Scannell & Kurz Enrollment Management Blog

While Scannell & Kurz continues to provide the expert consulting and high level of service by which we define ourselves, as a division of Ruffalo Noel Levitz we also offer the benefits of our collaboration with a larger team of talented consultants.

Part of that collaboration involves our enrollment blog. Each week on this site, we have posted relevant research, insights, and recommendations to help you make the most of your strategies. We will now post to the Ruffalo Noel Levitz blog along with a good number of our colleagues—increasing the frequency and diversity of posts you’ll find on all manner of topics.

The Ruffalo Noel Levitz blog covers the key topics we have addressed: enrollment management, student retention, student recruitment, financial aid, and marketing. We are looking forward to not only continuing to share our insights with you, but to connect you with the additional strategies and recommendations of our new colleagues.

There’s also an option to subscribe for synopses of recent blog posts. You will continue to find, and be able to search, our archived blog posts here on this site.

We invite you to explore this resource—and to let us know if you’re looking for specific advice.


Preparing for the Redesigned SAT - Monday Musings
The College Board’s revision of the SAT will launch in the spring of 2016 with most of the impact being felt by students in the entering class of 2017. Similar to the current version, the redesigned SAT will be offered in print everywhere and by computer in selected locations. The redesigned test has three sections: Evidenced-based reading and writing (200-800 points) Math (200-800 points) Essay (separate scores) According to the College Board website, the redesigned SAT and PSATs will all be scored on the same scale. Eight key changes are discussed on the College Board website. Enrollment managers need to consider how the redesign of the SAT may impact their business systems and processes. Below are a few examples of systems and…Read more

Time To Put the Pedal To the Metal on Yield Activities - Monday Musings
March 1st is a week away. Most admissions offices are still processing applications and sending notices to newly admitted students. But they also know it’s time to put the pedal to the metal on yield activities if they haven’t already started. What makes yield activities especially urgent this year is the fact that so many schools are reporting increases in applications. WICHE projects an increase in public high school graduates of less than 1% from 2014 to 2015. So, unless there’s a substantial increase in the college-going rate, yields can be expected to drop for next fall. So, what does your yield plan look like? Here are a few suggestions, if you’re not already doing them: Yield events On-campus Accepted Student Days – Make…Read more

Training As a Perishable Good - Monday Musings
“Training is a perishable good.” I heard that phrase the other day and it resonated with respect to training admissions recruiters. Jim Scannell would probably say that training and professional development for recruiters is a race without a finish line. Training is perishable, in part, because of the turnover that takes place in many admissions offices. Admissions and enrollment leadership must be in a constant state of refreshing and updating, even to the point of redundancy. In other cases, information takes longer to sink in with certain people. Take for example, the meetings many admissions offices often hold over the summer to get updates from academic deans and department heads. This is helpful; however, it can also be like the proverbial…Read more

Use these free and low-cost Google tools to improve campus visitor navigation. - Monday Musings
Admission offices have always been concerned with campus navigation for prospective students. Directional signage, clear navigation instructions in print and on the web, carefully thought out addresses that are online map-friendly, and, most recently, campus-specific apps have all been part of making sure visitors can figure out where to go and how to get around. Now, as the number of secret shoppers and stealth applicants continue to climb, there is little doubt that some are taking a DIY approach to campus tours and not announcing their visit to anyone, choosing rather to quietly make a visit as just one other way to gather information. Based on this hypothesis of a new generation of visitors, here a few ideas to consider. First, the New…Read more

Collaboration: Athletics and Admissions - Monday Musings
At institutions where student athletes comprise a significant percentage of new student enrollment, the partnership between the admissions office and athletic department is more important than ever. All too often, even in cases where there is a strong working relationship between the departments, data that are critical to ensure both recruitment and enrollment success are not flowing as freely as necessary between the two offices. The athletic recruiting process is high touch and labor intensive. Coaches must find time for multiple contacts with each recruit, by phone, text, email and in person. Just as admissions offices have turned to CRMs and other technologies to manage their recruitment processes, these increasing demands on coaches have…Read more

