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Closing the Gaps White Paper


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Closing the Gaps White Paper

  1. 1. ®Closing the Gaps:Meeting Emerging Student Preferences and Increasing Yield inthe Post-Inquiry Enrollment ProcessA white paper revealing proprietary research on emerging preferences of online learners, as well as acompilation of strategic, proven tactics used by higher education institutions to avoid pitfalls in the studentprospecting process and improve enrollment yield.
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  3. 3. Closing the GapsTable of ContentsThe Challenge ....................................................................................................................IIExecutive Summary ..........................................................................................................1Effective Student Prospecting Activities: The Four Gaps ..............................................2 Gap 1: Speed and Consistency of Contacts .....................................................................2 Case Study: Bryant & Stratton University ......................................................2 Case Study: Post University ...........................................................................3 Case Study: Private, For-Profit University, 3,000 – 10,000 enrollments .........3 Gap 2: Quality of Contract .............................................................................................4 Case Study: Texas A&M’s Bush School .........................................................4 Case Study: Lehigh University .......................................................................5 Gap 3: Method of Contact ..............................................................................................6 Case Study: Texas A&M’s Bush School ..........................................................7 Case Study: Post University ............................................................................7 Case Study: Private, For-Profit College, >10,000 enrollments ........................7 Gap 4: Web-Based Prospecting Activities ......................................................................8 Case Study: Texas A&M’s Bush School .........................................................8 Case Study: Bryant & Stratton University ......................................................9 Case Study: Private, For-Profit University, 3,000 – 10,000 enrollments .........9Moving to Action ..............................................................................................................10 I | PAGE
  4. 4. ®® The Challenge The advent and increasing popularity of online learning has expanded the number of accredited providers of online higher education to more than 4,300 institutions in just a few short years. Dissolution of geographic boundaries in the learning process has propelled the pursuit of a degree or certificate from a mere dream to a feasible reality for a wide range of prospective student demographics — in fact, more than 20 percent of all higher education students (nearly 4 million) were enrolled in at least one “Understanding online course in the fall of 2010.1 the needs of today’s As competition for recruiting prospective students to online programs heats online learners ... up, understanding what works, what doesn’t and what outreach is most drives improvement of meaningful to prospective students becomes imperative for higher education institutions seeking to increase enrollment yield among qualified leads likely enrollment yield, but to succeed in online education programs. also facilitates a more Those preferences — and how best to respond to them to drive meaningful outcome – enrollment success — form the focus of this white paper. The informa-increased accountability tion presented is based on comprehensive EducationDynamics proprietary research from two of its content-rich and highly visible education websites, in regards to overall and, as well as case studies of successful student success.” post-inquiry outreach processes currently in use at a select number of higher education institutions offering online programs. By identifying those preferences, the gaps that may occur when needs and expectations are not met and real-world, best-practice solutions for closing those gaps, this EducationDynamics white paper can help you avoid costly pitfalls in your student prospecting process. Understanding the needs of today’s online learners and tailoring post- inquiry institutional outreach to adhere to those preferences may not only drive improvement of your enrollment yield, it may also potentially help ensure that those increased numbers of students you enroll will also have increased overall student success. II | PAGE
