a graphical representation of student heads with data coming out of their brains

Higher ed must learn to use student data more wisely

A lack of personalized communications, based on student data, can turn students off from your institution

When it comes to recruitment and alumni contributions, how you use student data can make a big difference. According to Students, alumni, and administrators agree: Data-driven communications make a difference, a survey from software and services provider Ellucian, students are increasingly using their expectations of and actual experiences with data and personalized communications to dictate their enrollment and future giving.

The annual survey, released last fall, shows that personalized communications weigh heavily in students’ decisions about which institution to attend.

Personalization & targeted communication are crucial

Eighty-seven percent of students who received personalized communications during their application process say it was an important factor in their choice of school. Forty-eight percent of students who applied to multiple colleges used poor communication as one reason not to attend a particular institution.

“Today’s students expect seamless personalized experiences from nearly every organization they come in contact with—whether they realize it or not,” says Katie Lynch-Holmes, Ellucian senior strategic consultant. “These expectations and actual experiences influence their choice of institution, long-term loyalty, and future giving.”

Related: How to make data meaningful for today’s students

Share student data wisely

What’s more, students pay attention to the data they offer and where it goes—or doesn’t go. They say they expect the large amounts of data they provide during college recruitment to be reflected back in tailored communications and experiences.

Students say they sometimes have to speak with at least four different people before they receive an answer to a single advising question, and 70 percent of students say they have had to submit their personal information three or more times during their first year of school.

Based on these latest findings, higher-ed administrators say leveraging student data across departments is imperative as they strive to meet students’ expectations for modern communications.

Eighty-seven percent of administrators think their institution will not be able to remain competitive without integrating student data across departments within five years.

Ninety-five percent of advisers wish they had access to more complete information on students’ financial, academic, and student life data, and 95 percent of advancement officials say they think they would have a better relationship with alumni if they had access to more data across the student lifecycle.

Related: 5 ways data humanizes the student experience

Student lifecycle data also has implications for future giving, the survey found—85 percent of alumni would donate more often if they knew their money funded organizations or initiatives they were involved with as students, and 51 percent of alumni who receive requests say less than 10 percent of those requests are tied to their personal interests or past campus activities.

Laura Ascione