scholarships. The looming threats of mysterious “federally regulated text” that had to be considered were also quite stifling. Back then, I had only brochures and postal letters to convince our prospective students and their families that our school was a good value and set them on the right path. Now we have so many more digital resources to convey these themes, but somehow the task at hand is no easier.
Our latest E-expectations trend report focuses on net price calculators, one of those nifty new resources that provides specific examples of what it costs to attend a school and how students’ hard work at studies and standardized tests could be converted into scholarship dollars. The promise of this engaging new tool isn’t being fully realized, however. Links to these tools are often buried on Web sites and rarely, if ever, mentioned in e-mail communications or social media posts. Sometimes the directions are non-existent or very difficult to understand. Worse yet, some of these calculators require a CPA at your side to complete them.
More than two decades after my first financial aid communication attempts, I find myself the parent of a high school senior. I am forced to read the fine print on the Web site and in the e-mail (and yes, still brochures) that my daughter’s chosen school provides. It is tougher than ever. The data from the E-Expectations report suggest that it’s not just me. Only 39 percent of respondents said they had used a net price calculator, and of the ones who didn’t, 66 percent said it was because they couldn’t find them on college Web sites.
With that in mind, here are a few ideas for you to consider as you’re creating or updating your Web site resources, calculator tools, e-mail messages, and financial aid brochures.
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:
How does the concern of sequestration interface with ongoing discussions of value?
With sequestration concerns intensifying, matters of educational value are taking on heightened salience.
In a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Sequestration Presents Uncertain Outlook for Students, Researchers, and Job-Seekers,” Justin Draeger, president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, laments “an air of uncertainty” for students, urging them to stay in close touch with their financial aid counselors.
This economic ambiguity can interface with discussions of educational value, threatening to compromise students’ commitment to college as well as a college’s staying power.
For instance, in our 2013 National Freshman Attitudes Report, 92 percent of first-generation students indicated, “I am deeply committed to my educational goals, and I’m fully prepared to make the effort and sacrifices that will be needed to attain them.” However, 21 percent also reflected, “I often wonder if a college education is really worth all the time, money, and effort that I’m being asked to spend on it.”
Compounding the problem, first-generation freshmen indicated academic and financial concerns in responses such as these:
Part five of the series, Five principles of a successful prospective student direct marketing campaign
Read part one: Building the right list for campus direct marketing
Read part three: The importance of the offer in college direct marketing
Read part four: Building the right list for campus direct marketing
In the first four parts of this series, we’ve learned how to take a college direct mail campaign from the list to the creative. In this concluding post, I want to discuss something that affects all four of those steps: choosing the right technology to help you execute your direct marketing campaigns.
For many campuses, the search mailing process used to consist of sending a printed single self-mailer and perhaps a follow-up postcard. The results could be easily tracked through a manual response sheet and a student information system (SIS). Today, a new technological landscape of multiple channels to grab a student’s interest has added complexity to the set up, execution, and tracking of search results.
Based on my previous blogs, you know that I am a strong believer in surveying to determine your students’ satisfaction levels. Having data directly from your students about what is most important to them and how they feel your institution is performing can really help you understand current perceptions at your institution and priority areas for improvement.
But have you considered that your students are not the only ones with opinions and perceptions about your campus? Two other key populations can also impact how successful you are in serving students and communicating the issues of greatest importance: your campus personnel (including your faculty, administration, and staff) and the parents of your currently enrolled students (especially at four-year campuses serving traditional students).
Let’s take a closer look at national data collected from these three populations. These data sets rate both satisfaction on issues as well as the importance of that issue. The student data are from the Student Satisfaction Inventory, the campus personnel data are from the Institutional Priorities Survey, and the parent perceptions are from the Parent Satisfaction Inventory. For purposes of comparison, I am focusing on the four-year private results from 2009 through 2012.
A few months ago, Michael Lofstead explored landing pages and their role in college recruitment. He highlighted their importance and the opportunities available from a strategically-aligned communication flow.
Landing pages open the door to an entire world of rich metrics we can use to measure the success of not only our inbound marketing, but also the efficiencies of our Web sites. A great measurement strategy includes two bookends found in Google Analytics: campaign tagging and goal conversions.
Most of our marketing campaigns are multifaceted; they leverage many mediums, expose various pieces of rich content, and are targeted at highly-segmented groups. In many cases, a single, campaign-specific landing page may receive traffic from outbound e-mails, social network posts, and traditional printed media. How can you tell which traffic source is working the best? Which is most likely to convert? Better yet, what’s your ROI?
According to enrollment reports from the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of adult students (age 25 and older) in higher education will eclipse 10,000,000 by the year 2020. Many higher education professionals recognize that this growing population presents its own set of unique challenges and needs—but how can your campus best serve these students?
With just a few months left in this school year, it’s a great time to talk about your student success relationship management model and how your retention and graduation planning efforts match. Some of you may have read Strategic Enrollment Planning: A Dynamic Collaboration, published earlier this year by Noel-Levitz. In Chapter 12, which I had the pleasure to author, I briefly touched on the concept of milestone management, which I learned about from reading an article from Leinbach & Jenkins (2008). The article, Using longitudinal data to increase community college student success: A guide to measuring milestone and momentum point attainment, helped me better understand the student success lifecycle and the implications for retention and graduation planning.
Over the past few years, I have been developing my thoughts regarding student success relationship management and have come to believe that there are many parallels to top-of-the-funnel management in student recruitment. What do I mean by top of the funnel? Admissions directors for years have been managing “milestones” as the student enters into your enrollment funnel. For example, when admissions offices attempt to convert an inquiry to an application to an enrollment, they are managing measurable milestones. They coordinate relationship management strategies in order to eventually yield a class. We call these measurements conversion and yield rates. My thought is that if a class has been “yielded,” then the students success relationship management model should be designed to “re-yield” the class each term until graduation or completion.
Each year, Noel-Levitz releases the National Freshman Attitudes Report, a summary of the self-reported attitudes of incoming college students that may pose barriers or opportunities for degree persistence and college completion. These “non-cognitive” findings go beyond the usual test scores and high school transcripts to provide an overview of how students’ attitudes, motivations, and college preparation are changing from year to year. Non-cognitive factors are important to consider, and in the newly-released 2013 National Freshman Attitudes Report, we identify a number of ways these data can be used to inform and guide your campus.
Use non-cognitive student assessment data on your campus to:
Our 2012 report, The Attitudes and Needs of Freshman at Mid-Year, focused in part on freshman students’ receptivity to academic support on this set of campuses. In addition to students’ receptivity at mid-year, you can also see the level of demand at the start of the year, as well as the percentage of students who had received some assistance in that area by mid-year.
At these institutions, 36.5 percent of all students indicated that they would like to receive help with their math skills at the start of their freshman year in fall 2011. By mid-year of that same year, more than 39 percent of all students reported receiving some assistance with math, and almost 31 percent of students still reported that they would like to receive (further) assistance with math.