The CRM Implementation Cycle - Monday Musings
The Economist recently published this graphic in its #dailychart feature. It’s a graphic representation of Gartner's emerging technologies ‘hype cycle,’ and shows where selected technologies stand in a 10+ year cycle of adoption. Looking at this curve, I was reminded of the number of our clients who are in the midst of their own technology adoptions as they implement new CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software in the admissions office. The descriptions of the different segments of the curve seemed to coincide pretty well with many users’ experiences with CRM implementation. If you’ve been through this process recently, you'll remember the sequence of events. You went through the process of reviewing several alternative products,…Read more

Admissions Web Design: Keeping Up With Mobile Users - Monday Musings
We have known for some time that responsive web design, design that seeks to optimize the viewing experience for users, was going to be particularly important for college sites as more and more students and parents began to access the web on mobile devices. Most agree that having a site optimized for mobile viewing has been necessary for some time, but the most recent Noel-Levitz E-Expectations Report leaves no room for doubt. Among respondents to the most recent survey, 90% of high school seniors had access to a mobile device, and 71% of seniors have looked at a college site on a mobile device. While the study also found that more than 85% of seniors and parents prefer to view college sites on a desktop computer, this does not diminish the…Read more

Managing Melt - Monday Musings
Whether or not your institution met its freshman enrollment goals by May 1, the challenge is on to minimize the “summer melt.” There will always be students who change their enrollment plans for a variety of reasons, some the institution can influence while others it cannot. There is little to be done about matters of personal choice and circumstance, such as family needs, medical emergencies, sudden interest in a field of study you don’t offer, etc. However, carefully managing students’ expectations and actively engaging them early can combat pressures like: being admitted off a wait-list at another institution, coming up with funds to pay the bill, and plain old cold feet. Meaningful connections Ensuring students form meaningful…Read more

Understand Where Your Non-Matriculants Enrolled - Monday Musings
At the Council of Independent Colleges Presidents Institute in early January, S&K's Jim Scannell and Bob Sevier (Sr. VP, Strategy - Stamats) heard a number of presidents mention a need for a greater understanding of not only their ability to set their price, but also the factors that should be considered when setting their price. In response, Bob and Jim decided to write a series of short blog posts on tuition pricing and related topics. Their goal - “to provide a bit more clarity on key issues related to pricing, so college and university leaders can have more confidence as they set their pricing strategy.” This series of observations is appearing here as well on the Stamats website: In revising your pricing strategy,…Read more

Reading the Tea Leaves - Monday Musings
This is the annual hand wringing season. Admissions, financial aid, and enrollment leadership have (or will have shortly) made the offer of admissions to the class of 2018 applicants and now it is time to wait, watch, and worry whether enough or too many of the chosen ones will enroll. What are the most helpful metrics right now for trying to estimate how many will eventually make that decision to enroll? Certainly, understanding whether the profile of the admit pool mirrors that of last year, or is different, is a good place to start. Is it bigger or smaller? Are the need distribution and quality profile comparable or different in significant ways? Has the geographic profile changed? Does the admit pool show a higher proportion of out-of-state…Read more

Responding to Application Trends - Monday Musings
In response to concerns from some institutions that are facing declining applications for fall 2014, the team at Scannell & Kurz and RuffaloCODY compiled the following list of intervention suggestions. You may already be doing many of these things, but hopefully everyone will find at least one new idea in the list. (Special thanks to Kim Myrick who started this project!) Admission Staff OutreachInquiries Immediate call to all new inquirers for application and visit Create urgency by using deadlines for priority consideration Contact students who send test scores or transcripts but haven't applied—call best candidates, email all—notify these students of potential scholarship matches Contact students who visited but have not yet applied—email…Read more

Young Alumni/Admissions Collaboration - Monday Musings
Just a few years ago, I was sitting in a chair at my commencement looking at this piece of paper that I had worked so hard for asking myself, “Okay, now what are you going to do with it?” I could go into the work force, continue my education with an advanced degree, or join a volunteer organization and make a difference for a worthy cause. The list goes on and on. One thought that did not cross my mind was how much my university gave to me and how I might consider giving back. That’s why institutions need to get recent grads to start thinking about advancement opportunities before they even leave campus. Nobody knows more about your institution than someone who was walking its halls a few short months/years ago. These young alumni have…Read more

