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Why Colleges are Struggling to Meet 2018 Enrollment Goals

Why Colleges are Struggling to Meet 2018 Enrollment Goals

I recently read an article in stating that 450 colleges in the US have not met their enrollment objectives for the fall of 2018. This figure is not surprising, given how ultra-competitive higher education has become and the number of colleges incoming candidates have to choose from. Gone are the days even for well-established colleges and universities to easily fill their seats. Meeting enrollment objectives is one of the biggest challenges faced by colleges today.

So, what is being done to improve the ability to access, engage, nurture and enroll quality candidates? As the enrollment numbers show, many colleges and universities seem to be struggling to find a successful solution.

If You’re Still Using Snail Mail, Think Again

Colleges continue to rely heavily on traditional “student search” to access, recruit and convert students throughout the admissions cycle. Traditionally, colleges purchase contact lists of hundreds of thousands high school juniors and seniors including names, email addresses and home addresses from sources lead sources such as College Board, ACT, NRCCUA, and others. Then the student search begins.

A typical search campaign might consist of a series of emails sent to these students. At this stage of the recruitment process, these students have not demonstrated any interest in the institutions sending them recruitment materials. Some schools may mail a form letter, consisting of several paragraphs, in a plain No. 10 envelope. Some will mail postcards about their open house or other admissions events. While others may even enlist the help of a call center manned by current students.

The cost for this entire process is significant. The average budget for student marketing and recruitment for a college looking to enroll 2,500-5,000 students is close to $1MM. The average spend by institutions for student acquisition is hovering around $4,000 per student.

Gen Z’s Mobile First Mindset

This process is clearly not working so why are colleges still attempting to communicate with students using these outdated channels? Today’s teens certainly aren’t going to the mailbox or reading content sent their home via “snail mail”. Statistic show that about 95% of all call center activity by colleges results in no answer. It may also surprise you to learn that teens aren’t opening and reading emails either. Today’s digital age students digest content in a much different ways than generations before them. On average today’s students get their first smartphone at the age of 12. They communicate and consume bite sized chunks of information every day in one place – on mobile apps such as Snapchat, Instagram, WeChat and others. Just how much mobile communication is going on? Studies show that 52% of teens are using messaging apps 3+ hours per day, with up to 150 interactions per day.

The traditional recruitment approach has created a huge disconnect. Colleges don’t know anything about these students other than test scores, geo graphic location, ethnicity, and other non-relevant pieces of data. They purchase names of students whom they think are a good fit based on this data and spew out emails, snail mail and even digital banner ads. There is nothing personalized about the experience. Students don’t tune in, and if anything, immediately tune out to this outdated method of marketing.

Another challenge of this approach is that colleges must wait until student test lists (SAT, ACT, etc.) are available usually late in the junior year of high school before having any access to them. High school counselors, parents and often students begin to think about and discuss careers and study paths long before junior year.

It begs the question, why haven’t colleges and universities yet embraced mobile apps to more effectively communicate with this next generation of students who live and breathe on their phones? And wouldn’t it be helpful to start student outreach sooner in their search process?

Solving the Enrollment and Communications Gap

What if there were a mobile based college search and recruitment platform that enables colleges to better attract, access, and engage with qualified candidates? The good news is it already exists.
College Interactive (Ci) has developed a platform for student recruitment that meets students where they are – on their mobile devices.

CiEngage provides colleges and universities with unprecedented access to communicate with their target audiences via a mobile app – early in the search process and often. It provides a platform to attract and engage students with mobile search and intent based marketing. Rather than marking to uninterested candidates you can develop qualified leads from students who actually interact with your college profile and gain additional insight through personal communications and important information delivered through the app to assure that your message is connecting with the students you are looking to apply and enroll.

If you would like to learn more how CiEngage is changing the enrollment game with the next generation of college search and student recruitment tools contact us for a demo.