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Recruiting Intelligence

State of Higher Education 2022: Top 5 Takeaways

Your campus may feel a little cozier this fall as housing units start to fill up again. Welcome news, right?

The enrollment dip we’ve been living through could rebound to pre-pandemic levels, meaning we may see nearly 1 million more enrolled students aged 18-24 in 2022 than in 2021. This is according to analytics giant Gallup.

Likely your team is seeing a positive shift in inquiry and applications. (No? Then be in touch).

The big question still is whether all that activity results in actual enrollments. There is reason to be skeptical at many institutions.

In Gallup’s recently issued The State of Higher Education 2022 Report, done in partnership with Lumina Foundation, we see some interesting results. The central goal of their work: to help inform institutions how to better support current and prospective students. The survey included adults aged 18+ who have completed high school and are living in the US.

Many survey participants are currently pursuing a degree, others unenrolled from their certificate or degree program since Covid. Many others are prospective students who never enrolled in a certificate or degree program after high school.

We are thrilled to have these insights in advance of #NAFSA22 to inform our discussions with all of you. If you’ve not yet scheduled a meeting with us at the conference, please be in touch quickly. Our schedule is nearly filled up. You’ll be receiving a summary of our 4 NAFSA don’t-wanna-miss-em presentations by email.

From Gallup, we took special note of the finding that despite the many (many) disruptions caused by the pandemic, US adults (aged 18-29) remain interested in pursuing higher education. There have been many stories of the growing anit-higher ed sentiment. So how do we lock in on those with high intent?

If you haven’t read the report, it’s one you won’t want to miss. Read on for a link to the report and the top 5 takeaways we think will be the most valuable to your team…

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New Market Entry: Key Benchmarks for Student Recruitment Initiatives

"Where else should we be?"

This question comes up consistently in our workshops, webinars, and client conversations,

The reality: you’ve been wanting to diversify your recruitment efforts for years. Until the pandemic and the latest global political wrangling made recruiting from China problematic, your leadership wouldn’t listen. Now they will and they’re wondering why you hadn’t diversified earlier. 🙄

China and India have always been safe bets for international student recruitment. Of the nearly 1 million international students in the US, 34.7% are from #1 student sender China and 18.3% from #2 India, per the latest Open Doors data. #3 South Korea claims a distant 4.3%.

Despite Covid, these sources of international students in the US remain front and center.

If the majority of your recruitment efforts are focused on China and India, well, we get it. Your leadership team is comfortable investing where they feel safe and is typically fearful of starting something new. These markets are proven and for the most part steady, pandemics notwithstanding. But should all your eggs be in these two baskets?

Of course not.

Relying on only one or two markets for the majority of your international student intake leaves your institution vulnerable to market fluctuations. For most institutions, that strategy does not align with the overarching mission of diversifying your student body. It only aligns with the revenue side of the equation.

Here’s the thing: you relied heavily on those two markets because of the significant challenges of identifying and succeeding in a new market. How do you even do that?

[Side Note: maybe you’ll want to start with our country comparison cheat sheet]

So, let’s suppose you’ve done the market research analysis and you’ve found a new market (or two). How do you know if you’ve selected the right one(s)? How do you evaluate your investments in these new markets since they don’t behave like the markets where you already have experience?

You know it will take patience, too, as most institutions won’t yield real results until 2+ years of targeted recruiting and nurturing. Will your institutional leadership give you enough time to prove the effort? Or will they see the lack of traction after year one and pull the plug? (You’ve seen that before, we know).

This is where identifying effective benchmarks can help you set expectations and make the case for sustained investment.

We’ll be talking about this and so much more at #NAFSA2022 in Denver this month. Be in touch to set up a meeting with us. And please join us for one of our four interactive NAFSA presentations where we are honored to share the dais with our colleagues from Benedict College, San Diego State University, Clark University, Northeastern University, CIEE, ICEF, and GNET.

Read on to learn how you can tell which new markets are a good idea to enter and how to know if early recruitment efforts are likely to create the traction you need over time. Use these benchmarks to create your plan and set leadership expectations.

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Getting Started With Building an Audience

In the higher education space, your institution is competing with so many options that prospective students have. We know that most students attend a university within 50 miles of their home while large state institutions and the elite options have a stronger draw from coast to coast and beyond.

With these realities in mind, today we consider a foundational marketing goal: building a receptive audience so you can nurture prospective students from the point of awareness and inquiry to enrollment, no matter where they reside.

To state the obvious: virtual tours and informational webinars have taken on a bigger role (fewer campus visits), so a robust and engaging digital presence has never been more important to your recruitment process. Has your team evaluated and adjusted your approach to the student journey? Meeting them where they are in each step of their decision-making process?

