Addressing Operational Pain Points in International Enrollment Management


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Cheryl DarrupBoychuck presents this session at the Washington International Education Council in DC in January 2014. Learn more about how both and FundsV can improve the efficiency and integrity of international enrollment management.

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  • Thank you for joining us! I am CDB, head of and FundsV. USjournal has been online since 1996, recruiting international students in 16 different languages for a select group of U.S. campuses. FundsV is our funds verification initiative, empowering students and their sponsors to point their online banking data to the authority who requested it.
  • In my professional volunteer capacity, I serve on the Editorial Board of NAFSA’s award-winning magazine, International Educator. Of course, we pay a lot of attention to reader statistics, not only for the digital version of the magazine, but for other NAFSA publications – including, a weekly newsletter to our 10,000 or so members.
  • Not surprisingly, the Simon Award winners announcement in February was once again the most popular story of last year. You’re probably familiar with this recognition of innovative campus internationalization ideas.
  • The second-most popular cluster of trending data focused on the financial component of international student recruitment. In August, for example, there was an article about how enrolling large numbers of foreign students can help universities balance budgets, but the practice is not without controversy. In March, NAFSA covered the phenomena of institutions creating state-wide networks to improve recruiting efforts. In April, the hot topic involved how some states are proposing surcharges only for international students.
  • These financial considerations are “pain points” in the industry, and colleagues are clearly searching for solutions to heal those issues. I hope I can help.
  • We’ll focus on a few particular pain points this morning: How to effectively measure Return on Investment of your recruitment dollars, and considering how “process over promotion” can drastically improve your yield from generic, initial inquiry to enrolled student who is obviously generating tuition revenue.
  • First, let’s talk about ROI metrics. For a while, a few years ago when I volunteered as Network Leader for what’s now NAFSA’s International Enrollment Management Knowledge Community, I was pretty much obsessed with measuring the value of international students by calculating numbers with dollar signs in front of them. The industry was desperate to fill its “toolbox” of examples of different types of recruitment initiatives, along with the resulting revenue generated by those particular efforts. And in all honesty, figuring this outwas in my own self-interest. I needed to prove that my organization,, could recruit students via online promotions, more cost-effectively than any other medium.
  • I got to thinking: ROI Metrics might not be so bad. Maybe someone (not me) ought tocreate a complex formula to measure ROI, similar to how they measure the quality of the world’s foremost brands like Apple, Google or Coca-Cola. Well, international student recruitment just isn’t the same. Aside from clear-cut cases, users would end up entering their own variables whereyou’d need to make a lot of assumptions that, in my mind, render the data inadequate. Tracking student behavior is complicated. Consumers aren’t always as rational as we’d like them to be. Too many “quantifiably elusive factors”.
  • Why is it increasingly difficult to measure Return on Investment? Because consumers – including prospective international students and their parents – are fed up with marketers abusing their data. And security software vendors are responding with ways for those users to go “incognito,” which is an increasingly popular option embedded in Google Chrome.
  • The company “Avast” provides another anonymity option, dedicated to “making yourself invisible” online – namely deleting cookies and other tracking software that most marketers have grown to rely on. This type of software effectively distorts “click-through” statistics on inquiry-generating sites.
  • California just recently amended its online privacy policy law regarding the collection of personally-identifiable information. The new law applies to any website used by Californians, meaning nearly every website will have to comply.
  • Of course, video has got to be done right. And done UNIQUE. Here’s why.Monsters University:
  • The point is, it’s incredibly difficult to differentiate yourself among three or 4,000 institutions of higher learning in the United States. It’s challenging, but not impossible. Focus on your strongest academic programs that appeal to specific audiences. Make your decisions based on solid research. Here are just a few facts.
  • It is interesting to note that Google AdWords for video is now powered by YouTube. Google and other pay-per-click advertising platforms now offer the very same features for precision-marketing campaigns. You can specify when you want your 90-second video to display in search results, according to what key words and key phrases users enter, in specific languages, in specific geographic regions around the world.
  • You can glean a lot of data from those types of highly-targeted campaigns, as well as tools such as Google Analytics – which goes a long way in measuring ROI. I want to move on to another big operational pain point in International Enrollment Management, suggesting that “process” may be even more critical than promotions, in terms of differentiating your campus from your peer institutions.
  • This Forbes' article noted that consumers crave simplicity. The key to positively impacting purchase decisions and brand loyalty is to simplify the purchasing process.
  • Clearly, there’s a lot of room for improvement in streamlining the U.S. admissions process – and significant opportunity to differentiate from your peer institutions. Did you know thatthe average ratio of applications per admission officer nearly doubled from 2005 to 2011. Some would say, that’s great! We’re reaching out to a broader audience. I’d argue that we need to consider the currently-complicated operations end of the equation, and maximize efficiencies where we can.
  • We desperately need to take advantage of technology to streamline the operations of every element within International Enrollment Management. With the transparent nature of the marketing environment, prospective students must make their admissions decisions based on other factors. Like a simple admissions process. I would even go so far as to say that *process* will surpass *promotion* in terms of importance in advancing global student mobility. I think we’ll get to the point, very soon, where student applicants will judge a campus (at least partially) based on the admissions process – the actual operations end. For example, how can you possibly boast about your innovative classes, when you’re still demanding that I send you paper documents? That just doesn’t ring true.
  • Let’s focus on the earliest part of the admissions process, where of course you have two primary admissibility indicators: Is this student prepared from an academic perspective? And also, can the student prove sufficient funds, to meet the requirements of the federal government? If we can efficiently address those two very basic indicators, then we, as admissions counselors, can devote more of our limited time and resources to the more nuanced segments of admissions, and actually communicate with prospective students most likely to enroll. How does that happen? Let’s look specifically at the funds verification component, which is a largely paper-based process.
  • Even when you consider scanned documents, that inherently means that you begin with a piece of paper. If “paperless” is your goal, then that means “without paper.” And that means, the data is transferred electronically – without the need to eyeball bank logos or signatures. In the case of FundsV, only the bank account data is transferred electronically – images are not transferred.
  • Here are some projections related to eCommerce growth, which of course run parallel with online banking. You’ll recognize a few of these countries, of course, as top sending countries of international students.
  • Technology currently exists to empower prospective international students, and their sponsors, to point their online banking data to the authority who requested it. Here’s an example of one campus who has embedded this technology to significantly improve international student admissions yield or conversion from a generic student inquiry to a qualified applicant and eventual enrollee -- boosting the efficiency and integrity of the funds verification process.
  • While we certainly need to consider all available tech tools at our disposal, we need to understand that the latest technology is not always the answer. For example, FundsV does not do social media; we’re dealing with sensitive financial data, and Facebook or Twitter is not the platform to discuss that type of information. We also had some decisions to make about the level of support we provide. “Live chats” are appropriate, for example, but it is not appropriate for our support team to remotely access any of our user’s computer screens, as is the case with some tech issues. We also addressed data storage issues.
  • During our FundsV beta, students and sponsors were able to easily “refresh” their bank account data: Very convenient. From an operational perspective, that meant that we had to store those log-in credentials in our system somewhere. When you do the math, it takes less than one minute to transfer data through our secure system. That’s more than half a million (525,949) minutes per year. Students register at FundsV for a two-year period, which means that data would be stored in our system for more than a million minutes (1,051,898). During our beta period, our volumes were low, and we didn’t have any issues. Still, our exposure to risk was way too high, even in our tightly-controlled environment.
  • When we emerged out of beta last year, we realized we had to prepare for much higher volumes. And we decided that our exposure to risk, if we stored all that banking data, was simply not worth it. Now, FundsVsaves a snapshot of that historical data, but we do notsave log-in credentials to any user’s bank account. If the user wants to refresh account balances, he or she must re-enter their bank account credentials each time. A bit inconvenient and a little less user-friendly than we’d like… But a lot more user-friendly than dealing with the backlash of a hack. Of course, some level of risk will always exist.Level of risk, before: 1.0Level of risk, after: 0.000001
  • What can you do, from an operations perspective, to reduce your risk in International Enrollment Management? What can you do to maximize efficiencies? What can you do to go from broadcasting your marketing message, to narrow-casting it, so you can more easily track your Return on Investment? The answers are constantly evolving, but hopefully those “pain points” will hurt a little less. Any questions? I’m happy to share this slide deck with you. Thank you!
  • Addressing Operational Pain Points in International Enrollment Management

