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Providers on what colleges could be doing to better use data for admissions and recruitment

University Business, March 2018

In what ways do you see colleges falling short in utilizing data to make better admissions recruitment and acceptance decisions? What kinds of data should they be using more of or better?

“Many colleges are not viewing their admissions decisions through the lens of retention and degree completion. Institutions should understand the profile of their most successful students, refine their recruiting strategy accordingly and ensure they are allocating their financial aid to maximize both yield and retention.”

—Darren Catalano, CEO, HelioCampus

Link to main story: The higher ed data pitch

“There are many excellent, and often easily located, marketing data inputs that often go untapped. Website trends can yield critical insights into programs with rising market demand as well as the top student FAQs before applying. Tracking trends year over year is essential to knowing how student demand rises and falls, while changes in conversion performance can be a great indicator of program viability, student expectations or market needs.”

—Christina Fleming, vice president of marketing and enrollment solutions, Blackboard

“Colleges and universities today have access to a vast quantity of data gained throughout the admissions process. But data quantity isn’t the challenge—data actionability is. Institutions need to: 1) normalize their data, 2) identify problems throughout the student lifecycle, and 3) develop and implement tactics for improvement.”

—Matthew Schnittman, CEO, Helix Education

“Colleges should reverse the emphasis on collecting data on individual failure to collecting data on individual success. This requires establishing a universal definition of success, and requires collecting data from the moment of a student’s inquiry through on-time degree completion—challenging the subtle norm of low-expectations for on-time success.”

—Elena M. Cox, founder and CEO, vibeffect

“Higher education does an excellent job making use of data such as demographics, but lacks a way to understand prospective students’ wants and needs at a more granular level. Institutions should be using more advanced analytics to look at everything from AP scores and extracurricular activities, and to target recruits at an individual level who would best fit the school.”

—Rob Dolan, public sector market segment director, Tableau Software

“Many colleges use recruitment and admissions criteria that are established based on students that enrolled at the institution in the past.  For institutions who seek a diverse student body, these practices may be limiting to providing greater access. The College Board supports recruitment and admissions practices that consider not only traditional achievement measures, such as GPA and SAT scores, but also those that are indicators of a student’s social and academic context.”

—Bettina Donohue, executive director of enrollment programs and services, the College Board

“Identifying students who are a good academic, financial and social fit requires admissions professionals who are data scientists that excel in predictive analytics. Proactive institutions are looking at retention rates and net tuition revenue, by inquiry source and program. Those managing by gut-feel, rote process or no data need to make a fundamental shift from admissions as a standalone entity to one that embraces strategic enrollment management that looks at the entire student lifecycle.”

—Amy Glynn, vice president of financial aid and community, CampusLogic

“Incorporate the data-driven mentality earlier in the admissions cycle, when purchasing names and sending mailers. A lot of schools start analyzing after they have a pile of admits, but could have made significant increases if they had started with prospects. That would qualify that final pile of applicants and admits, making enrollment even easier.”

—James Cousins, senior statistical analyst, Rapid Insight Inc.

“Reducing the time from application to offer increases acceptance rates, and having better access to data is key to improving this turnaround time. Tracking both the application and admissions process requires both sides to have access to data that is timely and accurate, ensuring all tasks and activities are completed.”

–Peter Bruynzeel, vice president of customer satisfaction, Millennium Computer Systems Ltd.

“A greater effort should be made to provide financial opportunities and financial packages early on in the previous fall application process. Schools are not reaching out enough to students about submitting their requirements on time. … Schools should use FAFSA/ISIR data earlier on in the admission process. If a school’s application asks what other institutions the applicant is applying to, follow-up information should be sent out providing the benefits of their school compared to their competition.”

—Barb Calhoun, product manager, Jenzabar

Dawn Papandrea, a writer based on Long Island, New York, is a frequent contributor to UB.

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