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Recruiting Intelligence

What About the Numbers?

Astute readers of last week’s blog post about creating an international student recruitment strategic plan would have noticed the lack of results data. With this post, we take a look at the numbers for the three institutions discussed: SUNY, SNHU, and Full Sail University. To round out today’s analysis, we added to the mix: Green River College, Kent State University, and University of Cincinnati.

A results analysis cannot look at numbers alone. So many factors play a role in the success of any marketing effort over time. And when that marketing effort is global, well, being attentive and nimble is critical.

Having on the ground intel is so important. Having people to rely on who “get it” is so important. Having a sound marketing strategy is only as valuable as your ability to execute (see our recent post about Marketing Culture for valuable insights).


Upcoming opportunities to learn:

  • October 5, NAFSA All-Region Summit: UMBC and Intead present “0-60 Internationalization” NAFSA Registration Link
  • October 12, AIRC hosted Webinar: Technion Israel Institute of Technology and Intead present “Shifting Student Perspectives: Digital Marketing Now” AIRC Registration Link

Today, we will focus on some VERY interesting numbers – international student enrollment and the economic impact (thank you IIE and NAFSA). We will also consider:

  • The people: few teams stand the test of time (cue Carole King’s “So Far Away” #ShowingMyAge)
  • The environment: the pandemic wreaks havoc for everyone (well, almost everyone)

We really think you will want to read on.

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Developing a Strategic Plan for International Student Recruitment

Before we dive into today's post, a quick note on some exciting upcoming opportunities to learn and connect.

In October, Intead will be taking a closer look at international student recruitment with two very different and powerful universities in two webinar events. We hope you can join us – we’ll leave time for Q&A!

  • October 5, NAFSA All-Region Summit: UMBC and Intead present “0-60 Internationalization” — Register HERE.
  • October 12, AIRC hosted Webinar: Technion Israel Institute of Technology and Intead present “Shifting Student Perspectives: Digital Marketing Now” — Free to AIRC members and $45 for non-members. Register HERE. (If your institution is not an AIRC member, hit us up for a code and we'll see about getting you past the velvet ropes.)

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Now, about strategic planning for international student enrollment: the more things change, the more they stay the same, right? Not so with our adjustment to the pandemic? Or, maybe the old adage continues to hold true.

Digital is more important than ever to attract your future students. Yet personal touch and support through the application process (think recruiting agents) is critical to get prospective students from awareness to enrolled. All that was old is new again.

Standing the Test of Time

Back in 2015, our colleague Lisa Cynamon Mayers (some of you long-time Intead evangelists will remember the wisdom she shared with all of us) wrote a great post about developing a strategic plan for international student recruitment. She spoke with colleagues at SUNY, Southern New Hampshire University, and Full Sail University to specifically compare/contrast what they were finding cost-effective at the time. A few valuable charts emerged as part of the 2014 AIRC conference presentation enrollment leaders shared at that time.

Much of the strategic perspective is timeless in its value to our work in enrollment management. We can see from this look back what remains true despite the changing political winds, health factors, and visa/travel regulations. We’ve made a few 2021 observations alongside the insightful points in Lisa’s 2015 post below.

How does your strategic enrollment plan look when analyzed along these lines? Read on for our valuable compare/contrast perspective. 

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Would You Like Some Feedback?

Sometimes feedback is well received. Other times, not. Leaders see feedback as invaluable.

In two of our recent, highly-clicked blog posts, we discussed STRATEGY and CULTURE as they relate to academic institutions seeking enrollment growth. Our discussion of enrollment management would be incomplete without a few observations about the need for LEADERSHIP.

When are we leaders?

Leaders come in all forms. Some of us lead organizations, others departments, others a single project. Being a leader has to do with taking ownership of the vision or reason for the work, the people, the process, and the results.

And being a leader has everything to do with the learning. The analysis before, during, and after. And that has a lot to do with feedback. Receptivity to feedback, even when unsolicited is truly important. These are the learning moments with value for those willing to step into a leadership role; a role that requires humility and listening along with confidence and daring.

Read on for a few quick and helpful insights that just may help you take a fresh view of the feedback you are likely getting all the time. There are more gems coming your way than you may realize. Plus, our closing link will bring a smile to your day.

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Not Traveling? Making the Case for Your Recruitment Budget

Your budget is the tactical expression of your strategy. What you value most is where you put your funds. Or at least, that’s how it should be.

Whether you are submitting your budget for approval or evaluating the budget requests others submit to you, this year’s budget season is looking a little different. International recruitment travel? Still off the table. Student recruitment dollars? Still in need of allocation.

With your standard recruitment playbook out the window, a comprehensive budgetary framework  to evaluate all the different strategic initiatives on the horizon becomes more important than ever.

Are you devoting enough to the digital channels available? Are you selecting the right channels for your institution? The virtual fair folks are telling you they are really the way to go. Of course they are. Have they shared hard attendance, engagement, and results numbers to prove it?

To help you and your team identify, assess, and evaluate your recruitment initiatives this year, the Intead team took our collective experience with so many different institutional assessments and strategic planning sessions and simplified the process of budget evaluation into 3 Essential Budget Questions — a 1-pager that offers a simplified, high-level approach to considering any budget request.

With this framework for evaluating your plans and whether they merit investment, you’ll take those complex quandaries down to a basic starting point and identify where the opportunities for growth really are.

We think you’ll want to share this one widely. This and a quick review of our recent, highly popular post about how to say no to ideas that are not good enough.

Read on to access the downloadable budget consideration flowchart.