  5. 5. Closing the GapsExecutive SummaryEducationDynamics, whose network of Web-based prospecting resourceshas connected more than six million students with schools that best fit theirgoals, is dedicated to tracking the trends relevant to the online learner as wellas sharing best practices to guide higher education institutions in developingeffective prospecting activities.The Research ApproachThrough its research, “Prospective Student Enrollment Preferences,”EducationDynamics sought to glean information about the likes and dislikesof prospective online students in the post-inquiry enrollment process.Consequently, in November 2008, nearly 2,000 prospective students whoinquired about an online degree program on EducationDynamics’ Webproperties and were polled abouttheir perceptions on the positive and negative aspects of the post-inquiryenrollment process. “Four areas stoodOf those responding, 32 percent were studying at the associate’s level, 37percent at the bachelor’s level and 31 percent at the master’s level and above. out as ‘gaps’ whereNearly 75 percent of respondents fell between the ages of 26 and 59, and recruiters could, bywhile males represented 62 percent of the responding demographic, furtheranalysis revealed no variation in student preference responses between improving their processgenders. or responses to alignIn addition to compiling responses from survey participants, with prospectiveEducationDynamics also undertook a “secret shopper” investigation, wherein student preferences,researchers catalogued the post-inquiry enrollment outreach processesof various institutions offering online degree programs. Rounding out the substantially increaseresearch were interviews regarding best practices with a select number their enrollment successof online learner providers who have developed successful processes andresponses to the post-inquiry enrollment process. rates.”The Research ResultsIn what may come as a surprise to traditional higher education institutions,the findings from and indicated thatspeed and method of contact matter most, followed by quality of contactand online activities, most notably the effectiveness of the institution’sprospecting website and the availability of other Web-based activities, suchas blogs and online course demos.The good news for enrollment marketing departments is that, of the 2,000respondents, 89 percent indicated they were satisfied or very satisfied withthe entire school selection process.However, from the perspective of increasing recruitment yield, four areasstood out as “gaps” where recruiters could, by improving their processor responses to align with prospective student preferences, substantiallyincrease their enrollment success rates. These tactics have not only provento be successful in bolstering enrollment yield, but they are also easilyscalable for institutions of any size, specialty or target demographics. 1 | PAGE
  6. 6. ® Is Response Speed ImportantAddressing the Gaps in Enrollment Decision?Based on participants’ responses, the four gaps in the recruitment 5%process are: 22% 25%• Gap 1: Speed and consistency of contact• Gap 2: Quality of contact• Gap 3: Method of contact Yes 48% Somewhat• Gap 4: Web-based prospecting activities NoGap 1: Speed and Consistency of Contact Don’t KnowWhen colleges and universities evaluate the leads theymost often fail to convert, speed of contact is likelya factor. Demonstrative of the competitive nature of Reported Post-Inquirythe industry, the student preferences research from Speed of and suggests that nearly65 percent of those inquiring about online education requested 20%information from more than two institutions. Of those, 42 percent 6%selected one school to which to apply, making that period from initialinquiry to application a critical time for schools to establish meaningful 7%communication with prospects. Within 1 Hour 51% 16%In the technology-enriched world of enrollment management, speed Within 24 Hoursof contact has been heralded as a cornerstone of successful student Within 3 Daysconversion. For-profit institutions seem to be performing well on this Over 3 Daysfront, with more than 65 percent of survey respondents having been Don’t Remembercontacted within 24 hours of their initial request for information, 20percent within three days and six percent after three days. However,the secret shopper inquiries made among various schools’ enrollment management teams revealed that 23 percentof the institutional departments contacted never responded at all.Overall, students polled by EducationDynamics concurred that speed is an important element of the enrollmentprocess, with nearly half of survey respondents indicating that the response speed of the schools to which theyinquired impacted their final decision to enroll. In fact, recent research has found that any contact outside of fiveminutes will reduce contact rate by as much as 40 percent. Interestingly, however, only 16 percent of surveyrespondents indicated that they were contacted within one hour of their initial inquiry.Case Study: Bryant & Stratton UniversityBryant & Stratton University’s speed of contact in response to incoming prospect inquiries serves as an ideal modelfor institutions seeking to secure enrollments through swift response time. Upon receipt of a lead, this leading for-profit career college granting both two- and four-year online degrees immediately dispatches a personalized email tothe prospect with an online brochure specific to his or her program of inquiry that explains the program features andbenefits. Within 10 to 15 minutes of the inquiry and the automatic email response, an outbound phone call is placedby one of Bryant & Stratton’s experienced, full-time team of enrollment representatives with the goal of determiningqualified students and transferring those leads to speak with admissions representatives.As a result of this immediate outreach and consistent, tailored follow-up, Bryant & Stratton has seen a significantincrease in the conversion rate of student inquiries to enrollments as compared to their previous, less-immediateresponse processes. 2 | PAGE
