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.

recruitment strategies

Distance from Home & Catholic Colleges - Monday Musings
I have written previous blogs about the distance from home that students travel to attend college. I find the statistics on the topic quite intriguing, in part because it seems that some institutions ignore the information in recruitment planning. I spent more than two decades working at a Catholic university in financial aid and enrollment. Here at S&K we work with many small, Catholic colleges, so that combination of previous and current work experience prompted me to dig a little deeper into distance from home stats for students attending Catholic colleges. The CIRP Freshman Survey (TFS) that Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) has been conducting for 50 years collects information about how far students venture from home to attend…Read more

Content Marketing for Higher Education - Monday Musings
Today we would like to highlight a blog post written by Michael Lofstead that appeared on the Noel-Levitz website in February. Michael offers 15 years of experience in higher education marketing and communications. In this post, we will examine some “guerrilla” approaches you can use to create an effective e-brochure and share some tips on finding good content that your campus already has available. Before we start, note that these tips are appropriate for campuses where resources to assemble high quality, professionally-produced e-brochures are not readily available. Of course, it’s great to have the capability to have professionally produced e-brochures, and for those who do have such access, I suggest you count yourselves fortunate…Read more

Cost of Attendance & Scholarship Athletes - Monday Musings
Some words and phrases I never thought I would read in the sports section of the newspaper include: cost of attendance, professional judgment, transportation and miscellaneous expenses. Nor did I ever expect to see quotes from the NASFAA president. But there it was, in the January 15th issue of USA Today. As the five college athletic super conferences were preparing to vote on “sharing the wealth” with full scholarship athletes, the newspaper article referenced discussion about the method for determining the direct payments that student-athletes can receive. Other Division I, non-football conferences will also now be allowed to make such payments, if the conference so chooses. Based on transportation and miscellaneous expenses, the payment…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

Cost of Attendance in an NPC World - Monday Musings
As the Federal Student Aid Handbook states: “The cost of attendance (COA) is the cornerstone of establishing a student’s financial need, as it sets a limit on the total aid that a student may receive…” Establishing average indirect costs (books, personal expenses, transportation…) for the COA budget can be done in a variety of ways — often through periodic surveys of the student population. In the past, regardless of the methodology used when building COA budgets, the philosophy that drove many institutions was to be generous with indirect cost allowances (e.g., for books, personal expenses, transportation) for two primary reasons: First, having generous allowances reduced the number of appeals for increased allowances based on…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

Recruiting With Noble Purpose - Monday Musings
Most Saturday mornings I spend a little time at my favorite local coffee shop reading the newspaper. Yes, I am one of those people who still likes to get her hands dirty with newsprint while consuming my morning news. Over time I’ve come to look forward to reading the weekly syndicated column (old-fashioned version of a blog, I suppose) written by Lisa Earle McLeod, a sales leadership consultant who has done sales training and coaching for many companies whose names will be familiar to you. Her columns about purpose-driven sales resonated with me because I could see the parallel to admissions recruiting – a field where some consider sales a four-letter word and some recruiters themselves scoff at the notion that they are salespersons. I…Read more

Transparency Sells - Monday Musings
This past week, my friend, Dan, posted an ad on Craigslist hoping to sell his car. In his posting, he described in great detail the many defects of his vehicle, and in some cases, how his vehicle got those defects. As I read the posting, I thought to myself: “no one in their right mind would buy this vehicle.” You probably had similar thoughts. But here’s the interesting part. He got 9 offers in less than 4 hours. Although I’m not exactly sure what made 9 different people contact Dan with an offer for a clearly troubled vehicle, I do suspect it had something to do with the transparency with which Dan communicated. He didn’t hold anything back. He clearly articulated what worked and what didn’t work. Whoever bought the vehicle…Read more

Sticker Price in a Net Price Calculator World - Monday Musings
As a former financial aid professional I conducted dozens of financial aid nights at local high schools to assist families in completing the FAFSA. I wish I had a nickel for each time I uttered the phrase “don’t rule out a college based on cost alone. You would be surprised at how affordable a private college may be.” One would think that the opportunity to find out an estimated net price, now that colleges and universities are beginning the fourth year of the required net price calculator (NPC), would be enough to cause students and families to do a little more homework before ruling out a school based on cost. Maybe it’s lack of consistency – the fact that there are numerous types of NPCs may turn people off. Some institutions using…Read more

