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Recruiting Intelligence

LATAM Recruiting Series: Insights on Mexico

Our 2021 Latin America international student recruiting series has offered insight into the opportunities in Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador. Now: Mexico.

Mexican student enrollment in US institutions grew significantly over the last 4 decades. A rising middle class has driven this desire and ability to afford education abroad. In 2020 the number studying in the US stood at roughly 14,350. That figure represents about 50% of all Mexican outbound student mobility.

Not so long ago, during the 2016 US presidential election (remember that?), our market research found that a whopping 80% of Mexican students in our survey told us they would be less inclined to study in the US if Trump won the presidency. A stunning number by all counts. However, we noted at the time that we believed this was an expression of distaste, and that 80% of students would not actually act on these feelings. 

Our science and art of market research proved accurate. A drop in US student enrollment from Mexico did follow the Trump presidency but nothing as dramatic as 80%. Still, it hurt many institutions and stifled opportunity for many students. We suggested that the real drop would likely be closer to 10% during the Trump presidency and in fact, the number of Mexican students enrolling in US institutions dropped by 8% in 2017 and then another 3% in 2018. These drops occurred despite an education initiative in Mexico during that time that set a goal of encouraging 100,000 Mexican students to seek a foreign education.

During this period there were notable increases in Mexican student mobility to Canada and Germany. However, the numbers were still relatively small in these countries. Read on for deeper marketing insights as you consider your international student recruitment strategy for Mexico. 

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LATAM Recruiting Series: Insights on Ecuador

If you haven’t had an opportunity to read our recent LATAM recruiting series posts, check out Brazil and Colombia. Today in our series, a look at Ecuador. Not the typical place for universities to invest in international student recruiting, but a valuable consideration as you think about diversifying your source countries.

The US and Ecuador maintain consistent and strong economic ties. On July 1, 2021, Ecuador received 1 million COVID-19 vaccines from the US, with another shipment due to arrive three weeks later. With a population of almost 18 million people, Ecuador’s vaccination rate is close to 25% for the first of two COVID-19 doses. 

According to the most recent SEVIS data from March 2021, the US had 3,025 active students from Ecuador. Of these students, 41% are seeking an undergraduate degree. Currently, student visa processing for requests to study in the US are experiencing the same frustrating backlogs and delays as other parts of the world. Getting recruiting processes back to pre-COVID smooth is going to take quite a bit of time.

With that as an introduction, let’s take a look at Ecuador and the top five student influencers for studying in the US.

Read on for our recruiting insights and a handy (and cool) COVID-19 vaccination rate tracking tool from Reuters — you’ll want to check this as you plan your global recruitment travel as funding and travel restrictions permit. 

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LATAM Recruiting Series: Insights on Colombia

Welcome to another installment in our LATAM recruiting series. In part one we shared insights and predictions about Brazilian student mobility. This week, our focus is on Colombia. As you diversify your student sources, Colombia makes for a valuable addition if you are not already active there. COVID creates obstacles for all of our source countries in 2021, but that doesn’t stop us from maintaining important international connections and pursuing the opportunities that endure. 

Let’s get down to business and explore some numbers. According to the SEVIS March 2021 report, Colombia has nearly 10,000 active students in the US, with IIE reporting Colombia 23rd in ranking for sending students to US universities. This same report shows the interest in graduate degrees being the preferred choice with a 34% enrollment rate compared to 25% for a bachelor’s degree and 11% for an associate’s degree.

No surprise, pandemic-fueled personal instability with contributing social and economic turbulence has Colombian students and parents concerned. Taking that into consideration, as well as Colombia having significant income inequality second only to Brazil in Latin America, some Colombian students face seemingly insurmountable challenges when considering tertiary study opportunities.

Overcoming obstacles in this field has so much to do with developing and nurturing the international relationships that turn into pipelines. Consider the conversations your institution already has with prospective students and the channels being used. Faculty connections, alumni connections, agent connections all have value for the intelligence they bring to your planning and the potential for growth. These all play into the digital marketing approach you will deploy to capture greater student awareness and action.

