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How to Boost Graduate Enrollment

Episode 172

November 7, 2023 36 minutes


EAB’s Sian Blake and Val Fox offer growth strategies for institutions that have grown increasingly reliant on their graduate programs to compensate for shrinking undergraduate enrollment. Sian and Val review best practices from schools that are finding success in growing graduate programs and offer tips on the best lead-generation tools you should be using. The two also share advice on smarter ways to set goals that are ambitious but still achievable.



0:00:11.9 Sian Blake: Hello and welcome to Office Hours With EAB. Today we are joined by two experts on EAB’s Adult Learner Recruitment team, who discuss the increasingly difficult task of meeting enrollment goals for graduate programs.

0:00:25.8 SB: Our guests share tips for building a stronger pipeline of prospective students and discuss differences in recruiting millennials versus Gen Z students who are becoming an increasingly important target market. Give this episode a listen and enjoy.


0:00:46.8 SB: Hi Val. Welcome to Office Hours With EAB. How are you doing today?

0:00:50.9 Val Fox: Sian, it’s so good to be here with you and great to talk a little bit more about some of these pressing issues that we’re seeing in the higher ed landscape.

0:01:00.8 SB: Yeah, absolutely, I’m excited to chat today. Specifically, we’re gonna be talking about graduate and enrolment and some of the importance of these programs that can put a landscape around it.

0:01:09.6 SB: I know we also plan to chat about some of the best practices on how successful schools are growing market share, but I thought to kick us off, maybe we should do a quick round of introductions.

0:01:20.1 SB: To introduce myself, my name is Sian Blake and I’m actually leading the team at EAB that’s focused on lead generation, specifically for graduate adult programs.

0:01:28.6 SB: I get the pleasure of working with you, Val. I know you’re a wealth of knowledge, so I will let you go ahead and introduce yourself and some of the experience you have in the space.

0:01:38.1 VF: Thanks, Sian. Well, Val Fox. I’ve been with EAB for six months, but I’ve spent about a decade in higher ed, and prior to joining EAB where I’m senior director for Adult Learner Recruitment, but prior to that, I’ve been working in the trenches with my feet to the fire in higher education.

0:02:01.1 VF: I was the chief marketing officer at a private four-year institution in the Boston region, and really can relate to a lot of the different trends we’re seeing. I was in that space and wore a lot of different hats, and enrollment marketing was a really important one.

0:02:15.9 VF: This kind of work is near and dear to me, so I love talking about it and sharing what I’m seeing in the landscape. And today in any given week, I’m probably speaking with dozens of university leaders who are coming from a range of schools, public, private, small regional, large national, and these trends are all hitting people in similar, yet unique ways.

0:02:41.6 VF: But yes, it’s a challenging landscape and I’m really excited to be part of it. Prior to higher ed, my background was consumer marketing and e-commerce, so quite a pivot, but a lot of the same kind of tactics really come into play when we talk about…

0:02:57.2 VF: At EAB we talk about adult learners, these are really adult degree completers and these are graduate students, right? And so just setting the landscape there that a lot of the same trends in attracting, engaging those audiences, some of them come straight out of the consumer marketing playbook.

0:03:14.7 VF: So love what I’m doing and excited to work with great colleagues like Sian. So thanks for having me, Sian.

0:03:22.1 SB: You’re welcome. It’s always so interesting speaking with you, Val, ’cause you’ve such a good perspective of all these different sides from being on the consumer side working directly for a school, and now really this consulting approach that you can take to speaking with multiple schools.

0:03:36.0 SB: I’m always curious, I’m just gonna throw you for a loop here, ’cause I know we didn’t plan to chat about this, but what was the most surprising thing to you coming out from working directly at a school, in your own world, to then having these conversations with multiple institutions every single week?

0:03:48.0 SB: What has surprised you the most? Or what have you learned that’s really been really interesting to you?

0:03:56.1 VF: Well, I came from a four-year private, and I would say that, you know, I thought, “Oh,” I’d seen a lot of focused on undergrad recruitment and grad recruitment, I figured I’d seen one, I’ve seen it all.

