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Research Report

Help prospective students complete enrollment with email nudges

August 25, 2016, By John Tannous, Director of Research Delivery

News of enrollment declines continue to persist across the community college sector. However, an even more alarming trend exists beyond the headlines. In the past decade, the average applicant conversion rate (i.e., the percentage of students who apply and register) decreased from 54% to 44%. This low conversion rate translates into millions of dollars in lost revenue.

Students Slipping Through Our Fingers

Community College Applicant Conversion Rate

Students slipping through our fingers

Low applicant conversion rates also lead community colleges to lose crucial marketing and outreach investments. Each year, in addition to in-person visits at local high schools and with employers, colleges spend thousands of dollars on print and digital advertising campaigns. These efforts directly influence students’ application decisions.

So, if an applicant fails to register, the institution not only misses a key opportunity to translate recruitment efforts into enrollment, they also lose out on the money they invested in those recruitment efforts.

Use precise reminders to keep applicants on track

Admittedly, applicants can fail to complete registration for a variety of reasons. For example, they are occupied with family or work responsibilities. Alternatively, applicants may defer enrollment because they are stuck or confused with the FAFSA and give up on the entire process.

Progressive community colleges recognize the numerous steps an applicant must complete to enroll. In response, these institutions send short, targeted, and action-driven email messages to provide applicants with the information they need to complete registration.

To ensure that applicants complete all the steps in the enrollment process, Lake-Sumter State College (LSSC) sends numerous personalized emails alerts. Admissions staff email applicants approximately five times during each admissions cycle.

Because they track applicants’ progress through the student information system, admissions staff can send targeted emails to students about the step they need to complete next: financial aid, orientation, or registration. In an effort to increase applicants’ open rate, staff use a mail merge to personalize the email greeting.

Targeted, early communications to applicants creates quick enrollment wins

Increasing applicant conversion rate is the fastest and simplest way to reverse enrollment declines, and LSSC’s missing step enrollment prompts are a quick but effective strategy that guides applicants to successful registration.

On average, it takes admissions staff only 25 minutes to set up each email campaign and send it to all relevant recipients. Despite the minimal time investment, LSSC reported a significant increase in their applicant conversion rate. From 2013 to 2015 the average conversation rate increased from 59% to 62%, which accounts for an additional $191,000 in enrollment revenue.

Reaching applicants at little cost

Colleges can improve their enrollment through expanded outreach to students earlier in the decision-making process. This recent article from EvoLLLution, an online higher education newspaper, profiles our latest best practice research that will help community colleges use digital technology to leverage more enrollment inquiries from prospective students.

Learn more about how you can reverse declining enrollment

Low applicant conversion rates reflect just one subset of enrollment challenges facing community colleges. Increased competition for students throughout the higher education sector has caused a significant drop in our market share. Check out our infographic to learn about eight marketing and recruitment practices that can help you reverse your declining enrollment. Download the infographic

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