We’ve offered a number of educational posts on student journey mapping processes you may want to read (for reference: our recent series Tracing the Student Journey Part 1 and Part 2).

We'll be talking about these enrollment management and student recruiting approaches and so much more at #NAFSA22 in just a few weeks. Let us know if you'd like to schedule a coffee with one of our team. We are leading 4 NAFSA sessions this year and one of them received the honor of being selected for live broadcast. Watch this space for details and we hope you can join us.

For now, read on for our top recommendations on how to build an audience online.

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Rinse and Repeat is Not the Answer

Every CFO’s dilemma: how much discounting do we have to do to fill our classes?

But before you get there, it is the Enrollment Management team’s job to answer a few other questions:

  1. To whom do we market? (this takes us from suspect to application)
  2. Whom do we accept? (this takes us from applicant to accepted pool)
  3. And now we turn to the CFO and financial aid team to answer, “How much do we award them?” (this takes us from accepted to tuition-paying)

The Intead team is hyper-focused on question number 1 in ways that others in the student marketing world seem to miss or oversimplify. Zip code and IPEDS analyses will tell you that there are roughly 250K families in the US able to afford tuition bills of $30K or more. And that pool is shrinking as the Chronicle of Higher Ed and industry analysts consistently remind us. The fear of 2025 is growing!

Private institutions have faced, and will continue to face, a world of trouble in the years ahead. If you are not clear about what makes your institution highly valuable to your target audience (and no, the answer is not, “we provide a personalized level of attention to our students”), then your classrooms and dorms are going to look sparser. Those doubles you converted to triples will be double again.

And for other institutions, those with lower price points, there are significant headwinds in terms of how students and parents are evaluating your value as well. Competition will continue to grow.

We'll be talking about all of this at #NAFSA2022 in Denver in just 5 weeks. Please be in touch to set up a meeting or join us for one of our four interactive NAFSA presentations where we are honored to share the dais with our colleagues from Benedict College, San Diego State University, Clark University, Northeastern University, CIEE, ICEF, and GNET.  

With this post we share our concern, and it should be yours as well, that the marketing agencies offering enrollment/recruitment services for so many institutions are taking their marketing plans from their most recent client and applying them to the next one that comes in the door.

Literally, some of them are simply slapping your logo on the marketing plan they delivered to the client that came before you and selling it to you as something unique and fresh. They are that cynical about their own work and what you are doing on your campus.🙄

Read on for tips on how to frame the pertinent questions and approach the answers for your institution. While the framework has common elements for all, the resulting marketing plan must be different based on your specific institution type, location, ranking and academic strengths, tuition, culture, etc.

Your student enrollment marketing must focus on what makes you, you.

We’re here to say very loudly: rinse and repeat is not the answer.

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The Rise of Student Retention as Key to Recruitment

From your steeped-in-student-recruitment vantage point, you see quite clearly the symbiotic relationship retention has with your recruitment efforts and resulting yield. It has everything to do with your student services, student success, and all the small-batch interactions you do to ensure your students experience both.

As David Hautanen, Vice President for Enrollment Management at St. Mary’s College of Maryland said so well in a recent Recruiting Intelligence post: "Retention is both a moral and economic imperative." We wholeheartedly agree. And it is as true for students as it is for institutions. 

We can dive into all of this with you at #Nafsa2022 in Denver. Let us know if you’ll be there and want to share a cup of coffee.

As campuses across the globe emerge from their pandemic safety bubbles and return to recruitment as usual (more or less), now is a really good time to rethink your institution’s retention efforts—and the student-first mentality it requires.

The bottom line: it’s your team’s soft skills that matter most and their availability to use them. Read on for our take…

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How to Say 'No' to Ideas That Aren't Good Enough (Reboot)

Leaders of the student enrollment revolution, we’re here for you.

With so much planning going on for an enrollment cycle so very in flux, and past trend data not quite so predictive as it used to be, we thought now would be a good time to reboot one of our most popular posts, “How to Say ‘No’ to Ideas That Aren’t Good Enough.”

It should be a helpful tool at a time when focus is essential in the midst of so many #EdTech solutions and platforms for recruitment and enrollment continually seek your attention.

Read on for the 5 questions every leader must ask and every department must answer when presented with new plans – those that seem great, not so great, or maybe just crazy enough to work.

Join us at #Nafsa2022 in Denver where we will be offering up four presentations with a range of partners on everything from innovative influencer marketing to new ways to maximize the talent of your global recruiting agent network. We'll be focusing on the need for flexibility throughout your student recruitment and enrollment efforts. Schedule a meeting with a simple email.

We’re here to help you focus on the initiatives that will produce results and justify that budget.