0:04:10.2 VF: And that’s not the case at all. It’s like you see one school in higher ed, you’ve seen one school. Every school has a unique set of competitors, programs, institutional strategy, initiatives and challenges and org structure.

0:04:27.1 VF: And so each conversation, I love going in it’s sometimes one part therapy, one part strategy, but I feel like I learned so much, maybe the therapy is going both ways, right? [chuckle]

0:04:40.1 VF: I learned so much and I just love having these conversations because I find all of them really eye-opening. So I think that that’s probably the biggest surprise, is we can take for granted that we really know this landscape, and yet there are so many different kind of wrinkles and nuances when we talk to each partner.

0:05:04.1 SB: Yeah, absolutely. That’s interesting. Well, hopefully what we can do today is gather all of that information knowledge that you have taken in from all these conversations and your own experience and share some of that specifically related to graduate and adult programs.

0:05:18.5 SB: So to really help us that the context here, I would love your perspective on this, but do you think four-year institutions are more focused today on graduate enrolment?

0:05:25.7 SB: And perhaps they were in the past, and if so, what do you think is driving that increased focus?

0:05:33.1 VF: Yeah, great question. I can tell you that when I was working in higher ed, I would say there’s a little bit of benign neglect for the graduate programs, and this is going back maybe 10, 15 years ago.

0:05:47.5 VF: But that’s not the case at all. What we’re seeing today is that theaters are, without a doubt, consistently focused on graduate enrollment, in the graduate landscape for a couple of key reasons.

0:06:03.5 VF: I think the first big one that we’re seeing is that they’re trying to make up a deficit in what’s becoming an increasingly troubling landscape in the undergrad market. So undergrad, many of us know that there’s been a decline in undergraduate enrollment from 2010 to 2020, it’s about a 12% drop.

0:06:23.2 VF: And that’s really due to 18 years ago, there were fewer babies being born. So we’ve been talking about the enrollment cliff for a while, and it’s here, it’s happening. So we’re seeing that happening in the undergraduate space.

0:06:38.1 VF: We’re also seeing undergraduates increasingly choosing not to pursue higher education. There’s been a 32% rise in this non-consumption choice, which is, “I’m going to do something else.” And so who’s making up the difference?

0:06:53.8 VF: When we see that tuition revenue fall for institutions, it’s graduate and adult enrollments are making up that difference. So when we survey leaders, 47% of them have told us that they are more reliant on grad and adult learner, and when we look at the revenue, just to back that up, 47% are saying yes, it’s more important.

0:07:17.8 VF: But when we look at the actual revenue, the tuition revenue stated by institutions, back in 2018 it was about 40% of all tuition revenue was coming from grad and adult audiences, and now it’s 42. So it’s trending up. So I think that’s happening.

0:07:36.0 VF: We also consistently ask and survey leaders, “What are your top priorities?” and 100% of university presidents, you rarely get university presidents to agree, [chuckle] 100% of them agree that graduate and adult enrollment is a higher or moderate priority for them, same with provosts, 100%, and about 91% of surveyed vice presidents of enrollment management.

0:08:02.1 VF: So clearly this is in the water, this is something being spoken about with boards and at cabinet level, and it’s a key area of interest.

0:08:12.9 VF: A couple of other things. When we look at what’s happening, not only is it more important, but it’s harder. And so I know we’ll talk more about lead generation and why it’s so critical today.

0:08:23.6 VF: But what’s happening with just finding more students to fill these adult-serving programs is getting more challenging because demographics are also shifting.

0:08:38.5 VF: We used to think of adult learners as being millennials, and we got really good at speaking to millennials, but they’re now increasingly being supplanted by Gen Z.

0:08:50.0 VF: In 2031, about 60% of adult learners will be Gen Z. And they’re a really different audience, they’re growing up like they’re digital natives, they’re online all the time, they have a much higher bar for communication and for outreach than millennials. So that’s a challenge.

0:09:09.9 VF: And then the last challenge, as if that weren’t enough, the last challenge I wanna mention is that we’re also seeing demand for graduate and  adult programs as unpredictable as the economy. It really follows economic cycles.

