Personalized Digital Recruitment and Enrollment Management for Higher Education

A growing number of colleges and universities stay competitive by employing data analytics and digital tools to create successful strategic enrollment management plans. 

Student wearing mask looking at phone with personalized digital recruitment message

A new survey has found more college and university admissions offices are driving creation of strategic enrollment management (SEM) plans through the use of data analytics and digital recruitment.

It’s an approach Sextant Marketing successfully implements every day for academic institutions. By using digital recruitment strategies in SEM plan development, schools can improve how they  identify, recruit and support students.

The new survey, conducted by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and Salesforce, reported that 65% of school admissions offices have SEM plans designed to align their efforts with the institution’s overall vision and mission.

More than half (52%) reported that they either completely outsource data analytics work for undergraduate admissions or work in collaboration with an outside agency.

Julie Walbrun, MBA, BSN, Director of Client Services at Sextant Marketing, said the survey’s findings reflect Sextant’s client base. She said some academic institutions have fully staffed data analytics departments, while others understand the need but may not have the required manpower or expertise.

“Sextant is comfortable consulting universities with any level of expertise,” Walbrun said. “Institutions can outsource areas to Sextant where they need our in-depth knowledge and experience. With some clients, we manage 100% of enrollment data and media buying. With others, we manage a portion. It’s up to the needs of the client, and Sextant is happy to support them at any level.”

Key Findings from the College Admissions Survey

NACAC and Salesforce conducted the survey by contacting 1,194 four-year colleges and universities to find out how admission offices use data strategically to develop and achieve institutional goals.

The survey focused on questions about SEM plans, data analytic capabilities, predictive enrollment modeling and the source of various data analytic functions (in-house or outsourced).

Some of the findings include the following.

  • While 65% of admissions offices have SEM plans, 36% have no SEM plan or were unsure if they do.
  • Among institutions with SEM plans, about 72% called the plan very important in guiding recruitment efforts
  • The areas that schools outsource the most are search, predictive modeling, geodemographics, prospect pool, financial aid, and enrollment forecasting

Schools also reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced them to rethink approaches to recruiting a freshman class for 2021. Already, college fairs have moved online and campus tours have gone virtual. Admissions offices must now find new ways to reach potential students, and digital recruitment can help them meet the challenge.

“Colleges and universities are having to change how they connect with students, and they’re having to do it quickly,” NACAC CEO Angel Pérez said in a news release about the survey.

How Sextant Marketing Guides Clients to Personalized Digital Recruitment

Developing an SEM plan that leverages digital recruitment strategies and tools is essential to  compete in the current higher education environment. It’s also critical in supporting an institution’s mission to recruit a diverse group of students and support their academic success.

Sextant takes a student-centric approach in that digital recruitment meets students where they are through social and mobile technologies. Insight gathered from data analytics helps schools better understand the needs of potential students and the attributes of those most likely to enroll and complete their education.

Sextant also provides retention services as well as expertise in areas such as video marketing that are critical in influencing the “feel” a student gets about a school.

Sextant’s work has led to dramatic results for clients. For example, Fresno Pacific University in California experienced an 82% increase in organic traffic to the school’s website and a revenue increase 11.3% higher than the 2020 budget.

In another example, a personalized video campaign for St. Francis College in New York City featured powerful videos sent to new prospects and accepted students that connect their future aspirations with what St. Francis College and New York City offer. The school experienced a 30% increase year-over-year in deposits and enrollments.

Universities Partner with Sextant to Improve Their Process

Marian University also partners with Sextant to improve student recruitment processes. A small, private institution in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Marian has both a robust on-campus student population and a broad range of online degree and certificate programs. “As mentioned in the research, Marian has many of the challenges schools of our same size face including data in multiple systems that do not connect, different departments needing different data and not one place to find it, and no centralized expertise to gather, extract, and interpret the data,” said Lisa Kidd, Assistant Vice President, Marketing and Communications.  “While we try to outsource as little as possible, a partner like Sextant helps us keep the number of partners we work with to a minimum as their expertise is so broad.”

Sometimes, Sextant Marketing works as a partner to help ‘fill in the gaps.’  “We recently completed a project to automatically populate our student contact system with new leads for our admissions team to work,” said Kidd.  “Prior to this project, the team had to hand key in every lead.”

Creating a Successful SEM Plan

Sextant begins its work with all clients by first understanding what they want out of their SEM plan and then researching how data analytics, digital recruitment and personalization can help them reach their goals.

Walbrun called this a “flipped funnel approach.” This requires working with clients during their budgeting process to understand their enrollment goals.

“Once we know how many students they are looking to obtain, we work backward to develop the media budget,” she said. “It is an open dialogue to determine if their enrollment goals are possible based on both market conditions and the money they can spend in areas such as advertising, link building and organic marketing.”

Sextant offers colleges and universities expertise through the entire enrollment cycle. This ranges from lead generation to Sextant’s contact center working with prospective students on application submissions.

“Some institutions use us as consultants to identify areas of concern and provide a plan. Others outsource their entire enrollment process to us knowing their expertise is elsewhere,” Walbrun said. “Whatever the case, we are keenly able to work with clients to identify processes that need improvement and provide solutions.”