Partnership: Admissions and Marketing - Monday Musings
One of the many “turf wars” we frequently observe on campuses is: “Where does marketing report and who sets the marketing agenda?" Often, the pull and tug play out between the vice president for advancement and the vice president for enrollment with the president as the referee. At issue is marketing resources – expertise and budgets. The concern often expressed is that if marketing reports to advancement, admissions and enrollment will be shorted. Conversely if marketing is part of the enrollment management organization, advancement frets that all the resources will be consumed by recruitment, admissions, and enrollments, with none left for fundraising and friend-raising. Some presidents have resolved the conflict, they think, by having…Read more

Where Baseball and Higher Education Have Failed - Monday Musings
I just enjoyed an exciting summer of U8 all-star baseball, highlighting many of the best 8 and 9 year old ball players in Western New York (Rochester to Buffalo). My grandson, who is 9 and biracial, had a terrific time, learned a lot of baseball as well as life coping skills (baseball can be very unforgiving). But over the course of four tournaments, 18 games against more than a dozen different teams, each with rosters of 12 or more, there were less than half a dozen ballplayers of color. How can that be? Well, one only has to look at the MLB to find Caribbeans and Caucasians overrepresented and African Americans and Asians underrepresented. America’s pastime is not attracting inner city youth, especially young males of color, and the future…Read more

Recharge Your Recruitment Plan AND Your Batteries - Monday Musings
We used to hear this frequently: “Summer is down time in admissions.” Or, “We have a hard time keeping our recruiting staff busy during the summer.” Although we don’t hear it as often anymore, it still comes up often enough to merit a comment here. There is no reason for the recruitment team to be at half speed in the summer months. In addition to melt-reduction activities, effective enrollment and recruitment teams are busy planning and analyzing during the summer months. Why wait until late August or September to schedule high school visits and college fairs? Many college fair schedules arrive at admissions offices in May or June and a number of colleges put together the bulk of their travel schedules before high schools break for…Read more

Adding Web Metrics To Your Key Performance Indicators - Monday Musings
It’s become essential for enrollment managers to use a collection of critical metrics – a dashboard, key performance indicators (KPIs) or some other set of measures – to monitor their institution’s progress throughout the recruitment cycle. These commonly include statistics like the number of inquiries, applicants, admits, deposits, campus visitors and FAFSA filers, as well as ratios like acceptance rate, yield, net tuition revenue per student and discount rate. Back in the days of the horse and buggy (when I got my start in admissions) the original dashboards prevented unpleasant surprises from hitting you in the face and they helped you to clearly see the road ahead – pretty much the same thing we’re using these statistical dashboards…Read more

Enrollment Management Resolutions for the New Year - Monday Musings
Resolutions for 2013: Never try to control the social media conversation. Rather, work tirelessly to create points of contact or links. Never send a new recruiter on the road without proper training regardless of when the “newbie” was hired. Throwing a new recruiter “into the deep end of the pool” will not serve the institution well in the long run. Always be sure that admissions and financial aid leadership share the common goal of a net tuition revenue target generated by new students. Check regularly to be sure your net price calculator is a good marketing tool in support of making your case for affordability. Always have the alumni admissions volunteer program be housed and overseen in admissions, led by a seasoned admissions…Read more

Reading Applications vs. Sales - Monday Musings
The fact is that most colleges and universities today are not in the selection business, accepting 80% (or more) of completed applications. Most higher education institutions should be focused on sales, but that is not how many schools chose to spend their time and energy. Here are a few suggestions. Are your admission counselors buried under a mountain of applications? Sounds like a good problem to have, but if your sales force is busy handling applications, how much time are they spending selling? Not to diminish from the time and care students put into preparing their applications, but if students are clearly admissible based on quantitative measures like GPA and SAT, automatically admitting them and reserving more thorough reviews for borderline…Read more

More Applications NOT a Good Thing? - Monday Musings
When are more applications not a good thing? We recently visited a campus that had increased its applications for admission five- fold over the last few years. That sounds like a good thing, right? But there can be some risks involved. First, if your internal processes and infrastructure aren’t prepared for the increase in volume, application processing will be log jammed and turnaround time will be poor. This can make an institution that purports to be small and personal feel like the DMV. Second, if your sales force is now all consumed with application review, they won’t have time to sell. Building relationships and taking the time to make the case for value is critical to high conversion rates, especially at high- cost, private institutions,…Read more

