enrollment

Highlights from 2016 enrollment research: 7 things we learned this year about college students and higher education enrollment management

Ruffalo Noel Levitz

December 2, 2016

2016 research from Ruffalo Noel Levitz shows student trends and data that colleges and universities can use to guide their planning processes

Ruffalo Noel Levitz conducted numerous studies in 2016 to understand the behaviors and attitudes of prospective and current students in higher education as they relate to student recruitment, campus marketing, and student retention. We also examined current campus practices for enrollment and marketing. Here are just a few highlights from all that we learned this year:

The college website is still the #1 way to communicate with prospective students but the runner-up is now split between email and text messaging. In recent polls, campus officials rated text messaging and email almost equally effective, and 70 percent of prospective students indicated they were open to receiving text messages from colleges and universities. But fewer than half of campuses currently send mass recruiting texts. Download our 2016 Marketing and Student Recruitment Practices Benchmark Report, our 2016 E-Recruiting Practices Report, and watch for our forthcoming 2016 E-Expectations Report.

Colleges and universities can accomplish five goals at once by increasing student satisfaction. Many consumer studies have shown that increasing satisfaction builds positive word of mouth. Now a 2016 study has confirmed that increasing student satisfaction is also linked to lower student loan default rates, adding to earlier-confirmed links with higher retention rates, completion rates, and alumni giving. Is your institution measuring and rewarding improvements in satisfaction? See the research.

At $2,232 per student, private colleges spent nearly four times more than four-year public institutions on student recruitment last year. We also learned that budgets for recruitment and admissions remained flat over the past two years for the majority of four-year and two-year institutions. Is your institution tracking ROI on all of its recruiting activities and identifying new, high-payback opportunities? See our 2016 Report: Cost of Recruiting an Undergraduate Student.

40 percent of high school seniors apply to colleges they learn about during their senior year. In addition, 50 percent of seniors rule out institutions based only on “sticker price.” Is your institution focusing a substantial amount of its recruiting on seniors? And how are you emphasizing your institution’s value to skeptical students and parents? Download our 2016 Perceptions of Financial Aid Report and Infographic.

54 percent of adult prospective students have clicked on a paid online ad from a college or university, as have 47 percent of high school juniors, yet most institutions place these ads only occasionally. What new digital outreach strategies should your institution be considering in 2017? Download our 2016 Adult E-Expectations Report, our 2016 E-Recruiting Practices Report, and watch for our forthcoming 2016 E-Expectations Report.

Mathematics is a struggle for 51 percent of incoming adult learners, including 53 percent of incoming first-generation adult students. Our 2016 research shows a majority of incoming students agree with the statement, “Math has always been difficult for me.” Do you know how many students at your institution are struggling with mathematics and other areas inside and outside the classroom? Download our 2016 Adult Learner Motivation to Complete College Report.

95 percent of incoming traditional-age students express a desire to graduate, but only about half do. Our latest freshman research shows a wide array of personal, social, financial, and academic obstacles prevent students from reaching their goals. Have you explored the merits of using noncognitive surveys to better understand your incoming students’ needs early on, or do you wait until you see visible signs of struggle? See our 2016 Freshman Motivation to Complete College Report.

New edition of book, plans for 2017 research
Also in 2016, we released our 2016 update of the book, Strategic Enrollment Planning: A Dynamic Collaboration. Order this authoritative, step-by-step guide to help your campus prepare for major changes in today’s marketplace.

Looking ahead to 2017, we plan to release new benchmarks on college student satisfaction and motivation, new research on recruiting conversion and yield rates, a new study of student retention indicators, and updates on rising seniors’ perceptions of financial aid and high school students’ and parents’ perceptions of and preferences for college communications.

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To help educators stay on top of the many changes in higher education, we regularly conduct trend research and share our findings widely. Learn about several ways we provide information.


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Enrollment, Student Success