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Text Message Marketing for Universities and High Schools

Surveys from Mongoose (a popular SMS provider) tell us that a full 80% of students want to receive text messages from academic institutions. The caveat: they only want messages that matter. No fluff. We get it. We bet you do, too. And, the return on well-executed texts is more than worth the careful content planning effort.

SMS marketing is proving to be a direct, cost-effective way to recruit and retain students. If your institution hasn’t explored SMS marketing, now is the best time to start. It’s a little like the question, “When is the best time to start exercising?” The answer is always, now!

For those of you in the know, Slate added text messaging in early 2020 as one of their marketing features. There’s a reason for that. Important to note that the feature will not allow you to send messages through WhatsApp at this point.

Read on for the answers to Why do it? How to get started? And, what are the best practices for effective execution? The short answer: spot on content drives results.

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Recruiting Intel Digest: The Most Useful Stuff from Q1 2022

The first quarter of 2022 dealt its fair share of surprises, and then some. The pandemic loosened its grip (for the time being). Northern Europe was thrust into a war. These events are deeply personal and deeply tied to our everyday work in higher education. And then there were the everyday surprises courtesy of another enrollment and budget planning season. Still, the world kept turning and we kept acting on the opportunities we see for improvement in everything we are able to touch.

In the midst of all this, you may have missed a few of our top posts. No matter! We’re here to point you in the right direction. Read on for our quarterly recap of the most valuable stuff from Q1 2022 and the Intead resources available to you.

And, if you’ll be attending the NAFSA 2022 in Denver (May 31-June 3), be in touch so we can set aside time for a coffee and exchange of ideas. We’ll have 4 NAFSA presentations all covering different aspects of global recruiting. One of them has been selected by NAFSA for live-stream to give more folks access to the amazing panel that includes Benedict College, Clark University, and CIEE. More on that in the coming weeks.

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Spotlight on Your Institution’s Student-First Approach

We recently talked with students past and present from Vietnam to Bangladesh and heard encouraging stories.

  • A professor hand-delivered a recommendation during the early phase of the pandemic.
  • A class specifically designed around a student’s pursuits.
  • A helpful phone call to a trusted member of the international student services team when tragedy struck.

Stories that embody the kind of student-first experience we all imagine we provide to our students. It’s the kind of experience we certainly all tell the world of prospective students (and parents) that we will deliver.

The reality, unfortunately, is often quite different. Blame branding or the bottom line (lack of resources), but the undeniable truth is that competing priorities often win out over the well-founded ideal of student-first. 

Today’s post is not a how-to on making your website user-friendly. Today we put a spotlight on the policies and actions that put students first. We’re looking at what is undermining your institutional integrity and how you can address it. And trust us, students are well aware of how well your institution delivers on the promise of student-first. And they tell stories. So, yes, this post is enrollment marketing-focused.

When you delight, they gush with positive word-of-mouth support. And when you fail, they tell that story too.

To offer deep perspective on this topic, in addition to our own experience, we tapped a few colleagues who know more than a thing or two about fostering the student-first mindset:

  • David Hautanen, Vice President for Enrollment Management at St. Mary's College of Maryland
  • Jessica Sandberg, Dean of International Enrollment Management at Duke Kunshan University
  • Jewell Green Winn, Senior International Officer of International Affairs at Tennessee State University (and newly appointed chair of AIEA)
  • Brad Farnsworth, Principal of Fox Hollow Advisory and former Vice President at the American Council for Education (ACE)

They each had great perspective on the subject. We are so appreciative of their time and the insights shared. You, our readers, are the beneficiaries of their wisdom.  

Read on to learn concrete actions you can take now to help ensure your enrollment program is student-first. Is this post a good one to share with your leadership? Uhm, yes.

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Quick Hit Regional Insights for Student Recruitment

You won’t reach students in China using the same tactics you use to reach students in Brazil. Or Nigeria. Seems obvious to those recruiting students internationally, but you’d be surprised by what some marketers out there are pushing. It takes more than a tweak in ad copy to woo prospects from different countries. It requires a good deal of nuanced cultural insight.

Yes, you have Google Analytics and enrollment data to tell you which sending countries show interest in your institution (you’re using those, right?). But it’s deeper than this, as you well know. That’s why we’ve updated one of our most popular tools: the Country Comparison Cheat Sheet.

This easy-to-read spreadsheet breaks down key stats on the top 16 countries sending students to US institutions. We sourced the latest data from IIE, IBISWorld, InterNations, WorldAtlas, XE, and more to offer insights into each country.

The numbers we share represent data you could gather on your own, but we did the work for you. And we are connecting dots that don’t often get connected - though they should be.

Read on to download this free tool for you and your team.

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