0:09:24.3 VF: So we saw a bump in enrollments for graduate programs during the recession, a little bit of a smaller bump during the COVID-19 pandemic, but then after these little bumps and no open wants to pray for a bump, no one wants to pray for a recession to grow enrollments, that’s just not wise strategy and it’s not something we can control.

0:09:50.5 VF: But after these bumps, we typically see these declines and that’s what we’re forecasting for 2022 and the out years, is a decline and eventually a normalization at about 1% growth.

0:10:04.2 VF: So that’s not a rosy picture, right? Coming out of changing demographic trends, changing and drops and decline where best case is a flat to 1% growth rate, schools increasingly need to get really scrappy and smart about how they fill seats in these programs.

0:10:30.8 SB: That’s a really interesting, Val. And you mentioned a couple of things that kind of stood out to me that I wanna circle back to. One question I have for you, is we spoke a lot about graduate programs to offset some of the challenges we’re finding in the undergrad space, but I’m also curious if you’ve seen any impact from the pandemic on graduate programs as well?

0:10:48.9 SB: So one that comes to mind for me is like the healthcare industry, for instance, where there is a shortage of nurses and we’re in demand for more nurses, or education with teachers. Have you seen that cause any increasing pressure on graduate programs?

0:11:04.1 VF: Yeah, I’ll pull up a slide. That’s a great question. We have seen some differences across the programs. In the 2020s, we’re seeing computer science degrees really take off. We’re seeing about 21% growth in computer and information sciences.

0:11:24.7 VF: And that’s the underlying trend there. It’s kind of this bounce back from international students is driving quite a bit of that. So I wanna point that out.

0:11:36.7 VF: Engineering is also seeing a nice bump, about 5%. But then you mentioned health professions, you’d think, okay, shouldn’t that be more in the zeitgeist or consciousness of prospective students, like what…

0:11:52.1 VF: We’ve all come out of this pandemic thinking how grateful we are for the health professions, but we’re actually seeing a decline in the demand for health profession degrees.

0:12:04.9 VF: One of the underlying theories there is that as students who maybe were undergraduate students are now looking at, “What kinds of careers do I wanna pursue long-term?” and they’ve seen their parents and peers perhaps, struggle with going in into fields like that that require being on site.

0:12:27.7 VF: A lot of people are opting for professions where they can work virtually, right? And so some things like why you’re seeing some of the STEM areas pop, whereas health professions are down, public administration and social work is down, and education is down.

0:12:45.1 VF: So that’s kind of some of the hypothesis behind some of what’s happening with those career choices that people are making.

0:12:53.5 SB: Very interesting. You also mentioned a difference between millennials and now transitioning to Gen Z. So as a millennial, I’m always curious as your perspective from marketing, what do you think is a great example of how you need to market differently to Gen Z versus how you’re marketing to millennials in the past?

0:13:13.6 VF: Yeah, Gen Z, they’ve lived through a lot. They’ve seen firsthand, they probably remember the recession of 2008-2009. They’ve come out of this COVID-19. And they’re so pragmatic, they’re worried about losing jobs, they want careers that really will sustain them for the long term financially.

0:13:37.8 VF: And so they’re very much… They’re coming at this with a really pragmatic frame of mind, where the best way to break through is to make it very clear for them what the outcomes of these career paths.

0:13:52.0 VF: So as much as you can do to even regionally break down and source labor market analytics to support the career growth, the skills growth, the in-demand kind of opportunities that they will have access to with the degrees that you’re offering.

0:14:10.4 VF: Even better when you can tie that back to hear the employers that are consistently on our campuses recruiting for these kinds of master’s programs. And so the Gen Z students that we’re talking to today care deeply about that.

0:14:24.9 VF: They’re also, they care deeply about the kind of experience they have with you as a brand. These are, we talked about them being digital natives, they have… The access that they have to, whether it’s, “I want a car to pick me up in five minutes, so I’m gonna use Uber or Lyft,” and have that kind of immediate access.

0:14:50.7 VF: They expect schools to be able to serve them in a digital experience that is almost on par with what we’d consider traditional consumer brands. They don’t differentiate.

