Student Recruitment & Retention Goes to the Movies
Mar 12, 2017
With all the fun that was this year’s Oscar’s – we thought we would keep the movie theme going and share some important student recruitment tips with some of the most memorable movie quotes…so grab some popcorn and enjoy a few minutes of fun.
“You talking to me?” (Taxi Driver, 1976)
Ahh, Travis Bickle is remembered for uttering the phrase that has been repeated by countless thousands of prospective students that expressed an interest in a college program, only to receive something back from the institution that had nothing to do with the request.
In the past year, one of our favorite examples was the typical first email sent from the institution to a prospective student that fails to reference the prospective student’s program of interest. The prospective student asks for information about a graduate program and the first response they receive recommends that they “…check out the 150 degree programs on our site…” And since this person is 35-years old, married and working full time, this section is always confusing – “…we also have more than 100 clubs and organizations you can join, and the brand new rock climbing wall in the fitness center is a big hit with students!”
Communication is about effectively exchanging relevant, accurate information but a lot of what prospective students are receiving from colleges is not relevant to them or accurate.
What’s the solution? A marketing communications audit that evaluates your messages, offers, media usage and contact frequency for relevancy and accuracy as well as presentation.
“Hasta la vista, baby.” (Terminator 2: Judgement Day, 1991)
I recently read that 25% of colleges have a written retention plan – and when I heard that, this epic line from The Terminator popped into my head. I mean, I really struggle to wrap my head around the fact that so much is invested in recruiting new students and so little is invested in keeping them around through graduation!
What’s the solution? Develop a retention plan! Figure out what leads to students leaving before graduating and fix it! You put all those resources and effort into recruitment but forget about retention – and it’s less expensive to retain than it is to recruit a new student so when you really want to impact enrollments, this is the place to go!
And this plan should be more than monitoring grades and attendance – it needs to address their personal and professional lives because there are things you can do to help a student successfully complete their education at your institution when they have personal and/or career challenges.
Like I have mentioned in other posts, I teach marketing to college students. I get to see them withdraw mentally and physically because they don’t think there are options and aren’t about to ask if there are. One student had surgery and complications from the surgery during the 8-week term…and when they finally shared that with me, I was able to follow policy and get them an extension. They never knew that an extension existed and were about to pack it in, take an “F” and try again…if they could find the tuition money.
“If you build it, he will come.” (Field of Dreams, 1989)
With fewer than 50% of respondents to a recent UPCEA/Helix Education survey admiting they lack a formalized system to determine which new programs are developed, I thought of my all-time favorite baseball movie featuring Kevin Costner. (Bull Durham is good…but I prefer Field of Dreams!)
You can build “it”, whatever “it” might be – but not many are going to show up unless they see “it” as a unique, valuable solution to an unmet or under-served want or need.
The solution to this one is the same as above – develop a process! It can save you a lot of time, effort, energy and other valuable, yet limited resources. And it can also increase your chances for success.
When I worked with one for-profit institution, the focus was on creating specializations to existing degree programs because you had the core built and the specialization would need no more than four new courses. The cost to create those courses was about $100,000.
Then there was promotion expenses necessary to generate the projected enrollments. Now, because this was a specialization added to an existing program (BS in marketing with specialization in social media or digital or….), you could save a lot of money by turning to existing prospects and making them aware of the new option. That helped lower the cost of enrollment and increase conversion rates (from inquiry to enrollment).
But there was still another 6-figures of expenses tied up in the launch. Not to mention hiring and training faculty and other associated costs.
Some of these new programs were around $250,000 while others went higher…and none had a process for determining if there was a need in the market place or an audience large enough to justify the expense.
Now, at that same institution, we had a pretty good process for identifying opportunities in the market. And that made it very common for us to develop a new program that, when launched, surpassed the projected enrollment goals. And that’s where you want to be – lowering costs, exceeding enrollments.
“Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a mirac... It's in the hole! It's in the hole! It's in the hole!” (Caddyshack, 1980)
The incomparable Bill Murray as Carl Spackler…
I saved this one for last. It’s not really tied to recruitment or even retention. I just love it because it makes me smile and laugh – and I thought that was a great way to end this post.
Patrick McGraw is VP of Higher Educaton Marketing Services and has more than 25 years experience in market research, competitive intelligence, business intelligence including database marketing and CRM, strategic planning, brand development and management as well as operations/campaign management. His work has consistently helped his clients and employers develop and implement more efficient ways to attract and retain profitable customers, enter new markets and launch new products. His areas of focus include the education, hospitality, travel and tourism, hi-tech, telecommunications, financial services, and retail industries on both the agency and customer sides.