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Recruiting Intelligence

AIEA 2022 Takeaways: Where do we go from here?

As I wrote from the MSY airport lounge, #AIEA2022 had just wrapped. At that time, in the previous 24 hours, Russia had launched a military attack on Ukraine, some of our colleagues tested positive for Covid at the AIEA conference, and Boston (my destination) was expecting a foot of snow the next day. Oh, and my Boston flight was unceremoniously canceled with no flights available to get me to Boston for another 3 days. Life as we know it continues with turbulent distress, ambiguity, and elements of normalcy.

With these realities in mind, I offer focused reflections on the ideas that struck me most during the conference and a few ideas on how they might add value to your work. As always, we don’t want to get all esoteric here. It’s about actionable steps for internationalization and diverse student experiences that take us all forward, together, with vision.

Enrollment management is complex. The tools available to help us can be confusing. Read to the end of this post for some very tangible advice from 4 international students who spoke at the conference.

More learning ahead

We hope you will be joining us at NAFSA 2022 in Denver this Spring. We will be sharing 3 forward-thinking presentations and a poster session. We are honored to co-present with colleagues from Benedict College, San Diego State University, Clark University, Northeastern University, CIEE, ICEF, and GNET. More details on those in future posts.

More immediately, read on for reflections and action items from AIEA 2022...

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A 2022 Must-Read -- AIEA's Handbook of International Higher Education

In the age of snack-size content, The Handbook of International Higher Education, 2nd Edition is for a hungrier reader.

This deep-dive resource, thoughtfully delivered to all of us by AIEA, provides exceptional context for many of the issues we are all facing now and offers a glimpse of what lies ahead.

The book explores the evolution of student mobility, commercialization of academia, higher ed-tech, the student experience, and more. Collectively we’ve spurred so much change since the handbook first published just a decade ago. Not to mention the issues that have changed us (immigration, social justice, COVID, technology).

Side note: if you’ll be attending the 2022 AIEA conference in New Orleans (Feb 20-23), be in touch and we’ll find time for a coffee and an exchange of ideas.

There’s little doubt that we are in the midst of profound transformation. How we move forward must be informed by where we’ve been. Our colleagues agree international education is vital to an increasingly interconnected world. Yet, even this bedrock is evolving. Once driven by societal cooperation, contribution, and service, there is an undeniable shift toward competition and marketization in higher education. Perceptions and approaches vary depending on where you are in the world and the primary sources of your institution’s funding (i.e., government vs. private).

Read on for our quick summary of what the handbook offers us from a student recruitment point of view. A piece of the higher ed puzzle that is evolving with quickening speed.

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The Risk of Following vs. The Value of Leading

Reflecting on AIEA conversations and what we are seeing in the field, I find myself thinking about the risk of being a follower and the value of being a strategic leader.

  • Followers see where the crowd is headed and go there without due diligence.
  • Leaders see where the crowd is headed and then check the numbers.

This is important. Increasingly so.

The effort to recruit international students is heating up in the US. The pressure on university administrators is growing. With India and China sending the most students to the US, most newcomers to the field – the universities finally joining the fray and looking to diversify their student body – are turning to these source countries. It can be a mistake.

We are seeing the global education agent network being pressured to produce more students for more campuses. That increased pressure is going to bring us renewed stories of fraud and inappropriate recruiting behavior. We don't want to see anyone caught up in that mess.

It is important, REALLY important, to align your team with talent – the kind of partners who don't cut corners and have your best interests at heart. This field is full of questionable characters, as we all know. Many of us have the scars to prove it.

Following our travels to San Diego for our Annual Student Recruitment Bootcamp and moving on to DC for AIEA, the Intead team is grateful for all of the opportunities to connect face-to-face with you, our colleagues and friends in such a challenging time for our industry. (More on our Bootcamp in a post in March.)  Focusing on AIEA for a moment, we have to thank AIEA's Darla Deardorff for feeding so many of us with great information and wonderful food for a few days in DC. The AIEA conference was well run and well delivered. Informational and so often inspiring.

During the conference, we had the pleasure of giving presentations on enrollment trends with Kaplan International and on US–India university partnerships with Monmouth University and Sannam S4. Both sessions were filled with lively discussion and audience engagement. As always, we shared ideas and had fun learning from each other. Thank you to all who attended! It is always a pleasure.