0:15:03.2 VF: They assume that every interaction they’re gonna have with a brand will be, will have this real on-demand, seamless experience for them. So as higher ed marketers, we need to think about how are we removing friction points in the experience for students.

0:15:23.6 VF: We can talk about that from a whole host of ways, that could be a whole other… Maybe that’s part two of our conversation and other podcast on. But I have lots of ideas about that, as in my days in higher ed, I think I probably went through three or four website redesigns with specific focus on creating really seamless enrollment experiences for students.

0:15:48.1 SB: Okay. Well, to be continued on how to serve Gen Z. But it does bring up some important points when we talk about these adult-serving programs, and you mentioned the importance of growing graduate and adult programs. Who we’re marketing those programs to, it’s millennials and now Gen Z. I’m sure then comes to mind of, “Okay, well, do we do online? Do we do in person?”

0:16:09.8 SB: One of the things that I’m hearing in my conversations, it is really interesting about online and these hybrid programs is that it’s introducing new competitors in your backyard, which also brings up the topic of this competitive landscape, right?

0:16:22.1 SB: Everyone is investing in graduate adult programs, so that means there’s more programs popping up every single day. And then with the online program such as online MBAs, all of a sudden you’ve got a new neighbor. I also see a lot of these satellite campuses popping up.

0:16:38.2 SB: So I’d love your perspective on the competitive landscape now of these graduate and adult program, and who’s winning this game, who is being successful?

0:16:45.4 SB: ‘Cause the truth and the reality is, is there can’t be a million programs out there and everyone succeed. There’s kind of a set pool of students for these programs.

0:16:55.0 SB: So I’d love your insight and perspective on how to succeed in this space?

0:16:57.6 VF: Yeah. We see two scenarios playing out kind of at a macro level, when you think of who’s winning at this game. There are these markets that can be dominated by one large player with let’s say a very large online presence. And it’s not always the Southern New Hampshires or the Grand Canyons.

0:17:20.5 VF: But I will say they’re spending a lot. They’re spending a lot in mass market kind of plays and have done a good job being first to market with these mega online brands.

0:17:34.0 VF: What we also see and where the schools that we work with often have opportunities and white space is to kind of double down on their regional brand and creating these really close ties to industry, where we talked about Gen Z caring deeply about these off-ramps and the jobs and employment outcomes.

0:17:55.2 VF: So schools that are doing well in their own backyard, in their own market, have these incredible strong pathways to industry, but they’re also doing a lot to speak to and reach the right fit audiences in their own backyard.

0:18:08.5 VF: And those are in what we’d say are more equitable markets, where there are schools that… There’s no one school that has more than, let’s say, 15% market share.

0:18:21.8 VF: Schools are investing in growing their lead pipeline and attracting the right fit students, and they’re not battling it out with one huge dominant player, but speaking to the students that are a good fit for them and making the case that this program is going to set you on the right path.

0:18:41.4 VF: And doing it in a really intentional way with really strong marketing execution up and down the funnel. And up at the funnel is really starting with just building a funnel that goes beyond some of their known audiences.

0:18:55.3 VF: Some schools are really good at speaking to their, let’s say, seniors and offering four plus one programs, or their alumni and saying, “Come back and get these additional skills and degrees.” But that’s not enough.

0:19:08.5 VF: Schools really start to need to think about expanding their addressable audience beyond people that already know who they are, and reaching net new audiences through lead generation, really.

0:19:23.3 SB: I recently learned of a stat, Val, and you might not even know this stat yet. We were talking about on our team, we were looking at the average distance of a responder to a school. So when speaking about online and hybrid programs, do they need to be local? Can we market across the country?

0:19:39.9 SB: And we actually found that even for the online programs, the average distance of a responder was 134 miles, which was really interesting to me that location did matter.

0:19:49.0 SB: I’m curious to your perspective on that?

0:19:53.8 VF: Yeah, absolutely. And I’m surprised to hear that it’s expanded. Traditionally, we’d hear like 60, maybe 100. So 134. Look, that might be speaking to the fact that people aren’t commuting for work anymore, they’re getting more comfortable with this idea of distance. Distance work, distance learning.