Online Connections Matter

In the latest bulletin (2018) from the Colombian Ministry of Telecommunications, 60% of the Colombian population has Internet access, with more than half of users connecting with mobile phones. Important as you consider your website and landing pages.

Although there is a digital divide leaving countryside dwellers less connected, the larger cities are taking advantage of their 4G services and free wifi hotspots. Facebook and WhatsApp are the most commonly used with We Are Social reporting an increase in social media users in Colombia by 34 million, an 11% increase from April 2019 to January 2020.

Read on for our assessment of opportunities to recruit Colombian students...

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LATAM Recruiting Series: Insights on Brazil

Back in March/April 2020, we talked about the big picture factors that would reduce student enrollment in 2020/2021: job/income loss, restrictive student visa and travel regulations, COVID-19 rates of infection, and limitations on the availability of internships and jobs. Now we need to add to those considerations: vaccination rates. 

Following our publication of enrollment marketing insights about the two largest senders of students to the US (Report Links Available Here: China and India), we find ourselves wanting to know more about LATAM countries and whether there are insights to share with our enrollment colleagues.  

According to SEVIS data, there are more than 23,000 Brazilians studying in the US today. Our friends at WENR predict Brazil will become one of the top five countries worldwide for outbound students seeking degree programs by 2035. A lot can happen between now and then. Nevertheless, we know Brazil will remain an important source of students to academic programs around the world.

Setting the Context

Being proactive in our enrollment marketing initiatives requires data which informs strategy. A few grounding points about overall international student mobility from the past year to put our discussion of Brazil’s opportunities in context:

  • IIE’s widely reported analysis showed a 43% drop in international student enrollment in the US for Fall of 2020. 
  • Not all institutions had the same experience. In general, those that typically do well with enrollment continued to do well.
  • With testing requirements dropped by many institutions, application rates are soaring, though enrollment numbers are struggling. Intention does not equal follow through. 

A Little Motivation

We can emerge from this turbulent and unstable environment with knowledge, insight, and better planning that incorporates recent experience and current data. 

Those who win embrace change! Those who embrace change are incorporating the latest tools to segment audiences and target those prospective students most likely to want what their institution offers.

With that, let’s take a look at Brazil’s opportunities. Read on...

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Is There a New Indian Mindset on U.S. Institutions?

You’ve likely been wondering, and we have too.

We completed our latest market research to answer the question: Are Indian students still interested in pursuing a U.S. education?  The results are compelling and advantageous as you move forward to meet enrollment goals. There is so much ambiguity around student mobility right now; this kind of market research has real value.

Below you'll find the download button to access our latest report on Indian student interests.

With India being such an important market to U.S. academic institutions, Intead and iSchoolConnect conducted a 13-question survey of 19,924 Indian residents that had expressed interest in international education. We had a 3.7% response rate.

This market research about recruiting students from India follows our highly downloaded market research released in March 2021 about recruiting students from China. That report has drawn a lot of attention. If you’ve not already grabbed that one, well...

In this Indian student market report you will value the insights around attitudes towards agents, among other findings. With responses broken down by high school, undergraduate, and graduate cohorts, the report is designed to help you find the information you need, choose recruitment channels, and develop relevant and strong messaging.

Want a sneak peek into our findings (and the download button)? Read on...

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Why Your Data Isn’t Getting You Where You Want to Go

With data becoming increasingly available and important to your team’s decision making, there’s more pressure than ever to keep up. New tools, better dashboards, queries—all in the name of working smarter and producing better, more efficient results.

But with all of this data at your disposal, it’s not always easy to identify which information to use and when…or how. At the end of the day, it’s about filtering out the noise and focusing on the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). But in any given initiative, what are the KPIs and where do you find them? Are they the right ones?

Pro tip: Your first pick at KPIs prior to a new initiative running are often not the ones you end up focusing on once your boots hit the ground. Ongoing refinement is an essential part of the process. Dashboards were meant to be adjusted.

Another key factor: How do you make those data point selections and refinements? And who is doing that all-important data analysis and interpretation?

