Increased pressure on higher-ed admissions teams could be driving aggressive enrollment practices

enrollment-practicesWhen it comes to communicating with prospective students, nonprofit higher education institutions outperform for-profits on key inquiry response benchmarks, according to “Comparing Inquiry Response Strategies at Nonprofit and For-Profit Higher Education Institutions,” a two-part secret shopper study on responsiveness to student inquiries.

However, both nonprofit and for-profit schools underperformed on other important factors, frustrating prospective students and limiting their enrollment potential.

The study was conducted by Velocify, a cloud-based intelligent enrollment management software, and Enrollment Resources, which helps institutions improve enrollment management practices.

“With enrollment down across the board, attracting enough qualified applicants is a key admissions issue for most colleges and universities, whether proprietary or nonprofit,” said Martin Lind, director of the education vertical at Velocify. “Though the nonprofit schools surveyed were, overall, much more responsive than the stereotype would dictate, there is a substantial opportunity to improve performance across most of the benchmarks, especially speed-to-call, persistence and inbound call user-experience.”

(Next page: How nonprofit and for-profit institutions differ on enrollment practices–and how they’re the same)

Part one of the study evaluated the admissions practices at 10 for-profit and 10 nonprofit schools. A total of 100 website inquires (five inquiries per school) were submitted during the school’s business hours. Velocify evaluated each school on four key performance indictors: speed-to-first-call, speed-to-first-email, number of call attempts, and number of emails sent. Each school was evaluated against established best practices.

The study revealed a number of key findings:

  • Previous Velocify research found that calling a prospective student within one minute increases enrollment rates by 391 percent. However, neither for-profit nor nonprofit schools came close to best practices in how long they took to call an inquiry. For-profit schools were much faster at calling, with an average response of 6.5 hours vs. nonprofits who took 12 hours on average.
  • Nonprofits far outperformed their for-profit counterparts on speed-to-first-email, taking an average of three hours to respond vs. 41 hours by for-profits.
  • Many nonprofit and for-profit schools over-called their prospects. In fact, 30 percent of nonprofit and 42 percent of for-profit schools were excessively persistent, with more than 12 calls to a prospect over 22 days. Velocify research has determined that six is the optimal number of call attempts to maximize contact rates without over-investing time and resources into unresponsive prospects.
  • Despite the clear benefits of calling all prospective students back, 20 percent of nonprofit school prospects and 10 percent of for-profit school prospects did not receive a single call from their inquiries.

Part two of the study looked at the prevalence of productive communications best practices during the enrollment process, evaluating the same 10 for-profit and 10 nonprofit schools. A productive, personalized discovery conversation with a prospective student supports their decision process and builds excitement and enthusiasm for a school’s programs.

The researchers examined whether the admissions advisor who answered the phone requested key contact information, asked questions that invited a prospective student to begin the career clarification process, and whether they asked to advance the enrollment process for inquiries that seemed like a good fit.

The study found a variety of response strategies, many less than stellar were employed:

  • Despite the benefits of establishing a quick connection with a prospective student, nonprofit schools frequently failed to ask for basic contact information about the prospect. In fact, 63 percent of nonprofits and 13 percent of for-profits didn’t ask for the caller’s name.
  • Additionally, 50 percent of the nonprofits and 27 percent of for-profits evaluated in the study didn’t ask for a phone number. Identifying the best phone number for a prospective student early in a call is essential for follow-up or in case a call is dropped.

“When it comes to phone contact, many schools underperformed against both their peers and best practices, which limits the effectiveness of their enrollment management efforts,” said Greg Meiklejohn, Enrollment Resources’ co-founder and CEO. “Well-qualified inquiries are being lost through lack of contact strategy precision, benign neglect and transactional–instead of personalized–communications.”

A complimentary copy of the complete study can be downloaded directly from Velocify’s website.

About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura

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