  7. 7. Closing the GapsCase Study: Post UniversityPost University has also benefited from the rapid response rate that adedicated, effective call center can provide. Four years ago, the school’srecruitment program was failing to reach prospects in a timely manner.They were unable to forward inquiries to the call center quickly and couldn’teffectively manage inquiry flow. Their challenge was to figure out how torevamp their response infrastructure, operations and technology to achieveimproved speed of contact.The goal was to respond to all inquiries within an hour of receipt. To do so,Post has revised its process flow based on the twin tenets of “persistenceand consistency” and substantially improved/expanded its technology.Together, these two changes can support the fastest, most consistentresponse time possible.The outcome is that 90 percent of prospective students are now contactedwithin a half hour; thereafter, Post has had conversion success with aconsistent call cycle that mixes up outreach hours (different segmentsthroughout the day and night and weekdays and Saturday). The result?These process improvements have doubled Post’s conversion rate from leadaggregators.Case Study: Private, For-Profit University, 3,000-10,000 enrollmentsAnother institution that believes swift response is critical is a noted private,for-profit institution offering online and on-campus degree programs inart design and business. With more than 6,500 students, this mid-sizedinstitution has harnessed the ability to import and respond to leads in2real-time, adjusting follow-up contact according to lead type and lead quality.Essentially, the University sorts potential student inquiries into one of tworesponse groups based on the information that accompanies the inquiry. Forexample, this school has found that those lead categories needing additionalverification are most cost-effectively handled by the institution’s proprietarycall center, while other lead categories (i.e., those that have historically led to ahigh conversion rate) are assigned directly to an admissions representative’scontact manager for immediate outreach.Using this approach, the institution is able to not only respond quickly, thusaligning with the preferences noted in the EducationDynamics survey, butalso to do so in a tiered, and thus more cost-effective, manner. 3 | PAGE
  8. 8. ® Gap 2: Quality of Contact While responding quickly to prospective student inquiries is important, speed itself is not sufficient to convert a lead into an enrollment; there’s a significant difference between being first to contact a lead and actually being responsive to an individual student’s questions. Tailoring methods of outreach to adhere to emerging preferences, as well as deliberate, ongoing attempts at communication until meaningful interaction occurs between the prospective student and the institution, is crucial to the success of an enrollment management campaign. The human element plays a large and impactful role in the post-inquiry enrollment process. Prospective students polled on“Any successful enrollment and in EducationDynamics’ “Prospective Studentcampaign should hinge on Enrollment Preferences” survey revealed that the most useful school- sponsored activity in their decision making process was interactionthe following principle: with effective enrollment counselors.Communicate something The respondents gave high ratings to these interactions, commentingmeaningful.” that while the enrollment counselors were often assertive, they were also honest, caring and knowledgeable. In fact, it was the influence– University Business of enrollment counselors that participants ranked as the single most influential factor in their school selection. Damaging practices to avoid. Unfortunately, the responses gathered by the secret shoppers who tested quality-of-contact responses of various schools revealed a variety of damaging — yet common — practices. These included: • Overly scripted, non-personalized outreach • Enrollment representatives that are polite but not engaging • Lack of knowledge regarding specific program information and educational financing options • Outreach occurring at a time other than that designated by the prospect • Multiple institutional follow up contacts that, rather than establishing any meaningful connection, simply annoy the prospect According to University Business, any successful enrollment campaign should hinge on the following principle: Communicate something meaningful.3 Institutions should be certain to deliver relevant, compelling messages in a timely manner; not only does such quality outreach increase the likelihood that the prospective students will