We’ve seen more teams than we can count create operational data portals using one tool or another, all in the name of deeper insights and more informed strategic planning. However, those “deeper insights” rarely amount to anything more than an overcomplicated dashboard and maybe some slide deck fodder that the rest of the team struggles to understand. Hopefully someone on the team has the gumption to ask the presenter: Is 43% good in that scenario? Do we have any context for that? 

You may be wondering why your efforts to make more data-driven decisions don’t always produce the gains you are anticipating (or the gains required by the hefty price tag that many of these data tools and services command.)


NAFSA Update — for those of you attending, Intead sessions to help you move your global enrollment efforts forward:

  • Achieving Global Agility: The Flexibility of Global Campus Options
    A discussion on the challenges and opportunities of delivering your academic programs at turnkey remote campuses around the world. First-hand experiences will be shared. Tune in: June 4th at 9am EDT
  • Going from 0-60: Internationalization
    We’ll be talking all things internationalization with David DiMaria, Associate Vice Provost, International Education at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, focusing on how to build leadership buy-in and navigate typically slow-moving internal processes for rapid results. A Tune In Anytime event.

Back to our data discussion...For most organizations, data difficulties begin and end with the lack of a “data culture”, defined by McKinsey & Company in their 2019 Global Survey as “a set of practices that brings together data talent, tools, and decision making so that data become the default support for company operations.” 

Sounds simple enough, but in execution, defining, and more importantly, implementing that data-friendly “set of practices” becomes nearly impossible for many teams. Data interpretation skills don't always come naturally to everyone on your team. Data presentation skills are even less common. Decisions on when to use a pie chart vs. a bar chart seem basic enough, but there is a lot more to it if you want the data to inform and motivate your team and impress your leadership.

Read on for three common roadblocks that might be standing in the way of your team’s data approach and what you can do about it.

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Thinking Forward

Are your moments of fear and anxiety your best growth opportunities in costume?

Reality check: some days the fortitude to push forward is harder than others. There is simply so much work to be done.

Still, we are moving forward. Always.

On this morning following the US 2020 election, regardless of the final outcome, the hard work of pushing for learning environments that advance individuals and society takes forward thinking and energy.

We, as a community, do this every day because we know that a diverse student population fosters cultural understanding and personal growth.

We, as the Intead team, supply the expertise and energy to make this happen with all we have in us.

And we know that institutions at the top of the food chain and the bottom do not achieve diverse learning environments easily. Today, the light is shining very clearly on the fact that without proactively addressing student recruitment, enrollment, and support processes, institutions fall into ineffective practices. Worse, practices that can subjugate and demean student segments. Practices that undermine and diminish the very mission statements institutions hold so dear.

Still, we move onward with fortitude and hope for a future in which students and institutions can realize success. 

And while the path to that future might not always be clear, opportunities abound. Read on for our perspective on recognizing those opportunities, including the latest data from Moody's Investors Service and NAFSA that point the way forward. 

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Do You Speak Gen Z? Part 1

TikTok. Microinfluencers. Memes. Welcome to Gen Z.

There are now an estimated 1.2 billion Gen Z teenagers and young adults globally. So, yeah, they’re kind of a big deal, even if there’s no consensus on when exactly they were born (likely between 1996 and 2010) or what exactly to call them (iGen, Plurals, and Founders are among the other monikers that have been thrown at this diverse, tech-savvy bunch.)

But one thing’s for sure — Gen Zers are very different than the Millennials who came before them. And now they’re your student recruitment target audience.

You’ve heard the Gen Z generalizations: they’re inclusive and politically active. They’re anxious about their future, about the environment, about the economy. About, well, everything (cue melodramatic music).

But what exactly does all of this mean for your institution’s efforts to recruit and retain Gen Z students? 

In this two-part series, we'll be sharing the A-Z on Gen Z,  including the key traits of this new audience and how to tailor your institution's enrollment management and specifically, your digital marketing strategy to their 21st Century tastes.

Plus, if you want to learn even more from us at the AIRC Conference, read on for the scoop. 