0:20:13.1 VF: I do think 134 miles still speaks to a market that is probably within the state or close boundaries. You don’t have to be a national brand or think about buying mass media at a national level to succeed here.

0:20:32.7 VF: We see lots of schools doing really, really well, again, bearing down on their local market and making sure that they are reaching students, perspective students in their backyard who may know them, but not know the programs that they offer. And fully understand, we’ve got some…

0:20:51.0 VF: I’m really familiar with the business space, for example, and there are some emerging programs in the business space for students who might not know what a career in analytics, data analytics, business analytics really leads to. Right?

0:21:07.0 VF: So lots of schools, the onus is on schools to really explain and make that connection for students to really connect the dots with the outcomes. And so they may have strong brands in their region, but really it’s then, okay, how does that translate to attracting and kind of bringing students through all the way through to an application for a particular program.

0:21:32.3 SB: Interesting. And that’s kind of a good segue to my next question. How do we actually do that? There are, obviously you brought up Southern New Hampshire University, schools with a huge budget like that, but a lot of conversations I have, budget is always a concern. I am yet to have the conversation where someone says, “I have as much money as I want to spend.”

0:21:51.3 SB: So with that, how do schools effectively market themselves and their programs and connect those dots that you mentioned, but on a reasonable budget, in a realistic manner that can still drive results and hit some of these enrollment goals that they are given that seem challenging and large, but also have a lot of pressure behind them?

0:22:13.8 VF: Yeah. Well, I would say that if I think about this in terms of crawling and walking, not to rehash this, but just quickly state that from a crawling perspective, crawl-walk-run, crawling is…

0:22:29.6 VF: The table stakes today are really just making sure you’re doing a good job with your existing audiences, be it alums or seniors, and building out outreach to those.

0:22:41.8 VF: But the next step from that, I think is where schools really need to start getting a little bit more sophisticated with just setting aside budget to test into generating new leads. And this means buying leads sometimes. Sometimes it’s generating leads, sometimes it’s buying leads.

0:22:56.2 VF: And let me start with maybe generating leads. There are plenty of different, it could be schools are trying to do this in-house or with a particular media partner or a partner like us at EAB, that specializes in finding prospective students through media channels.

0:23:16.7 VF: And generating a lead means promoting your programs and the outcomes on, let’s say channels like paid search, paid social, or digital display. Let me break those down a little bit further.

0:23:30.1 VF: I’d say paid search is a great channel for finding near-term strong leads who are expressing interest in something. Because they’re telling you they are searching for, let’s say, “A master’s in social work near me,” could be the term they’re entering.

0:23:48.6 VF: And so it’s very clear that they are interested in this, right? They’re sending all the signals that they’re interested and ready to start making a decision and gathering information.

0:24:00.9 VF: Whereas paid social is LinkedIn, TikTok, Instagram, there’s all sorts of different platforms. It might be better for… I see that channel and those channels as better for just educating. There’s so much more context and information that can be shared in that kind of a venue and platform.

0:24:19.5 VF: It can be expensive, but both paid social and search need to be paired with really strong nurturing strategies. And by that, that’s just thinking about the journey you’re gonna take someone, a prospective student or lead-through to get them to apply.

0:24:37.3 VF: So I think those are some tried and true lead generation strategies. There’s also digital display, which you can think of as let’s say, running contextual ads. Let’s say you’re trying to attract business students and so articles about key business topics.

0:24:52.8 VF: Or if you’re trying to let’s say, find students interested in STEM programs like science media, running ads on science media that are reaching your geographic region, that are going to align with your geographic region and geo-targeting. Those are some traditional kind of lead generation strategies.

0:25:15.6 VF: But there’s also just buying leads and I think school should be carving out money to buy leads the same way that they might be thinking about generating leads on their own.

0:25:30.5 VF: And so buying leads can look like test taker lists. We know that with test optional programs in place today, those are fewer and far between, but there are also some great comparison tools, grad program comparison tools, and sites like Appily.