respond to the institution’s marketing efforts, but it has also been found to play a key role in securing their enrollment. Additionally, University Business advises colleges and univeristies to let the prospective student dictate the content of the conversation; instead of assuming what students want or need, let them reveal it themselves. What programs are they interested in? In what way would they prefer to be contacted in the future? Giving prospective students this authority, and possessing the necessary information to properly respond to their questions and concerns, enhances the quality of interaction. Case Study: Texas A&M’s Bush School of Government and Public Service Ideally, interactions between prospective students and institutions should be personalized and brief yet substantive, a delicate balance perfected by Texas A&M’s Bush School of Government and Public Service. A leading graduate school offering online professional certificate programs in a variety of areas ranging from Advanced International Affairs and Homeland Security to Non-Profit Management, the Bush School has adopted superior customer service as the mantra of its prospective student advising and enrollment center.4 | PAGE
  9. 9. Closing the GapsWhile the Bush School’s chief objective is to enroll the most qualified students into their Web-basedprograms, they achieve that result through a consistent focus on quality interaction with prospectivestudents. This begins with the prospective student’s initial impression of the recruitment experienceand continues throughout all subsequent institutional interactions.To that end, the Bush School utilizes both current students and full-time professional enrollment staffto field inquiries in a strategic attempt to meet prospective students’ needs. While existing studentscan speak to their personal experiences at the school and render a realistic, “insider’s view” ofwhat it’s like to be a student, the professional enrollment counselor can speak to aspects of specificprograms, student services, costs and similar issues. The institution has found that by combining bothpersonalized, peer-to-peer information and more administrative-type information, prospective studentshave a stronger sense of actually understanding whether the program might be a good match for theirpersonalities and circumstances.To demonstrate their commitment to student input, the institution continually expands the typeof students who contribute to the process. This is an especially wise consideration in light of thecurrent economic downturn, because the institution is receiving more and more inquiries from older,seasoned professionals seeking to bolster their resumes with advanced graduate level certifications,each of which are distinguished on a Texas A&M University graduate transcript and can be transferredinto most any graduate master’s degree. In response, the enrollment management department hasstaffed accordingly to ensure that this emerging prospective student demographic can speak withrepresentatives whose lives reflect similar circumstances.The institution, however, takes their superior customer support commitment one step further bysupporting ongoing training with both student and full-time outreach staff on such topics as responsivecounseling, program information and career opportunities, financial aid options and the expectationsof the online learning experience.The result of the Bush School’s focus on quality customer service plus “high-touch” connections withexisting student recruitment staffers has resulted in exceptionally high levels of student conversionsand a high level of alignment between student enrollees and the success of those students.Case Study: Lehigh UniversityLehigh University’s approach to inquiry management for their distance education program is specificallytailored to the prospective students’ interests and preferences. Due to the level of commitment bynew distance education students, the recruitment cycle must be managed by a longer-term approach,utilizing a process whereby consistent information is distributed in a strategically timed schedule.From an automatic email response to the initial inquiry, a series of program specific information is sentbased on the prospective student’s identified areas of interest. A “Program Spotlight” email is senthighlighting the programs in which students have expressed an interest, along with more detailedprogram overviews, academic contact information and upcoming enrollment deadlines. Following thatoutreach, additional information is again sent three weeks prior to admission deadlines.In addition, a survey is sent out approximately every two and a half years to uncommitted inquirers todetermine continued interest on their part. Surprisingly, it’s been found that a significant number ofprospects that are still on the fence respond positively to the follow-up contact and it has encouragedquite a few prospective students to apply. Although no solid metrics exist yet to indicate whatpercentage of these follow up surveys and calls result in admissions, it is highly likely that if thepotential student is still considering online education, Lehigh is very high on their list.Using this low-pressure but persistent approach — i.e., building relationships with prospective students— has allowed Lehigh to meet its strategic conversion goals year after year, despite a substantialincrease in competition. 5 | PAGE