Regional Recruiters: Are they worth it? - Monday Musings
[Note: we occasionally ask friends and colleagues to act as guest bloggers. This post is provided by Patricia Maben, Executive Vice President for the Enrollment Management Division at RuffaloCODY.] I had a wonderful meeting with one of my favorite universities earlier in the year. It was a meaningful discussion on how to open up new markets when primary markets are in the hot bed of shrinking demographics. Opening up new markets is the most easily understood objective, but the most misunderstood investment. With yields in new markets at incredibly low rates compared to primary markets, the “silver bullet” solution has been to hire a regional recruiter. Makes sense, right? But, if not done well, the placement of a regional recruiter will…Read more

Prior-Prior Year is Not Just About Financial Aid - Monday Musings
Applying for financial aid can be a challenge for many first generation and low-income families. For first-time users in particular, the process can be confusing and intimidating. In an effort to provide families with more timely communication and transparency about cost and out-of-pocket expenses, the concept of using income data from one year earlier (“prior-prior year”) on the FAFSA, which has been an option in the regulations for years, is finally gaining traction. Under this approach, students would not have to wait until January 1 of their senior year to complete the FAFSA. Instead, students could apply in the fall of their senior year when they apply for admission using income information from their most-recently completed tax return.…Read more

Price is only an issue when educational debt is greater than earnings potential. - 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: Price is only an issue when educational…Read more

Athletic Spending, Part 2 - Monday Musings
My colleague Kathy Kurz’s recent post on athletic expenditures inspired me to look at the issue on a local level. Not long ago, the sports section of my hometown newspaper included an article about expenditures on athletics at the local university, which happens to be my alma mater. The article pointed out that my school consistently ranked at or near the bottom of the conference in dollars spent on athletics. (To be fair, the writer pointed out how competitive some of the teams have been, even with smaller budgets.) But more importantly, in comparing athletic expenditures, the article failed to take into account differences in enrollment among the institutions. Wondering how different the ranking of expenditures might look if based on cost…Read more

Value Drivers in the College-Choice Process - 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.” These observations will appear here over the next several weeks, as well on the Stamats website: Value Drivers…Read more

Athletic Spending - Monday Musings
As Division I men’s basketball gears up for the start of March Madness tomorrow, I find myself wondering why, in the midst of all the discussions colleges are having about how to balance their budgets by diversifying their enrollment portfolio, shifting the balance between full time and adjunct faculty, considering merging or sharing resources with other institutions, outsourcing to save costs, etc., NO ONE seems to be talking about reducing expenditures on athletics or athletic scholarships. Now I will be the first to admit that I am not a huge sports fan. I watched the commercials during the Super Bowl, not the game. And when I fill out the March Madness brackets, the only time I have won was when I used our client list to decide who would…Read more

It’s Not Just About the Money (But It Will Be If You Let It), Part I - Monday Musings
We’ve talked in recent posts about the role of sticker price in family decisions about where to apply for admission. We’ve also talked about the wave of appeals that schools tend to experience in the spring and we provided some thoughts on how to respond. We’ve commented on the reasons behind increasing discount rates at private institutions across the country and the growth in aid being offered by public institutions. But in the midst of all this angst about the cost of education, families' growing concerns about debt, and cut throat competition based on net price, we want to take a step back and remind everyone that there are many factors besides price that play into a student’s college choice decision, and it would behoove colleges…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

Collaboration between Admissions & Faculty - Monday Musings
Accessibility of faculty is an integral part of the experience at most institutions; this message is most effectively delivered by the faculty themselves. Beyond the obvious opportunities like meeting with families one-on-one during individual visits, allowing prospective students to sit in on classes, and being available at open house events, here are some best practice examples of faculty support for recruitment: Challenge faculty to create “wow” experiences for all recruitment events that will demonstrate what it is like to be a student at your institution, such as: investigating a mock crime scene, performing with a musical ensemble, playing a stock trading game, or participating in a debate. The goal is for each visitor to have an…Read more