0:25:46.8 VF: So Sian, I know you’re the expert on that, I’d love to hear your take on how your partners think about Appily and buying leads in relation to the portfolio of other tactics they’re using?

0:26:01.8 SB: Yeah, absolutely. We’re hearing so much of what you’re saying today, that competition is increasing. There’s more pressure on these programs, they got enrollment goals that they have to meet, and they need an additional stream of leads to fill that top of funnel.

0:26:17.1 SB: But it seems… Like today I’ve heard this directly from a school a couple of weeks ago, and I thought they phrased it so well, that there’s one pool, and everyone seems to be going to that same pool and the pool was drying up a little bit.

0:26:33.3 SB: So with that our school, or EAB came in and said, “Hey, how can we help graduate and adult programs grow enrolment by adding additional stream to their funnel as complementary to the work that they’re already doing?” So everything that you just said, Val, in terms of paid search, paid media, etcetera.

0:26:50.0 SB: And that’s where we built Appily Advance, which is a lead generation platform specifically for graduate and adult programs. And this was actually born out of Cappex, which I don’t know if anyone listening to this podcast is familiar with Cappex, but it was actually a standalone company and founded back in 2006 that was focused on connecting traditional first time freshman with institutions.

0:27:09.6 SB: And when AB acquired Cappex in 2020, we said, “Hey, this is a great concept that we should also apply to the graduate adult learner space, which has its own set of unique challenges,” which we’ve talked through today.

0:27:22.5 SB: And after a couple of iterations, we’ve come out with Appily Advance now, and what we’re trying to do is really generate high quality, high intent leads for graduate and adult programs.

0:27:32.0 SB: So currently, we’re serving graduate healthcare, graduate business and adult degree completer programs, and we’re doing this specifically by one, going out there and taking a no stone unturned approach to finding all the prospective students through a very diverse multi-channel media outreach strategy, paid search, paid digital, but also some proprietary EAB resources we have, such as our Navigate CRM platform with over 6 million users and some affiliate partner sites as well.

0:28:01.0 SB: And then we’re actually directing those perspective students that we find to the Appily Advance site, which provides and supports career and program discovery.

0:28:11.0 SB: And through a quiz, we’re able to interact with the prospective students to qualify their intent of returning to school and getting a graduate degree, but also gather a lot of really valuable information about them, which we can then share back to our partners through a lead, to then put into their marketing funnel.

0:28:29.9 SB: So just like you talked about balance, filling that top of funnel with these high-quality leads that have raised their hand and said, “Hey, I am looking to go back to school, I am looking for graduate healthcare, graduate business or get my bachelor’s degree. I just don’t know where I wanna go quite yet.”

0:28:44.0 SB: And then it’s up to the school to nurture those leads and educate them on why they would be the right fit. Which is probably a big piece of this, Val, too, is making sure that you are nurturing that funnel correctly.

0:28:56.5 SB: I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of cases where we can fill the top of the funnel, but what comes next, it’s also really important.

0:29:04.3 VF: Yeah, it certainly is. Going back to our conversation about Gen Z, you can imagine that they’re very, very… If they see a message that isn’t relevant, they immediately will tune a school out.

0:29:20.1 VF: So it’s really important that any kind of top-of-funnel work is supported then by a really robust nurturing and journey sequence for those leads, for sure.

0:29:34.4 SB: Something I hear a lot too, Val, and would be curious to hear your perspective on it, is that,” I know I need this, I know I need more leads, but I don’t have the budget. Or I can’t convince anyone to spend money on this. I’ve got these big goals, but we’re expected to do more with less.”

0:29:51.0 SB: What do you say to those schools? How do you coach them through those conversations that maybe they need to have internally when investing in more paid media or investing in some complementary sources such as Appily Advance leads?

0:30:05.9 VF: Sure. It’s a good skill to learn how to speak in a language that your chief financial officer or those controlling a budget can understand as an enrollment marketer. And I became painfully aware and learned how to do this over time.

0:30:23.3 VF: But as enrollment marketers, you really need to think about a couple of key numbers. And starting with, everyone’s probably pretty clear with how many students do you need in a program for a particular… For the next enrollment cycle, let’s say.