  10. 10. ®Gap 3: Method of ContactWhile prospective online students expect a swift andpersonalized response, institutions seeking to bolster Preferred Method ofenrollment yield must also evaluate the preferred contact Initial Post-Inquiry Outreachmethod among prospective students, making sure toengage students via their preferred mediums. 62% EmailGiven the overwhelming popularity of email as a 25% Phonecommunications method, many colleges and universitiesincorrectly assume that email contact alone can prove 15% Regular Maileffective in the post-inquiry enrollment process. To somedegree, this is understandable: many prospective students 2% Instant Messageconsidering online learning programs do, in fact, preferto communicate by email. However, email should alwaysbe considered only a primary player in a multi-faceted 2% No Preferencecontact approach that includes multiple communications 0 100 200 300 400 500options. This point was driven home by and Number of respondents who selected “most preferred” for each survey respondents who indicatedthat human interaction is also an important element in theirdecision-making process.When asked their preferred method of communication, the “EducationDynamics’ researchprospective online students polled gave greatest preferenceto email followed by phone, both of which out-ranked into whether schools areregular mail by a significant margin. This suggests that using these preferred contactmany prospective students like to step into the “shallowwater” first, preferring to communicate by email during the methods indicated that thereearly stage and moving on to phone interaction thereafter. is a substantial gap betweenHowever, EducationDynamics’ research into whether what potential students preferinstitutions are using these preferred contact methodsindicated that there is a substantial gap between what and how schools are handlingpotential students prefer and how institutions are handling post-inquiry outreachpost-inquiry outreach processes. While 38 percent ofcolleges and universities first contacted students by email, process.”in accordance with preferences, 40 percent of institutionsused phone for initial outreach, 13 percent used regularmail and two percent used instant messaging. After initialcontact but prior to enrollment, regular communication wasshown to consist of 52 percent email, 42 percent phone.Persistence is key. In addition to identifying preferred methods of contact, research findings also indicate theimportance of persistence — i.e., multiple follow-up contacts — to successful recruitment efforts. However,EducationDynamics’ secret shopper research revealed that many inquiries resulted in follow-up phone or emailmessages that placed the burden of any further contact between the prospective student and institution squarelyon the shoulders of the prospective student. Also, many institutions seemed willing to conduct aggressive initialpost-inquiry follow up, but then abandoned attempts at contact shortly thereafter.The damage of this approach is substantial, given that 60 percent of enrollments close after the fifth contactand about 50 percent of disqualified leads become qualified within 12 months of the initial inquiry. Therefore,institutions’ post-inquiry process should incorporate multiple attempts at live contact in a reasonably short timeframe, in order to ensure the greatest likelihood of conversion success.6 | PAGE
  11. 11. Closing the GapsCase Study: Texas A&M’s Bush School of Government and Public ServiceThe Bush School of Government and Public Service recognizes the importance not only of utilizing the desiredmeans of communication for outreach but also persistent follow-up in regards to prospective student inquiries. Inorder to respond quickly to requests for information, the institution has developed a detailed follow-up procedurefor their enrollment management office and student advising center using the two means of communicationoverwhelmingly preferred by today’s prospective online learners: email and phone.Upon receipt of a student inquiry, the Bush School responds by email within 24 hours. At 48 hours, the recruitmentteam calls the potential student with the intention of arranging an appointment to discuss the prospective student’sneeds. That outreach is followed shortly by a customized email. The enrollment management office reaches out tothe prospective student once more 72 hours later, and every 72 hours thereafter for three weeks depending on theprospective student’s phase in the process.The result of this at least five-step, rapid-response approach is to up the Bush School’s conversion numbers to alignwith the 60 percent sales-close percentages projected after the fifth contact.Case Study: Post UniversityDriven by the dual pressures of high levels of online competition and increasing costs-per-lead, Post Universitydecided several years ago to revamp both its post-inquiry response process and the IT infrastructure supportingthat process, as