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How to Say 'No' to Ideas That Aren't Good Enough

Brilliant and creative enrollment professionals, we know your pain.

So many great ideas, so little time, and so little budget.

It’s the refrain of higher education (that, and “Don’t talk to me during application season”). And while we know you want to tackle everything with an enthusiastic “yes”, saying “no” more often than “yes” is nearly always required to keep your institution and your strategy on track.

With budget season inching towards the finish line, we know you’re already thinking about putting that budget into action in the new fiscal year. We also know that making the most of that budget will require focus, a concrete plan, and most importantly, that discipline to say “no” to lots of shiny new ideas that pass you by.

Steve Jobs said it best: “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” But with great ideas and options coming at you from all sides, how do you decide what will maximize value for your institution?

With this enrollment cycle murkier than ever and past performance clearly not indicative of future success, turning your gaze on some downhome marketing truths is a good idea.

Read on for five key questions to ask yourself next time that lightbulb moment hits you and your team. Our insights will help you hone your efforts on the ideas that will produce results and justify that budget.

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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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The Data That Informs Us Part 2

In last week’s post we shared the findings from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center’s latest report on summer enrollment numbers.

We also made a prediction — that the typical recession uptick in people trying to upskill will look a little different this time around. Remember that large drop off in summer community college enrollments we saw in the NSCRC data?

Yes, there will be market demand for new skills as the economic effects of the pandemic persist, but with the job market drastically altered by a new reality of virtual work and the decimation of roles (retail, restaurants, tourism) in the service industry, specific programs will have outsized interest in a way that we’ve never seen before.

In Part 2 of our data-focused series, we turn our focus to one of our favorite topics: non-traditional students. Or more specifically, the pool of 36 million individuals in the US who have some college, but no degree (SCND, as defined by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.)

We wrote the book on this back in 2018. Literally. (Don’t worry, a free copy of our non-traditional student eBook, complete with strategy recommendations and case studies from your peers is available for download below.)

This is an audience of 36 million potential students that is yours for the taking if you’re ready to get to work. And if you know how to recruit them. It gets a bit tricky as they are not all 18 years old and following a standard pathway from high school to college. Hence the term non-traditional. Our point: they are harder to target en masse.

And although their rate of enrollment during the pandemic is not yet clear, we have some predictions on how this is going to play out.

Read on to learn who these students are, what they’re looking for in the COVID-era, and what this means for your marketing.

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The Data That Informs Us Part 1

This just in: undergraduate enrollment at the George Washington University fell nearly 25 percent this year based on preliminary estimates. That decline includes more than 600 upperclass undergrads and more than 900 international students. A budget impact of ~$76 million

This is only the start of the pandemic impact figures from institutions set to roll in over the next few weeks. 

But there's no time to wait around for the bad news. It's time to work with the data we have now

Fortunately, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center has preserved a crucial record of the last few months that provide a wealth of indicators of what is to come: summer 2020 enrollment numbers.

Today’s post is the first in a three-part, data-focused series in which we’ll be diving into the latest enrollment trends and early indicators of COVID-19’s impact — plus what these findings mean for your marketing, of course.

The web has been rife with clickbait headlines and data from student sentiment surveys since the early spring, each claiming to predict COVID-era student decision-making in the fall and beyond. Despite our love for data around here, you might have noticed that we haven’t given these surveys much attention on this blog. 

Think: when was the last time you accurately predicted your own thoughts and behavior six months in advance? What about the last time you predicted anything in the evolving economic, health, and employment conditions of the COVID-19 reality?

Chances are, many students don’t even know what they want for tonight’s dinner, much less what decisions they’ll be making in the months ahead. And any of those surveys regarding their stated future COVID-era educational plans from six months ago? Well, we hope you took them with a grain of salt.

So much of the planning we see being done by individuals and institutions is based on hoping that things will improve in 2 weeks, 2 months, 6 months. Hope is SO important to developing vision and inspiring the team, but when it gets down to academic and business planning to execute on the strategic vision, stability is what feeds accurate predictions. We are sorely lacking in stability these days, making predictions far less reliable.

We look for data that can support the work – data that is not based on point in time records of hopeful sentiments.

In the National Student Clearinghouse’s newly released report, which includes data from 7 million students enrolled in May-July summer sessions across 2,300 colleges, we have our first look at concrete, behavioral insights on the enrollment effects of COVID-19 across various degree levels, institution types, and demographic groups. This is the type of data that gets our marketing gears turning.

 Read on for these early enrollment signals and a few hints at what’s to come.

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What Your Students Need Now Part 2

Last week, we put your prospective students’ SOS call on your radar.

Today, we’re going to show you exactly how to answer that call.

(Those of you reading to the end of this post, we can feel your thanks. You're welcome).

From the Naviance data we covered in Part 1 of this series, one thing is clear: your digital strategy and shifts in messaging are crucial right now. With COVID-19 agitating the waters, many students (domestic and international) are lost at sea in the college search and decision-making process. It’s your job to throw them all a life jacket. Metaphor alert: that life jacket is: engaging, informative, customized digital marketing content.

Students will be receptive to your messaging this fall. They want your guidance. Do you know what to say?

With the help of more Naviance data and our own market research, this week’s post is all about the how, where, and what of your digital marketing messaging in this unfamiliar time of COVID-19.

Our goal: helping you create messaging that will guide your prospects through those choppy waters…right to the safe harbor of your institution. Don't worry, we’re done with the ocean metaphors now. 

Read on for the digital tools and key topics your prospects need this fall and how to incorporate them into your admissions and enrollment strategy. 

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