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Working with Agents in a COVID-Era World

You didn’t think we’d forget about student recruitment agents in our COVID blog coverage, did you?

A word to the wise: many of those institutions that have weathered the COVID-19 storm best made strategic investments in enrollment marketing during past downturns while competitors snoozed.

We know that agents are top of mind for many of our readers. Our post on how much to pay commission-based student recruiters was #1 in our top blog hits of last year and continues to inform those seeking perspective and justification. Our agent management eBook has been well read (downloaded) for years (thank you, AIRC!).

Recent surveys of education agencies around the world paint a clear picture. Agents have been hit by the pandemic. Hard.

From the Federation of Education and Language Consultant Associations (Felca): 46% of agents surveyed in a recent study reported a 90% drop in business between February and August of this year. Nearly a quarter reported a 100% drop.

Our university partners around the world are feeling this pain as well. The international student recruitment pathway that produced so many great applications has become a trickle or stopped completely.

Some leading agencies predict agent use will soar post-COVID as some institutions double down on their in-country strategy and others begin honing their agent channels to make up for lost opportunities in traditional international recruitment travel and student fairs. Take that with a grain of salt. The near-term future is still exceedingly ambiguous. Physical gathering (conferences and fairs) remain a desired state, not reality. International travel, well, when was the last time you took out your passport?

Though we aren’t seeing the rebound we all want just yet, there are several indicators in the agent market that suggest the way forward. Agents have long been a reliable and valuable source of students (all caveats about vetting your agent network still apply. Thank you again, AIRC and ICEF!).

Read on for a look at the pandemic’s impact on agents and what it means for your institution’s international recruitment strategy going forward.

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The Data That Informs Us Part 3

Today we ask, “Right, what about international”?

Honestly, don’t even think about skipping this post. Long because: worth it.

With schools now publishing their actual fall 2020 international enrollment numbers, the proof is in the pudding for many.

Recent survey data offered up by Inside Higher Ed tell us fewer institutions are planning to recruit international students this cycle. While they might rightfully point to the market turmoil, travel restrictions and the like, the underlying concern for many, from our point of view, is a lack of confidence in what the institution has to offer.

So, where is the opportunity for international? The good news: student desire springs eternal. Below we consider recent SEVIS data and data on India, Nepal and China that point the way forward.

Speaking of the way forward, ever notice that those who anticipate opportunity and plan for it are in a vastly better position to capitalize? The opposite is also true. Fear of the future and planning for scarcity perpetuate the same.

To put it simply, you can’t harvest crops if you don’t plant seeds.

And yet, this perspective shared by an SIO of an important US public university in one of our recent email exchanges: Public universities always have their speed set to “caution”. When universities deal with a complex or unprecedented situation, they switch gears to “Halt”. If they are scared, they engage the public university turbo, a button that reads “Ignore”.

This scenario gives the proactive the opportunity to take tremendous leaps forward. So few take this opportunity.

The past two posts in this three-part series largely focused on the data that points to opportunities for domestic student enrollment growth and what to do next. Now, in Part 3, we speak to yet another student segment everyone is scratching their heads about.

Coming next week, more discussion about the latest research on Gen Z and their preferences to help reduce the head scratching about domestic student enrollment plans. Stay tuned for that.

Now, Part 3, what can we offer to international students to overcome the obstacles to enrollment?

The reality: managing international enrollment in the near term is going to be an uphill climb, especially if your institution was slow to develop a robust and flexible remote learning pathway for students throughout the spring and summer. Your plans now (seed planting) will set you up for future harvests as international students continue to seek education and adventure. They won’t be stopped, even if they are slowed. Know that we’re just a call away if you want help making those plans data driven and successful.

Note: if you’re still struggling with the faculty and student processes and fostering engagement, read our earlier post on global turnkey campuses for a clear path to flexible opportunities. Take steps to salvage the spring enrollment numbers within the next few weeks. We have a plan and examples from the 8 universities that innovated and are now reaping the benefits.

Read on as we dive into the latest international student data and what it means for your 2021 enrollment marketing strategy and beyond.

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