mentioned above.Although their immediate goal was to improve the amount of time it took to provide the initial response to apotential student inquiry, an additional objective was to create an entire response campaign built on the two tenetsof persistence and consistency. In addition to ensuring that 90 percent of inquiries receive follow-up within 30minutes, Post’s new process flow ramps out a specific call cycle that takes place over a period of weeks. Thecampaign is primarily email and phone-call-based, but is sufficiently flexible to respond to a prospective student’sstated communication preferences. (Post has found, however, that that initial phone call is critical — leads withoutphone contact information are assumed to have a very low likelihood of conversion, so for those leads, the goal ofan initial email is to secure the prospect’s phone number and willingness to be called.)Although the Post recruitment team notes that the post-inquiry response strategy is continually being tweakedto improve results, the changes they have made so far have resulted in a doubling of conversion rates from leadaggregators.Case Study: Private, For-Profit College, >10,000 enrollmentsAlthough this leading provider of globally accredited online education had been reasonably successful with itsrecruitment efforts, in the fall of 2008 they decided to change their contact strategy from calling within 24 hours tocalling within one hour of receipt of inquiry. The goal was to “get in front of” the competition — a smart move sinceleads may be going to several online providers simultaneously and it is critical to get one’s value proposition in frontof prospects as soon as they express interest.The online education provider became equally strategic about its inquiry follow-up cycle. Once a lead is received, anemail is sent to the prospective student immediately that links to the institution’s website so students can do moreresearch at their convenience. Believing that some prospective students do not want a phone call and would preferconversing online, this tactic represents a less intrusive way to meet their information needs, and drives inboundcalls when the prospective student is ready to take the next step and enroll. In addition to the initial phone contactmade within one hour of inquiry, a mailing is sent the following day, and emails are sent on days one, five, sevenand 10, as part of a multi-faceted outreach process intended to provide contact over a 10-15 day period.The result? Contact rates increased by 25-30 percent with a subsequent conversion rate increase of 1.5 percent. 7 | PAGE
  12. 12. ®Gap 4: Web-Based Prospecting ActivitiesThe dynamic nature of today’s new digital media, both supported and driven by the Internet, gives prospectivestudents new tools for gathering information about an institution’s online programs, as well as those of competitors.While quality human interaction is an important ingredient in the post-inquiry outreach process, institutions seekingto enroll online students should also make sure they provide prospects with an easily accessible, information-richonline resource. At the very least, this enables your prospective students to gather further information about theschool and offered degree programs.Survey respondents suggested that someinformation is more compelling than others in the Student Preferred Prospectingdecision-making process. For example, prospecting Website Informationwebsites featuring information on cost details, 9%admission requirements, counseling resources for 23%financial aid and live course demos help prospectsmake better, faster school enrollment decisions, 21%according to respondents of the EducationDynamics 9%survey through Web properties eLearners.comand However, an institution’s Cost Details 10% 15%online initiatives should go beyond its website to Admission Requirements 14%include emerging interactive Web 2.0 platforms — Financial Aid Counselingtopping prospective students’ online activity wish Live Course Demolists were school website-related activities, such as Contact with Existing Students/Graduatesonline course demos, blogs, forums and webinars. Student Success StoriesCase Study: Texas A&M’s Bush School Other (Blogs 7%, IM 6%, Social Networks 4%, Video 4%, Podcasts 2%)of Government and Public ServiceThe Bush School at Texas A&M has embracedthe need for an effective prospecting website Most Influential School-Sponsoredto increase visibility of the institution’s online Activities in Decision Making Processprograms. Besides providing extensive informationregarding available online programs, the institution 49% Enrollment Counselorshas leveraged its website to provide the greatestamount of “decision-support” information for 32% Online Course Demoprospective students through a discussion ofacademics focusing on the high quality of faculty 30% Webinar/Online Seminarassigned to lead online programs, the rigor of thecourses and the rich exchange of ideas that form 25% Watch Videothe basis of the institution’s education approach.The Bush School has also adopted the use of 21% Blogs & Forumsmedia platforms such as Facebook, MySpace andTwitter to get its message out, recognizing that 19% Social Networking Siteseffective student recruitment processes stem fromdeveloping a presence where prospective students 0 100 200 300 400 500 600 Number of respondents who selected “most influential” for each categorylive — online. Although the newness of these socialmedia platforms preclude having hard data abouttheir impact on either recruitment or conversionrates, they are becoming an increasingly popularpart of the branding and positioning model for onlineprograms.8 | PAGE
