Interactive campus maps could mean big bucks for colleges
Technologists warn against complicating online tours for prospective students
By Dennis Carter, Assistant Editor
Spiking gas prices and a growing reliance on college websites could make online campus maps a premiere recruiting tool, to the tune of $60,000 per month.
Technologists who have tracked the evolution of the interactive campus map say the online tour—complete with 360-degree views, descriptions, and videos—will take on a more vital role in college recruitment efforts as gas prices rise and the days of multiple campus visits become unfeasible for most middle-class families.
“You simply can’t afford to take your children to 20 schools to see what they’re all about anymore,” said Kyle James, founder of the popular higher-education site .eduGuru and a former webmaster at Wofford College in South Carolina, during a Feb. 28 edSocialMedia webinar. “It’s just too expensive to do that … but it’s vital in the recruitment process.”
James wanted to know how valuable interactive campus maps were for colleges and universities, so he did the math: If every student is worth an average of $30,000 annually to the college, and if 20 percent of students choose the school, every applicant is worth $6,000.
If 20 percent of applicants take a traditional in-person campus tour, each student visit is worth $1,200. If 5 percent of those visiting students are influenced by first viewing an interactive campus map, then each time the map is viewed, the map is worth $60.
With a modest 1,000 visitors to a campus map page every 30 days, the map can be worth $60,000 per month.
“This is why we think the interactive map is single-handedly the most important part of your website, because it has this kind of impact,” James said.
Even as the traveling costs of college tours have crept steadily upward in recent years, seeing a college remains among the most effective recruiting tools in higher education.
A survey of 1,000 students conducted by marketing group Noel-Levitz in 2010 showed that nearly eight in 10 prospective students said a campus visit was “valuable.” James said students are increasingly looking for online tours before they commit to driving or flying to campus to see the grounds in person.
And prospective college students might expect those interactive tours to be available on their smart phones.