0:30:41.6 VF: You know what your bottom-of-funnel end goal is, so working back from that, you can start thinking about, alright, how many existing leads do you have? And let’s just say we’re trying to fill an MBA program.

0:30:56.1 VF: So your top top-of-funnel would be like how many existing leads you’ve got, and you should know your application rate, you should know your accept rate, you should know your yield rate.

0:31:05.7 VF: And so you can kind of look at, alright, if I just steady state with the existing leads that I’ve got in my pipeline, what can we expect enrollment for this MBA program to be for the next enrollment cycle? Let’s say that’s the next fall.

0:31:21.0 VF: And based on that shortfall, let’s say there’s a shortfall, you then need to start thinking about how many additional leads do I need to put at the top of the funnel, to make up that gap?

0:31:33.6 VF: All other things being equal, maybe you can inflect and then grow your application rate, but assume that all things are gonna be equal there, and you’re doing your best and optimizing your application rate, and your yield rate and everything else, but you’ve got this, maybe you need an additional 1500 leads, let’s say, to reach that enrollment goal.

0:31:53.9 VF: And you go out, you do some shopping around and you think, “Okay, well I’ve come back with some different great sources,” maybe it’s a combination of test taker, maybe you’re thinking about Appily Advance, and you come back and you’re like, “I need $30,000 to fill that 1500 extra leads. To buy those 1500 extra leads, the high-quality leads that I’m gonna need to grow and hit that enrollment goal.”

0:32:17.4 VF: Well, to make the case to let’s say your CFO, knowing what the net tuition revenue is for the MBA, let’s say the net tuition revenue per student is 25,000, you expect the 1500 leads to net you an additional five students, which then in turn you’re gonna reach your goal.

0:32:36.0 VF: So you’ve spent, let’s say 30,000, you’ve generated 125,000 because it was five students in 25K net tuition revenue. So your ROI is that 125,000 incremental revenue you’re earning, divided by the 30,000 you invested. It’s a simple return on investment. And so you’re at about a little over four on your ROI.

0:33:05.8 VF: So going back to the people that are holding onto those purse strings and making this calculation and showing these numbers, will really make a difference in a few ways.

0:33:15.8 VF: One, it will indicate to them that you are you understand the mechanics and how you’re going to be held accountable and work towards those numbers. And two, it kind of holds everybody accountable. That if this works, and I’ve seen this happen. With me, for example, it worked really well when you can make this kind of a case and it bears out, then you can go back and make the case for more.

0:33:40.0 VF: And if it doesn’t bear out, but you came close, you’re still modeling and tracking everything, so you can continue going back and making the case to invest in this diversification and growth of your top of the funnel.

0:33:55.1 SB: And it sounds like from everything you talked about today, it’s important, right? The undergraduate cliff is happening. These graduate and adult programs are huge revenue streams for the future, so we have to invest in it upfront with filling the top of the funnel, especially with the competitive landscape you touched on as well.

0:34:12.4 SB: Is there anything that you think I’m missing there that you want to double tap on or to emphasize, that you think would be helpful when thinking about graduate and adult enrollment before we wrap up today?

0:34:25.8 VF: I would say just continue. I think schools need to continue setting aside money to test into some new channels and tactics. Because I’ve seen too many schools rework the same playbook year after year and given all the dynamics in the market and the changes that we’re seeing, what you did last year is not gonna get you to where you need to go this year.

0:34:50.0 VF: So continuing to evolve and test. And even if it doesn’t bear out, knowing what you can do moving forward to inflect the change you need by tracking and measuring everything, you’ll get there.

0:35:04.9 VF: And you’re gonna win support from the organization, especially that budget and resource support you’re gonna need moving forward.

0:35:11.3 SB: I love that. I think you’re completely right. You need to continue to innovate and evolve, and not be hesitant to test additional sources or channels. I love that.

0:35:22.3 SB: Well, thank you, Val, for joining Office Hours With EAB today. I learned a ton. I hope everyone else did. And I’m looking forward to chatting with you more.

0:35:30.8 VF: Thanks, Sian. It was a real pleasure.


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