  13. 13. Closing the GapsCase Study: Bryant & Stratton UniversityBryant & Stratton University has also taken an innovative approach to the integration of new mediainto its enrollment management initiatives.The institution has developed an entire campus in Second Life, a free 3D virtual world whereusers can socialize and connect using voice and text chat. While this Web-based platform allowsprospective students to explore the Bryant & Stratton campus on their own, the university alsoholds a series of virtual open houses and chat room events with admissions staff, faculty andinstitutional administrators all in attendance — through their personal avatars.Another educational feature incorporated into Bryant & Stratton University’s online experience is avideo Q&A function, wherein current and former students share answers to real questions posedby prospective students. As with the social media steps that the Bush School is taking, it’s tooearly to measure the impact of these steps on conversion rates. However, the EducationDynamicsresearch clearly indicates that students are hoping — if not expecting — to see these Web 2.0tools provided by potential online programs, so at the very least, not having them puts an institutionat a competitive disadvantage.Case Study: Private, For-Profit University, 3,000-10,000 enrollmentsBecause we live in an increasingly wireless world, a university’s ability to reach prospectivestudents depends on savvy adaptation of its social media habits to meet the preferences of themodern online learner. This institution has developed a proactive approach to conversing withprospects by equipping their enrollment representatives with the necessary social media tools(e.g., Twitter profiles, smart phones, instant messaging accounts, etc.) and skills to interact inthat environment when invited to do so by a prospective student. (No contact is initiated, forexample, with a prospect on Facebook unless the prospective student first invites the school toconnect with him or her.) In terms of post-inquiry outreach, however, the institution has found thata Facebook invite from a prospective student can sometimes be more valuable than the emailaddress and phone number combined, providing a more detailed picture of the student and his orher life and goals.Although all of these social media and/or Web-based initiatives are still in the testing stage and thushard data like conversion rates is only now being developed, several key points have emerged.First, provide as much “decision-support” information on your institution’s website as possible —this may include career prospects for graduates of your programs, welcoming bios for all of youronline teaching staff and testimonials about the school and/or specific programs from currentstudents or prospective employers, for example.Second, try all of the social media tools, including the majors such as LinkedIn, Facebook andTwitter, but also consider niche social networks and online communities that may resonate withspecific programs you offer.Third, ask 20-somethings to help — the youngest members of your recruitment staff are likely tobe the ones who will most effectively navigate this territory for you.Fourth, understand that this is all new ground for recruiters, so there are as of yet no hard-and-fast rules, and universities are simply trying to determine best practices as they go along. Reliableanalytics will start to emerge as more schools continue to experiment. 9 | PAGE
  14. 14. ® Moving to Action Despite universal hurdles that respondents indicated were the most significant hindrance to pursuing higher education — the table stakes of cost, flexibility and availability of online programs — institutions can address the more controllable barriers by adjusting their prospecting activities accordingly to align more closely with the emerging needs and preferences of online students. These best practices are: Speed and consistency of contact • Swift response matters — prospective students expect it. Competitive institutions make initial contact within 30 minutes or less. • For best return on your post-inquiry efforts, it pays to qualify your leads and then put greatest effort into those prospective students most likely to convert. “When you tailor Quality of contact • Focus on information — gathering information from your prospect and your outreach sharing information about your program offerings. campaign to student • Use students to engage and connect peer-to-peer with prospective students, whether for younger or older students. preferences at the • Train, train and retrain — a well-informed recruitment team able to beginning of contact, answer questions quickly, completely and in thorough detail can help support faster