Confessions of a New Old Road Warrior, Part 2 - Monday Musings
[Note: This week’s post is the conclusion to Michael Beseda’s entry which appeared last week.] So, there I was, schlepping a travel case and a somewhat recalcitrant middle-aged body around I-80, 580, 680, 880 and every other 80. On the advice of Jim Sumner, now Dean Emeritus at Willamette, I had interviewed nearly 50 faculty members, staff, alums, former admission deans, and just plain interesting people, asking them what they thought defined the University and its students. Given the lack of concrete clarity in the market research I had reviewed, I was surprised to hear a remarkably consistent account of Willamette’s character in these conversations: The first university in the west was blessed with a campus across the street from the…Read more

Confessions of a New Old Road Warrior, Part 1 - Monday Musings
[Note: we occasionally ask friends in the field to act as guest bloggers. This post is provided by Michael Beseda, Vice President for Enrollment and University Communications at Willamette University. We were fascinated with Michael’s story of how he came to understand his new institution, so we asked him to share his journey with you.] On the road since 6:00am, I had already visited two schools by 9:30 and was flying across San Francisco channeling Steve McQueen in an effort to get to my next appointment at Lick-Wilmerding on time. This fall, I revisited my roots as an admission “road warrior” in an effort to better understand the prospective student market for my new institution, Willamette University, and to test my burgeoning sense…Read more

Standing Out From the Crowd (Pt 2): Savvy Use of Outcomes Data - Monday Musings
In my previous post, I mentioned that my nephew had been to visit a campus, and he and his parents were quite taken with it. Why did this institution stand out? One reason is that the Director of Admission remembered talking with him at his high school, but the biggest influencer was that they had provided solid information about graduate outcomes. My brother-in-law is an engineer, and had been grappling with understanding the value of liberal arts. In doing his homework, he noticed that many liberal arts institutions have been addressing this issue head-on. We talked about how STEM graduates tend to have higher starting salaries, hence a more immediate return on investment, however it’s been shown that in the longer-term, salaries of those…Read more

Dashing Expectations - Monday Musings
Earlier this summer my grandson tried out for the U8 all star, travel baseball team.There were more than 25 hopefuls for 12 spots. I was an anxious grandparent having been his coach these last 4 years through T-ball and Rookie Leagues. He was fortunate enough to be chosen, but there was significant fallout from parents about the perceived fairness (or lack thereof) of the process. So much so that the coach confided he would not take this assignment ever again. I was surprised by the degree of discord and discontent from the parents whose kids were not chosen and wondered, why the vitriol? I think the answer is that we have created this condition with the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality. For example, in T-ball and Rookie it is customary…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

Relationship Marketing: Pointers from Another Industry - Monday Musings
I just experienced the ultimate in relationship marketing and it wasn’t in higher education. My daughter is getting married next February, and we were looking for a photographer. We did a web search and found a photographer whose images on her web page showed the style of photography my daughter was looking for, so we scheduled a meeting. With no sales pitch at all, this woman sold us through stories. First she asked for my daughter’s story – how did she meet her fiancé? What kind of wedding experience did they want? Basically, she took the time to get to know my daughter. She even got me telling stories about my first encounter with the fiancé! (Note: she engaged the parent with the checkbook! Like higher education, wedding purchases…Read more

Relationship Marketing: Pointers from Another Industry - Page Two
(Continued from page one.) Finally, through these stories, we got a sense of who she is as a person. She was able to make connections with my daughter. She talked about her messy car – my daughter’s car is a disaster area too. She talked about how much she loves a specific type of pen. Again, my daughter could relate. Weddings are emotional times, and being photographed is an uncomfortable experience for most people. Consequently, you want someone you will be comfortable with. Someone you trust to support you. Someone who will partner with you to make the painful experience of being photographed fun. Doesn’t this sound exactly like wanting a good “fit” for your college experience? Granted, in higher education the fit needs to be with…Read more

Speaking With One Voice: A Chorus, Not Chaos - Monday Musings
Following a meeting with a group of campus administrators a while ago, I pulled several business cards from my suit coat pocket. I found I had been given three completely different cards from staff members representing this one campus – three different fonts, three different color schemes, three different logos. What was interesting was that several senior staff members from the campus had said they felt the institution was suffering from an identity crisis. My collection of business cards certainly supported that! These administrators complained that their various audiences viewed the institution differently. People in the local area knew it as one place, with a view that was heavily influenced by the past and what the institution might…Read more

