For-profit colleges slow in response to prospective students

“Many institutions are leaving the door wide open by ignoring the importance of a responsive phone and eMail contact strategy,” the white paper said.

Everest College had the most rapid average phone response, getting back to students in eight hours.

GCU set the pace for eMail responses to prospective students, sending messages within two minutes of the first inquiry. APU also took just minutes to eMail prospective students who had gone to the school’s website and sent an eMail.

The Leads360 research encourages for-profit college recruiters to find the middle ground between a lax recruitment strategy and an aggressive approach that might drive away potential students.

Conversion rates, meaning the percentage of prospective students enrolled in classes, are maximized when recruiters send between two and four eMails—a window achieved by only one-fourth of colleges included in the study.

Six to eight phone calls were optimum for college recruitment, according to the research. Only 23 percent of schools hit this target, and one school—WyoTech—made an average of 82 phone calls to prospective students before giving up.

“[T]hese schools may be throwing away any advantages gained through responsiveness, by attempting contact in such an aggressive manner. … It’s easy to rationalize the idea of trying as many contact attempts as necessary to reach the prospect, interpreting calling and eMailing until contact as ‘plucky persistence,’” the white paper said. “At the same time, it’s also easy to initiate only a few calls and emails under the belief that it frees up time for recruiters to focus on other prospects. Unfortunately for these schools, research has demonstrated neither of these approaches is very effective.”

Recruitment at for-profit colleges has drawn national attention in recent years as the industry has seen rapid growth and become the target of federal regulators who pushed for “gainful employment” rules instituted last year by the U.S. Department of Education (ED).