decision-making. you set the stage for a mutually-beneficial, Method of contact • Let your prospective students tell you how they want you to trusting relationship communicate with them, then do it.throughout the student • Develop a communications strategy and messaging that is equally effective for email, phone, HTML or print delivery. lifecycle.” • Be consistent in your follow-through; create a time-lined and/or event-driven series of contact points and make sure that these are fol- lowed without exception on the schedule you have set. Web-based prospecting activities • Create an information-rich website that gives prospective students multiple opportunities to interact with you and other representatives of your program (students, professors, graduates, etc.) as they learn more about your offerings. • Commit to learning about and having your program use the leading social media tools to reach students where they congregate online. • Let your recruitment team know that the program is open to exploring new ways to “get the message out” via technology, and encourage them to present new ideas that either use new tools, or use existing tools in new ways. 10 | PAGE
  15. 15. Closing the GapsGiving prospective students what they need and responding to themeffectively at the start of the institution-student relationship not only helps todrive increased enrollment yield, but also ensures prospective students arematched with programs that best reflect their educational goals. Additionally,when you tailor your outreach campaign to prospective student preferencesat the beginning of contact, you set the stage for a mutually-beneficial,trusting relationship throughout the student lifecycle.Bottom line: In today’s online education market, students have a lot morechoices than they used to. Your competitors may be down the street,across the country or on another continent. But you must assume thatthey will be searching for ways to tailor their enrollment managementcampaigns to most effectively sell their programs. As the EducationDynamicsresearch gleaned from and shows, allrecruitment is a delicate balance between aggressive outreach andsensitivity to prospect needs and preferences. The best practices describedabove should enable you to more effectively strike that balance, and improveyour competitive edge in this ultra-competitive market. 1 These statistics are based on new Aslanian Market Research. 2 The school enrollment classifications are based on the Carnegie Foundation classifications. 3 “Drive Student Enrollment Growth with Online Lead Generation,” Jere Doyle, July 2006, 11 | PAGE
  16. 16. ® If you have any questions about this white paper, EducationDynamics’ Web properties and and/or additional best practices in enrollment management, please contact Howard Mandel at 201.377.3020 or EducationDynamics ®EducationDynamics is the proven leader in helping higher education institutions find, enrolland retain students. For over a decade, we’ve proudly served the postsecondary communityby working diligently with schools to solve critical challenges and achieve organizational goals.Our mission is to help colleges and universities meet and exceed their recruitment, enrollment,and retention objectives by guiding students through their higher education experience andassisting educational administrators advance their institution. We have worked hard to earn andmaintain our industry leadership through a deeply-rooted philosophy of serving our partnersbest by serving students first. This commitment has been at the heart of our success sincewe began and continues today as we support more than 1,200 colleges and universitiesnationwide.About®The website is one of several high visibility, high-quality prospecting toolsoffered by EducationDynamics. Since 1999, has been successfullyconnecting learners to online education, including online degree and certificate programs,specialized career training and a variety of online courses. For prospective students, provides a powerful search engine for users to find thousands of onlineprogram offerings, as well as educational evaluation tools and financial aid resources. Forcolleges and universities, the website offers a low-cost, performance-basedmethod to provide national exposure and increase enrollments in their programs. For moreinformation on, visit is a network of leading websites that connects prospective students withcolleges, universities and online learning programs. Established in 2003, EarnMyDegree.comserves as a one-stop directory for undergraduate and advanced degrees, as well asprofessional certificates in a variety of fields from business to healthcare to’s team of marketing experts, designers and copywriters have a proventrack record for optimizing marketing campaign results to increase qualified leads. To learnmore, visit | PAGE
  17. 17. Closing the Gaps 13 | PAGE
  18. 18. ® If you have any questions about this white paper, EducationDynamics and/or additional best practices in enrollment management, please contact: Howard Mandel Executive Vice President of Sales 5 Marine View Plaza, Suite 212 Hoboken, NJ 07030 Phone: 201.377.3020 Fax: 201.377.3081 © 2011 EducationDynamics. All rights reserved.