Read on for more reflections and insights from the conferences and my thoughts on enrollment trends and predictions. 

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Learning the Safety Dance: Reassuring Prospective Students

 

Let's reflect on the recent past and discover how the trends inform our thinking and doing.

Right now, we are reflecting on the fact that between 2016 and 2017, the prospective international students we surveyed in partnership with FPP EDU Media reported increased interest in safety. In our 2016 survey, 23% of students indicated that their sense of personal safety in the destination country was a strong factor in their decision making. In 2017, 88% of students said that a strong campus safety program was helpful or very helpful to their decision making.

Although the questions were slightly different between the two surveys, we were struck by the notable jump. The significant difference in the figures suggests a dramatic rise in the importance of this message to international students considering studying on any given campus.

The FPP EDU Media - Intead Know Your Neighborhood Reports were recently covered by The PIE News in a January 2018 story. Personal safety is on students' minds.

The message is clear: in an increasingly unpredictable world, prospective students are thinking more and more about their personal safety. As a result, we are seeing more and more institutions eager to counteract prospective students’ concerns that the U.S. is a place where outsiders are unwelcome and unsafe.

In our work, we develop customized content and design to help each institution promote its strongest features and opportunities to their student audiences. We work hard to educate the field on the trends and what the data tells us to do next as marketers.

We are looking forward to sharing our research and action plans in sunny San Diego where we will host our second annual International Student Recruitment Bootcamp with CGACC from Feb 11-13. The following week we will be in Washington, DC, presenting more data at the annual AIEA conference.

We hope to see many of you at one or the other and we hope you might consider joining us at our presentation with Lakshmi Iyer from Sannam S4 and Jon Stauff of Monmouth University on  Maximizing Your Indian University Partnerships during AIEA! Please be in touch if you'd like to schedule a coffee and evaluate opportunities to enhance your recruitment program. 

So, the million-dollar question is: how do you communicate that your campus is a safe place to call home...without unintentionally scaring prospective students away?

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Consider Retention from the Point of Offer

Let's start with a Happy Diwali to all our friends who celebrate! We share wishes for prosperity, wisdom and peace to all. And with those well wishes, we want to consider ideas about student retention this week.

When do you start thinking about student retention? Have you looked at your retention data lately? Our thought: we all need to think about retention from the get go, from the point of the admissions offer.

This week's post offers perspective on the advantages of this approach and some tips you'll want to consider as part of your communications plan. If your retention stats are not where they should be, and those stats will vary by type of institution and program, this post is for you. Frankly, even if your retention stats are where you want them to be, this post is probably still a good one for you.

Want to learn more from us? Intead will be at NAFSA Region X in Princeton, NJ, October 23-25. Two presentations with our latest recruitment insights:

  • International Recruiting…From Your Backyard with Bill Mena, Director of Boarding and International Admissions at Sandy Spring Friends School in Maryland, and
  • Know Your Chinese Audience: Using Personas to Guide Your Marketing with Ita Hemouet, Director of Admissions, International Research & Strategy from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University in Boston.

...or set up a time to meet us for coffee! We can always use an excuse for that extra cup of joe! 

Not heading to Princeton this month? How about Florida in December? Our team will be at AIRC (Dec. 6-9) and ICEF (Dec. 11-13). And of course there is AIEA in DC (Feb 18-21). So many opportunities to meet and discuss our latest research (4 new e-books heading your way in the coming months - Shhhh! We are keeping that quiet right now).

But if you REALLY want to learn from the best of the best, check out our faculty at the 2nd Annual International Student Recruitment Bootcamp in San Diego (Feb 11-13). This small, hands on workshop format is for a select set of institutions making a real commitment to improving their international student recruitment program.

Meanwhile, in this week's blog we are considering retention. Retention starts with the offer of acceptance to your institution. That might seem like a bold statement – a shift in perspective, but we like to think that it should be intuitive. When you offer a student a place at your institution, you are committing to the entire process of maintaining that relationship until the point of graduation and beyond.

While it might seem hard to believe that extra effort focused on retention this early in their university process will impact your prospective students’ decisions down the road – we assure you that it can. Build your relationships early and often. Let’s take it from the beginning. Read on...

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