Financial Aid Website Best Practices - Monday Musings
Financial aid websites are by necessity content heavy, and let’s face it, a bit dry. The best sites are clear, concise, and pay particular attention to the key issues that prospective students and families consider, such as: How much does the university cost? What financial aid resources are available to help cover the cost to make it affordable? How and when do I apply for financial aid? The following are key elements of best practice websites, with examples. Tuition and other costs should be portrayed in a clear, concise format and be front and center, easy to find. New and current students have very different concerns and processes, and so need separate paths. Clearly…Read more

Stealth ISIRs - Monday Musings
Are you on the lookout for stealth ISIRs? Now that the 2013-2014 FAFSA is available, the aid office should be downloading Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR) files. Most of these records will match up with students already in your admissions database. Some won’t match because of errors in the spelling of names, dates of birth, or social security numbers. These mismatches need to be cleaned up in a timely manner so that students can be considered for aid – they won’t know that their ISIRs have been rejected, and will be waiting for an aid letter. Being proactive will ensure that these students receive timely aid offers. Some mismatches will be students that simply aren’t in the system. These students listed your institution’s…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

It's Not All About Financial Aid - Monday Musings
Although helping institutions with financial aid strategies may be why we are most often hired, we typically find that an institution’s enrollment success is seldom just about financial aid - making the case for value, building relationships, and providing excellent service are also key in meeting enrollment goals. The best aid strategy will not be effective in growing enrollments, for example, if there is not sufficient demand to generate a critical number of admitted students. In addition, at some institutions, admitted students are simply not very sensitive to increases in grants. In this case increasing grants would likely result in minimal enrollment growth and come at the expense of net tuition revenue. Even if students are responsive…Read more

Authenticity Check - Monday Musings
The buzz word in recruitment over the last couple of years has been authenticity. Certainly it makes logical sense to ensure that prospective students get an accurate picture of your institution so that the fit will be right, and you will attract students that you are more likely to retain. What I didn’t realize until recently, however, was the amount of passionate loyalty that such an approach can elicit. Today’s students are much more cynical than those applying for college even five years ago. They are bombarded from birth with advertisements and hyperbole, and learn to take everything with a grain (or more) of salt. This growing cynicism is particularly marked in the law school market as a result of recent exposés regarding such issues…Read more

Meet the Parents - Monday Musings
What do parents most want to know during their sons’ and daughters’ search for the right college? And how do they want to get the information? There was a time when many parents’ interests boiled down to questions like: “What will my child learn?” “Will they be safe?” “Will they be happy?” But now that concerns about the job market for new college graduates have seemingly overridden all others, the question “Will they be able to get a job?” has risen to the top of the list. So how are colleges doing in providing answers to this question? Here are a few suggestions for responding to this need: Easy-to-find information on institutional costs – tuition, fees, room and board Easy-to-find information on the affordability…Read more

Marketing Your Job & Grad School Placement Rates - Monday Musings
My colleague Don Gray wrote a great blog a few weeks ago about the importance of marketing the value of your institution’s degree. He discussed some of the key metrics necessary in telling the story in a compelling way. Part and parcel to the need for developing those key metrics, among them job/graduate school placement rates and average starting salary by academic programs, is the imperative that the data presented be representative and reliable. Over the years our consulting team has visited hundreds of campuses, and an area where we often find a glaring weakness is with an institution’s survey of a recent graduating class. Here is what we often find: A low response rate to the survey. Unless the response rate is at least 60%, follow…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

Marketing the Value of Your Degrees - Monday Musings
By now we’ve all heard stories and read articles on how college costs and subsequently student loans are rising so swiftly they could soon balloon out of control. The distribution of new freshmen may be shifting away from four year institutions toward two year institutions, but even so prospective students are still enrolling in college. These students are trusting the commonly held belief that earning a college degree remains one of the best ways to improve their economic situation. The key for colleges then is to make sure that this trust is well placed. Marketing your institution’s broad selection of amenities e.g., climbing walls, 60 inch plasma TVs, etc., may help convince students they’ll have a good time while in school, but these…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

Financial Aid Website Tips - Monday Musings
Whenever we work with a college or university, we spend some time getting to know the institution through its website. As a result, we have seen a lot of financial aid websites, and would like to offer a few “dos and don’ts” based on those reviews. Do make it easy to get to information about your sticker price. Tuition, fees, room, and board costs are one of the things students most want to see when they go to your website—so don’t bury your costs. At the same time, however, consider providing a link on that page to your net price calculator—particularly if your calculator does a good job of providing accurate estimates based not only on need but on other factors considered in your packaging policies. Also, remember to tell them…Read more