    1. 1. Addressing Operational Pain Points within International Enrollment Management Cheryl DarrupBoychuck
    2. 2. Operational Pain Points in IEM • Measuring ROI • Return on Investment • Process over Promotion • Proving sufficient funds
    3. 3. Brief History of International Student Recruitment • Then: No need for metrics
    4. 4. Brief History of International Student Recruitment • Then: No need for metrics • Now: “Show me the numbers”
    5. 5. Brief History of International Student Recruitment • Then: No need for metrics • Now: “Show me the numbers” • Soon: Culture of Evidence
    6. 6. Studying ROI: Corporate World vs Higher Education Initial Investment vs Subsequent Profits
    7. 7. Studying ROI: Corporate World vs Higher Education Initial Investment vs Subsequent Profits Recruiting Expenses vs Tuition – Cost of Instruction
    8. 8. Studying ROI: Corporate World vs Higher Education Initial Investment vs Subsequent Profits Recruiting Expenses vs Tuition – Cost of Instruction Flaw: Tuition < Cost of Instruction, so Profits are usually negative
    9. 9. The Agent Debate: NACAC
    10. 10. ROI in its Simplest Form -- Cost of Recruitment + Tuition and Fees Generated ------------------------------------------Return on Investment
    11. 11. Online Promotions Model -- Cost of Advertising + Student(s) Tuition + Student(s) Fees -----------------------------Return on Investment ESL Program -- $ 1,195 / year + $ 2,850 / 10-wk session + $ 465 Student Fees ---------------------------------$ 2,120 = 1st student $ 15,380 = 5 students $ 31,955 = 10 students
    12. 12. Engaging Agents -- Cost of Developing a Relationship* -- Commissions Paid + Student(s) Tuition + Student(s) Fees --------------------------------------------------------------------- Return on Investment * Don’t skip the relationship part
    13. 13. Advanced Calculus?
    14. 14. The Rise of Stealth Applicants Traditional enrollment funnel has dissolved Students applying without prior contact Introduced into database as “applicant” Accept lack of complete control of your institutional message
    15. 15. Google Chrome’s Incognito
    16. 16. Security Software Features
    17. 17. How to differentiate in a complex, global marketplace • • • • • Identify your strengths Target specific audiences Consider multi-lingual campaigns Focus on video promotions Streamline operations
    18. 18. Operational Pain Points in IEM • Measuring ROI • Return on Investment • Process over Promotion • Proving sufficient funds
    19. 19. Process > Promotion
    20. 20. Admissibility Indicators • Academic readiness • Financial capacity
    21. 21. Technology: + or - ? • Social Media • Level and Type of Support • Data Storage
    22. 22. FundsV Exposure to Risk: Then
    23. 23. FundsV Exposure to Risk: Now
    24. 24. Addressing Operational Pain Points within International Enrollment Management Cheryl DarrupBoychuck