Travel Smart - Monday Musings
How do your recruiters design their travel schedules to meet enrollment goals? Are they making best use of their time? For example, building demand doesn’t necessarily mean traveling more, and doing the same thing over and over will not produce different results (just ask Sisyphus). Rather, using data to strategically segment recruitment regions into primary, secondary and tertiary categories with appropriately defined goals and relationship marketing strategies will ensure recruiters’ time on the road is well spent. Primary, secondary, and tertiary recruitment markets should be defined by ranking high schools by the total number of applications received over the last three to five years. The primary market can be defined as the smallest…Read more

Preparing for the Fall Recruitment Travel Season - Monday Musings
Here we go – the fall recruitment travel season is about to begin. Recruiters are busily booking high school visits, off-campus interviews and the like, coming to terms with the realities of several weeks (or months) in a row on the road. As the fall calendar fills up, here are a few items to keep in mind in managing travel effectively: Have admission counselors built enough time into their schedules for follow-up? While getting out and meeting students and families face-to-face is important, it’s just as important to solidify those connections with personal communication afterwards, or the effect of the meeting can be lost. A packed travel schedule is important from a budget standpoint, but admissions staff also need to reserve blocks…Read more

College Affordability & the Net Price Calculator - Monday Musings
You are probably thinking “oh no, not another article/blog about net price calculators!!” I know, I know, I pretty much feel the same way. However, Dr. Don Heller’s recent testimony before Congress on the topic of college affordability resonated with me for a number of reasons. A link to his brief yet thoughtful testimony is provided here. Dr. Heller points out that sticker price, not net price, is the driving factor in the perception of college costs for students from poorer families, as well as for many first generation students. He goes on to talk about the importance of institutions providing accurate, easily accessible information about financial aid eligibility. Here is where the net price calculator comes in. I recently visited…Read more

Not All Applications Are Created Equal - Monday Musings
Tracking yield rates by various subpopulations is a standard procedure for most admissions offices. In-state and out-of-state; male and female; minority and non-minority; aid filers and non-filers; early action and regular decision; high school GPA levels; SAT/ACT levels. You get the picture. Yields vary by subpopulation, therefore as the application cycle progresses and admissions/enrollment is being asked for projections, it is important to understand how changes in the admit pool in certain categories may affect yield. When an institution embarks on a new application-generating approach, such as a pre-populated application from the search pool, membership in the Common Application, or other methods, it is with the expectation that the number…Read more

Increasing Application Completion Rates - Monday Musings
The approach of summer in college admissions offices usually brings a shift of attention from tracking deposits to planning for the next recruitment cycle. In addition to questions about how to increase applications, quality, diversity, etc., it may also be worthwhile to look at application completion rates and consider how to improve them. In their analysis of a survey of high school students conducted last year, RuffaloCODY reported that nearly half (48%) of high school seniors failed to complete at least one college application. Two-thirds of these students said the reason was that, after beginning the application, they decided that the school wasn’t a “good fit” for them. RuffaloCODY recommended that institutions say more in their…Read more

Capturing Your Stories - Monday Musings
Although our blogs clearly show that we are biased in favor of data, we also know how critical stories are to marketing, recruiting, retention, and alumni relations. Yet most institutions aren’t very deliberate about capturing and sharing fresh stories. As you prepare for summer training for recruiters and orientation leaders, here are some strategies we have seen work for collecting compelling anecdotes: Run a contest. Saint Bonaventure recently asked incoming students to submit a short video about why they chose SBU. Not only was it a way to keep new students engaged, but now they have posted the top contenders on YouTube. You could do the same thing with current students, with faculty, with alumni, etc. Stay in touch with current students…Read more

Limits of Modeling - Monday Musings
When I was part of an admissions office, every day in April at 10:00 AM, you could have mistaken the tension and excitement in the office for an episode of Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch, brought on by the arrival of the mail bin. Enrollment deposits that arrived via phone were harkened by the ringing of a bell, and we each took guesses at what the final tally for the day would be once the web payments were counted. If we had a particularly good day, the news traveled like wildfire across campus. Wherever I went, on campus or off, if I ran into someone I knew, I would invariably be asked how the numbers looked. Anticipation was in the air, even with sophisticated data tracking and aid strategies developed through predictive modeling in…Read more

