Retention rates. Graduation rates. Financial aid. And now add transparency to the endless procession of yardsticks with which to measure student success and return on investment in the era of big data.
What’s a college recruiter to do? How do you maintain your search ranking and make the right student matches? What role does data governance play? And where exactly is this data published and is it searchable?
The trouble with today’s recruiting
For many schools, pinpointing the right student recruitment strategy has always been a challenge. Digital communications only makes it more complex. Besides traditional forms of marketing like direct mail and buying names from the big testing firms, the college recruitment marketing mix now relies heavily on SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and online advertising.
But that creates a problem for consumers: information overload. With information strewn across the Internet, it can be difficult to separate the useful from the useless, the reliable from the unreliable, the fact from fiction.
It creates essentially the same problem for colleges, which need trustworthy data to know whether they’re actually improving student success rates.
The case for data governance
As more institutions run up against challenges identifying, interpreting and trusting the quality of their data, the case for data governance continues to grow, and here’s why:
Simple terms don’t have simple definitions. A term like “student,” for instance, can mean one thing to you and something entirely different to a colleague. Are we talking full-time or part-time students? Degree-seeking or continuing ed? Data governance lets you define your terms so they’re universally understood and applied.
Siloed systems mean siloed data. College departments tend to collect data in diverse systems, which makes it hard to use the data holistically. You might have demographic data, for example, in one system, academic data in another and still more data in your LMS (Learning Management System). If you can combine these data points, you can see how likely a student is to succeed. If the data is siloed, you can’t. Data governance lets you create rules around who can access what data and how departments can share data.
Data drives your business. Data gives you the insights to provide a personalized student experience or prevent a student from dropping out. Data can show progress in your retention rates – and back up bids for more funding. Data lets you have confidence in your biggest decisions. Data governance gives you confidence in your data.
The good news from Google
As debate continues to swirl around data governance and transparency, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) reports that Google has just launched a new search feature to help consumers "better understand the potential outcomes of a school."
Using public data from the Department of Education’s College Scorecard and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, the new search experience will also pull information like enrollment rates and alumni "to provide a more comprehensive view…and improve access to information about educational opportunities."
The new breed of tracking services
Meanwhile, new services are emerging to help college recruiters depend less on traditional marketing strategies and more on data mining. Take Louisville, Kentucky-based Capture Higher Ed, which tracks how prospective students use university websites.
After engaging prospective students with a unique email link or mining personal data entered into college websites, Capture’s software can tell which web pages a prospect visited and how often, revealing meaningful data about digital breadcrumbs. Armed with such data, schools can create more targeted – and relevant – marketing.
As of April 2017, Capture had signed up over 50 colleges and universities, and the prior year tracked 20 million unique web visitors. “Even for small schools,” said Thomas Golden, Capture’s VP of data science, “we found there is a significant amount of inbound traffic that’s organic.”
How can you be sure your digital marketing efforts are working? Turn to companies like Portsmouth, NH-based Precision Campus, which specializes in analytics for higher ed. The startup’s data reports provide details on student outcomes, student retention, course success rates and more.
The key to recruiting in the big data era? Embrace the digital tools at your fingertips.
Tuition Management Systems (TMS) is the sponsor of this post. The sources who contributed ideas to this post do not endorse or recommend any commercial products or services, including those of TMS. All information and opinions of the contributors are provided for informational purposes only. As with any other service you seek, the recipient of the information is responsible for conducting appropriate research and making relevant decisions. TMS neither endorses, has any responsibility for, nor exercises control over the views of any contributor to this article or the accuracy of the information provided by any of them.