Social media saves money, boosts efficiency for college recruiters

A new study examines social media’s impact on college spending.

It’s no secret that teenagers today practically live online—so online is where college recruiters should go to find potential students, reveals a study about increased social media use among admissions officers at U.S. colleges and universities.

The Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth this month released a study that indicates significant changes in recruiting tactics as higher education warms up to social media.

The newly released data show for the first time that using social media cuts costs for college recruiters, and as a result, 86 percent of surveyed schools plan to increase investments in these tools during the next year.

From November to May of the 2011-12 school year, researchers conducted 570 interviews with admissions officers at four-year undergraduate schools. Schools included in the survey sample were 22 percent public and 78 percent private, and represented a range of enrollment sizes and tuition costs.

Seventy-eight percent of admissions officers surveyed reported that social media tools have changed the way they recruit.

“Social media is increasingly becoming the preferred way college-aged students obtain and absorb news today. Having a presence on social media outlets allows colleges to honestly be in the discussion when students are leveraging where to apply and enroll,” said Jeff Fuller, director of student recruitment at the University of Houston.

“The key is—meet them where they are,” said Jim Miller, immediate past president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC).

When he began his college admissions career, “it was all about letters, postcards, and phone calls,” Miller said. Since then, the conversation has moved to eMail, and then to social media and texting.

“So we’re just moving to the next stage,” he said.

The study shows that increases in social media use have reduced the cost of promoting the school through more traditional means: Schools reported spending 33 percent less on printing, 24 percent less on newspaper ads, and 17 percent less on radio and TV ads.

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