College Towns & Alumni Concentration - Monday Musings
The New York Times recently published a list of the “Cities with the Most College-Educated Residents” produced by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. The Washington, D.C./Arlington-Alexandria, VA area tops the list with 46.8% percent of residents holding college degrees in 2010. Here are the top 10: As the Times article points out, college graduates tend to be attracted to places that have lots of other college graduates. The Washington Monthly College Guide blog reported this week on a novel effort by one city to attract more college graduates. Niagara Falls, NY announced that the city would pay two years worth of student loan debt for any college graduate who would relocate to the city. The Buffalo/Niagara Falls area ranks 59th…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

Does $1 trillion in student loans mean the sky is falling? - Monday Musings
I am always amused when the press goes viral over a piece of information that is simply one point along a trend line that has been in place for many years. Lately there has been much in the press about the fact that student loan debt has reached $1 trillion. The fact is that student loan debt has been growing at just about the same pace since 2004-05. This trend can be clearly seen in The Atlantic chart of the day for August 18, 2011 here. The growth is a function of the confluence of a number of factors. First, average debt levels of graduates from four-year schools have grown, but it is important to note that, even with that growth, the average debt among seniors graduating in 2010 was $25,250 per the white paper Student Debt and the Class…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

Measuring, Moving, & Markets - Monday Musings
Last week was office moving day for a few folks at S&K. We are hiring another research analyst, the second time in three years that the research team has expanded in order keep up with the demand for our core services, which require significant data analysis and predictive modeling. The move into “new territory” for some S&K staffers made me think of what should happen when an admissions office decides to expand into new markets/geographic territories. In preparation for our office move, there was measuring, measuring, and more measuring, all in an effort to make the move very efficient once the professional movers arrived to begin the heavy lifting. There was none of the “how does this look here?” or “do you think this will fit there?”…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

Responding to Appeals - Monday Musings
Let’s make a deal. Now that financial aid packages are out the door, appeal season has begun. Families have become conditioned to ask for more aid, fueled by a sense that there might be room to negotiate, as if selecting a college is like buying a car. Ideally, your institution’s awarding policies are designed so there is confidence that enrollment goals will be met, and no increase in gift aid is required for appeals that do not fall under the special circumstance/professional judgment umbrella. However, since most of the enrollment deposits won’t start arriving until about a week before May 1, there can be a temptation to negotiate, particularly if there is a smaller admit pool, awards have been reduced from the previous year, or early…Read more

Campus Tour Guides - Monday Musings
Tour Guides. Student Ambassadors. Experts in Walking Backwards. Whatever you call them; they can make or break a prospective family’s visit experience. Is being a tour guide a premium job on your campus? It should be. While it isn’t necessary to give them all matching polo shirts (although this can save discussions about inappropriate attire), here are essential elements of a successful tour guide program: A selective nomination and interview process: solicit nominations from faculty and other staff that know the students best, have applicants give a brief mock tour, and include current tour guides in the interview and selection process. A robust training program, including: shadowing experienced tour guides, conducting supervised…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

"Call the financial aid office!" - Monday Musings
OK, I admit it. I am addicted to the television show "Parenthood." So imagine my husband’s surprise a couple of weeks ago when I began shouting at the TV during a recent episode... “CALL THE FINANCIAL AID OFFICE.” One of the characters, Hattie, had just gotten accepted into Cornell, and her parents were thinking they would have to tell her to withdraw the application because the father had lost his job and was now working with his brother in a start-up company. It occurred to me that shouting at fictional characters on the TV was probably not the best way for me to express my concern – hence this blog. I urge you all to take another look at the communications you have regarding affordability and financial aid to be sure that you have…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

Transfers, The New Freshmen - Monday Musings
As is likely the case in your hometown, here in Rochester, NY families have been experiencing the economic challenges brought about by the now long lasting deep recession. This has led more families to consider having their children attend two years of college community college before transferring to a four year institution. A great local example of this trend is Finger Lakes Community College which has seen its enrollment increase 45 percent since 2006. I believe we need to view this shift of graduating high school seniors away from four year colleges toward community colleges as the new normal. These future transfers are becoming the new freshmen. They represent an excellent recruitment opportunity for four year institutions struggling to…Read more