Campus case study: How fall 2016 enrollment GREW via a counterintuitive DROP in applications

Ruffalo Noel Levitz

September 14, 2016

For Marquette University, freshman enrollment increased for fall 2016 by 163 students despite a 39 percent decrease in submitted applications. The difference? A stronger applicant pool. Marquette achieved a major boost by searching for the right students thanks to a shift in campus culture and data-driven strategies that targeted students who were more likely to enroll—not just fill out another application.

Better qualified pool of applicants a key to enrollment gain

In her first year as interim dean of admissions at this four-year private institution, Jean Burke saw the need for a change in student search and application generation. While Marquette’s application numbers had increased over the years through its search program, yield was not increasing. The university desired to reach more of the right applicants—those who would proceed to enroll after applying.

The quest to build a more qualified applicant pool and a more focused search program came with a challenge: Could the university trust the analytics from Ruffalo Noel Levitz (RNL) which showed, counterintuitively, that yield would increase with a decrease in the number of applications?

To conduct a more intentional search based on using analytics to reach a more specific audience, the university’s leaders took a leap of faith. Why? Because getting more of the right applications was the goal—not getting more applications overall. Also, the staff realized that having a smaller search pool would make it possible to spend more time and resources on students who were more likely to enroll.

“Our staff was so excited to hear that we were going to make this change,” Burke said. “It was a risk, but I felt that it was a calculated risk.”

To set the wheels in motion, Burke built a team to work with Ruffalo Noel Levitz to implement the new strategy.

Results from Marquette University's use of RNL predictive analytics

 The communications flow was revamped in order to send appropriate messages to the right prospective students while effectively capturing the look and feel of Marquette. Throughout the year, transparent communication between the campus team and other leaders kept the project on track in a supportive manner. This involved difficult discussions with the provost—Daniel Meyers—that were ultimately met with patience and understanding.

“Each quarter as we’d meet with the board of trustees, we’d do the enrollment report. Fall was a little nerve-wracking, but to his [Meyers’] credit, he was very supportive, even though I think he still had some reservations,” Burke said.

As the May 1 National Candidates Reply Date approached, the team became more confident in reaching its goal of 1,935 freshman deposits.

Keep reading the full story – click here to download Marquette University case study

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Call 800.876.1117 or email ContactUs@RuffaloNL.com to find out how you and your team can follow the example of Marquette to build and cultivate a stronger applicant pool using Ruffalo Noel Levitz Enrollment Marketing Services.

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