Less Like a Funnel, More Like a Stream - Monday Musings
We’ve taken to thinking of college admissions as less like a funnel and more like a stream, as students enter the admissions process at various points in the flow and the admissions staff is simultaneously communicating with prospective freshmen, transfers, athletes, musicians, sophomores, juniors, seniors, parents, etc. To manage this increasing complexity, consider giving responsibility for one of these “micro-streams” to each recruiter, just as you would assign them geographic territories for recruitment. Then, for each micro-stream: Use several years of data to set a target for the coming year. Create a mini-recruitment plan, complete with timelines and action steps. Identify the funding and resources necessary to achieve the…Read more

Is Your Admissions Staff Ready for Financial Aid Season?
Colleges and universities are preparing for, or in many cases, are now in the thick of financial aid season. Some institutions have admissions staff conduct outreach calls to students once aid packages have been sent. For those that do not, admissions recruiters, at a minimum, need to be prepared to handle incoming calls. The idea is not to convert admissions staff into financial aid experts. However, recruiters should be familiar with the lingo of financial aid. Here is a list of questions and scenarios the recruiters should be prepared to address: Has your financial aid filing deadline passed? What forms are required? What is verification? Can you explain the EFC? Need? What about loans, payment plans, and paying the bill? When should…Read more

New Recruiter Training - Monday Musings
Whenever interviewing a team of admissions recruiters, there is likely a “rookie” or two in the group. I always ask the “rookie” how they were trained to meet the challenges of their first tour of duty and on a scale of 1 – 10, with 1 being petrified and 10 being confident, how prepared they felt in the first week or two of fall travel. The response in the vast majority of cases is typically a shadow experience or two, and then it’s pretty much on the job training (OJT) and self-rating of 2. By the way, OJT is a proxy for no training program at all. With turnover of recruiters in admissions offices being the norm, you’d have thought that admissions leadership would have figured out how to introduce a new team member to the profession. We…Read more

New Year’s Resolutions Every Enrollment Manager Should Make for 2012 - Mondays Musings
Here are our 12 for '12: Will always base marketing, recruitment, and awarding decisions, as well as retention interventions, on empirical evidence and data analysis. Will create a “culture of evidence” among the enrollment management leadership team. Will mentor and provide professional development opportunities for the enrollment management leadership team. Will be sure that the admissions office and financial aid office share the common goal of net tuition revenue for new students. Will ensure that the admissions office appropriately resources the recruitment and enrollment of transfer students based on the transfer market share of new students. Will make sure the admissions office is armed with proof statements of the return…Read more

Creating Compelling Campus Visits - Monday Musings
The importance of the campus visit has risen to the top of the priority list for deans and directors of admissions at colleges and universities across the country – public and private, large and small. In fact, a cottage industry of experts has even surfaced focused on evaluating and recommending how each campus can “put its best foot forward” with the campus tour, open house, and accepted student day events. So it’s clear that colleges have gotten the message: “We only have one shot to make a good first impression.” Lots of creativity is now pouring into making the campus visit a memorable one, creating WOW moments and WOW connections with the campus community. But there’s a fundamental piece of the puzzle missing – selling…Read more

What Can Young Alumni Do For You? - Monday Musings
There’s no group of people that wants to give back to their alma mater more than young alumni. They are looking for a way to help. They want to do something for the place that gave them so much. But too often, young alums are made to feel that the only way they can help is financially. They receive phone calls throughout the year asking if they want to give money, and that’s always the subtle (or not so subtle) message in the alumni magazine. However, they are looking for something more. They want to be given an opportunity to donate their time, because they feel that in giving their time, they can give back something much more valuable to their institution than money. Recently, a friend of mine was given this very opportunity. He was contacted…Read more

Marketing Positive Student Outcomes - Monday Musings
On a recent campus visit, I was party to a lively discussion with administrators about the institution’s value proposition. The usual exemplars came up – we have small classes, our faculty give students close personal attention, and other good – if not distinctive – reasons for choosing a college. We eventually got around to other characteristics prospective students and their parents find more compelling in a difficult economy: alumni help students develop career interests and make contacts in the working world, students get internships in fields related to their interests, graduates get good jobs and go to great graduate schools. But looking at the institution’s website, there was no information on any of these activities on the…Read more