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In the world of college recruitment, the stakes are high. Enrollment is down for smaller private and public universities, driving some colleges and universities to implement new recruitment techniques.
As higher education marketers rethink how to approach students from all walks of life, some are discovering inventive new recruitment approaches which bring fresh takes to the application, college visit and financial aid process.
In the past, Digital Media Solutions has given a shout out to colleges and universities that executed the best advertising and marketing campaigns, and now we’ve turned our eye toward three compelling recruitment strategies being used nationwide.
1. The Best Ambassadors Are Students
Students generate a lot of buzz when they love where they go to school, and colleges are capitalizing on this for various recruitment campaigns:
- YouTube has become an oft-used tool in the recruitment game, with recruiters posting campus tours and student-centered videos that share school spirit and campus activities. Butler University hand delivers acceptance letters – with school mascot Blue the bulldog in tow – and records the reaction of their new “Butler Bound” students. Naturally, none of these kids say no, and the teary, proud reactions are enough to make any kid, and perhaps more importantly, any parent, take a closer look.
- MIT has a roster of student bloggers that share their backgrounds, daily lives and important personal or college-related events. Their student blog is well-designed, fun to read and a natural place to point students who want to know what life at MIT is really like.
- The University of Pittsburgh has introduced “Panthers Forward.” A financial aid program that gives qualified students $5000 at graduation, with the belief that these alumni, in turn, will give money back to the program, funding future debt-relief scholarships for students. There is no obligation to “pay it forward,” but founder Rohit Anand, himself a recent Pitt grad, hopes a fondness for Pitt and a personal understanding of the burdensome school loans many students must take on will provide an incentive to grow this newly launched program.
2. Price-Matching to Drive Opportunities for Recruitment at Smaller, Private Colleges
Recently, Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh and Oglethorpe University in Atlanta unveiled two different versions of price-matching tuition at larger state schools. Both programs offer students who have been accepted at larger public universities the chance to attend a smaller private school, in this case Robert Morris University or Oglethorpe University, for the same cost.
“The recently announced programs fit into a landscape in which colleges and universities seek punchy new ways to market to students who are worried about the price of college — but who aren’t necessarily familiar with the complex world of scholarships, unfunded aid, sticker prices and net prices,” according to a recent Inside Higher Ed article about the new initiatives.
Price-matching programs, like those at Robert Morris University and Oglethorpe University, can be scaled back if necessary, and can be very targeted to specific students, unlike permanent tuition changes which can lead to revenue loss because they eliminate those students that pay full price.
Only a small amount of student participation is necessary for the price-matching programs to be considered, according to leaders at Oglethorpe, who “expect 70 students to qualify under the program, up from 40 who would have qualified had it been in place this fall. That should push total fall enrollment up to 1,310. Projections show tuition revenue climbing while net tuition revenue per student holds steady.”
The challenge of price-matching, of course, can be convincing a student that got into a popular and well-ranked school, like University of Georgia or Penn State, that they’d rather go to a small, lesser-known college.
3. Virtual Reality Lets Prospective Students Experience Campus Life
Technology is essential to the current generation applying for college. Appealing to their native knowledge as tech users through a tool like virtual reality (VR) can up a college’s cool factor while “taking” prospective students to campus events or on tours they might not otherwise get to experience. Several ways VR is being used for college recruitment include:
- Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), an early adopter of VR in 2015, sent prospective students Google Cardboard headsets so they could experience the buzz of an art studio or a similar unique SCAD experience.
- VR booths set up in admissions offices allow prospective students visiting campuses to circumvent nasty weather that might prevent them from getting a real feel for campus life. VR can also take prospective students back in time to events like homecoming.
- Admissions officers are taking the Oculus Rift to college fairs to take prospective students on “visits” to campus without having to pay for plane tickets or hotel rooms.
Reimagine Your Higher Ed Recruitment
Students of all ages and backgrounds are carefully looking at which colleges or universities are best for them. DMS Education offers reliable marketing solutions to help you optimize your recruitment, and evolve your higher education marketing strategy so it’s relevant for today’s college students, offering a multi-channel, scalable approach to student enrollment.