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Recruiting Intelligence

NAFSA 2024 Reflections



Conferences come and go each year. And each time we attend a conference or a session, we promise ourselves, “I just want one thing to take away that I can use when I get back to the office.” And as the conference slides into our rearview mirror, do we confirm that one thing? Do we do something to ensure the time and money invested really bring value to our work? 

If we are being honest: Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. Right? As far as our boss is concerned: Always, YES!  ; -) 

Well, here’s our effort to make an honest person of you (of all of us). We are looking back at New Orleans and NAFSA 2024 (just 6 weeks ago) and sharing our actionable takeaways we think you can use in your day-to-day. With 7 of our Intead team spread out around the conference, it was tough to filter our takeaways down to just a few. We’re bringing out the best 4 for you. 

At this year’s NAFSA, Intead’s Iliana Joaquin teamed up with UMBC SIO Dr. David Di Maria to talk about the realities of using AI in enrollment management. You can grab those slides here.

And I gave a presentation with UC Davis SIO Dr. Joanna Regulska offering new data we conducted with NAFSA on the value of a US degree. You can read about that and grab the slides here 

Our next opportunity to meet! 
EducationUSA Forum, Washington, D.C., July 30-August 1. Ben and Virginia Commonwealth University SIO Jill Blondin will share insights on Navigating Budget Challenges in International Recruitment: Practical Strategies for Every Phase.  Hope to see you there! 

The Resource Center for industry insiders 
Access our international student recruitment research database with over 800 datasets, infographics, webinars, podcasts, articles, and more. A go-to collection of Intead’s 15+ years of industry analysis. Check it out and bookmark for later. 

Read on for a quick-hit summary of 4 key takeaways from the NAFSA 2024 conference conversations we found useful: Visas, Budgeting, Staffing, and Strategic Planning. We’ll keep it short and sweet. 

1. Visas – While many in the US are lodging complaints about the percentage of student visas being approved from applicants from specific regions (mostly African countries), other anglophone study destinations (Canada, UK, Australia) have all put in place stated policy restrictions that will (or already have) reduced incoming international student flow.  

Your takeaway: Helpful bit of information as you talk to your team (and boss) about visa issues and international student recruiting. IIE predicts rapid and significant growth in international students heading to the US over the next 5 years largely due to other country's new student-limiting policies. 

2. Budgeting – Many academic leaders are promoted into positions of leadership with relatively little financial acumen when it comes to budgeting, forecasting, and dashboard development. These are valuable skills when running a department, especially a department with revenue expectations. Take heart! You are surrounded by talented and collaborative (hopefully!) colleagues in academic departments with skills in these areas. Tap them for help.  

Your job: When you approach your talented colleagues, be clear about your department’s strategy and goals so those helpful colleagues with the skills you need can truly help move you closer to achieving those goals. 

3. Churning Staff – Leaders and staff in enrollment offices continue to move around at a significant rate. So many conversations about a new VP of this or that was just hired 3 weeks ago and plans are on hold until... We feel your pain. It is frustrating to see so much churn and have plans go sideways because of it.  

Your takeaway: Hold onto the great staff you have as best as possible and develop solid, justifiable plans to share with your new leadership so they see instantly how impressive you are. You’ll also get a sense of how much authority the new leader is willing to share (or not) if you come to them with a solid plan instead of waiting for them to tell you what their priorities are. Helps you know where you will stand going forward. 

4. The Boat We Are All In – This year, we had more enrollment leaders being very blunt with us about the bind they find themselves in around international student enrollment. More of our conversations started with our university counterpart saying some version of, “We know we are not performing well, not structured well, and it’s been like this for a few years.”  

That level of self-reflection and candor is a little bit new – the honest self-assessment and the strong desire to fix the situation. Many enrollment leaders (and their leadership) are ready to make significant changes and improvements. In some cases, they feel like they are building from scratch. We are seeing a greater appreciation for investing in significant analysis and market research to build something solid as opposed to the quick-hit investments in standard student recruitment tactics. We are seeing a greater need for solid planning, identification of clear differentiators, and a move away from the, “What can you do to improve our intake this fall.”  

Your takeaway: You are not alone in your institution’s struggle to figure this stuff out and grow strategically. 

Important conversations as we navigate this unprecedented time in academic enrollment. Let’s keep the conversations going. Be in touch: info@intead.com. 

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