How Colleges Use Texting to Increase Student Enrollment and Improve Retention
The higher education industry has changed over the last several years and the change is negatively affecting new enrollments and graduation rates. Both metrics impact revenue and are crucial to growth and survival for any college or university.
According to a 2018 prediction by the late Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen, 50% of colleges and universities will close or go bankrupt in the next ten to fifteen years and the Dept. of Education recently sponsored a study that concluded that the closure rate for small colleges and universities will triple in the coming years.
To back up the prediction, statistics showed a 1.3% decline in college enrollment in the fall of 2019, a drop of more than 231,000 students from 2018. Add that to an average 40 percent dropout rate, higher education institutions of all types need to find ways to improve performance.
Demographic shifts, rapid growth in online education, free internet-based learning options, industry innovation and a fully mobile-centric student base are all contributing to these challenges.
Leading colleges and universities (both private and public) are attacking these issues head on with strategic investments and operational improvements. These include investing in instructional design to upgrade course content, embracing online educational options, using technology to lower operating costs, and implementing systems that are fully set up for today’s mobile environment including mobile communications with potential and existing students.
Today’s students manage their entire lives through their phones. As a result, text messaging has become an essential tool to engage and communicate with students and prospects in real-time to increase enrollment, improve retention, and produce higher graduation rates. Over 97% of text messages are read in 3 minutes or less – nothing else compares. Universities must implement enterprise-grade, scalable texting systems to effectively interact with today’s students.
The best messaging platforms allow university administrators to create instant 2-way conversations as well as mass notifications to remind students and prospects about deadlines and other important university information. The fastest growing universities use text messaging to increase response rates in admissions, retention, student services, financial aid, career services and alumni relations.
Here’s how colleges and universities are using text messaging to increase student enrollment and improve retention.
Mass Text Message Notifications
Sending text message notifications and alerts ensures students see urgent or time-sensitive information. According to University Business, two-thirds of incoming college students and their parents find text messages with key information or important dates helpful.
Mass text message notifications require short codes (5-6 digit shortened phone numbers) instead of long codes (normal 10 digit phone numbers). Short codes are special numbers designated by wireless carriers to send large numbers of simultaneous text messages for urgent alerts, opt-in sms marketing campaigns and other mass notifications. Using long codes for mass texting will cause messages to be flagged and blocked as spam.
Below are some examples of mass text notifications that colleges are sending to their students. These notifications can be streamlined yet personalized by inserting unique student information (eg. name, appointment date, interests) when a texting platform is integrated with a CRM or SIS.
With so many applications to fill out and deadlines to remember, it’s easy for prospective students to forget when certain forms are due. Make it easy for students by sending them text message reminders with due dates. Be sure to include links within the message to allow quick access and on-time completion.
New Student Orientation Notifications
Orientation events help newly enrolled students succeed. To ensure new students attend all necessary orientation classes and events, send text message notifications a day or two before, as well as the morning of the event.
Campus Tour Reminders
It takes significant effort and marketing dollars to finally get prospective students interested in visiting your school, so it is absolutely critical to make sure they actually attend. Text message reminders with dates, times and addresses can dramatically increase attendance and reduce no show rates. Keep in mind that prospective students may have signed up for several campus tours, so make sure they go to yours with a quick reminder.
Scholarships capture the interest of prospective students. Send prospects a quick text message to show scholarship options and ensure they see the financial incentives available for your university.
School Event Notifications
Build a sense of community with students by promoting school events. Text message reminders have immediate impact and produce proven results to boost event attendance.
Career Fair Notifications
Accreditors require universities and colleges to publish job placement rates and this has become a critical metric that parents and students review when selecting a college. Set your students up for success by sending them text message notifications for upcoming career fairs & events. Increase attendance and help students can get ahead of the curve by meeting potential employers, learning about the interview process, exploring internships and finding the right job before they graduate.
Campus Emergency Alerts
Student and staff safety is the number one priority for any school. Whether it’s a school closure due to construction or an emergency on campus, make sure your SMS provider can quickly send out mass text message alerts on a short code. When it comes to emergencies, every second counts.
Remind prosepective students who have shown interest in your school by sending them a promotional message that highlight the benefits of enrolling. Keep the message short and allow prospective students to easily learn more by responding to the message.
Two-way Text Conversations
Texting is conversational by nature, so leverage this personal communication channel to engage with students and increase their chance for success. A texting research study by Lindsay Page and Ben Castleman on Summer Melt found that 86% of students reported text messages prompted them to complete a task they hadn’t finished.
When texting with students one-to-one, long codes are recommended to enable both voice and text conversations over phone numbers that are familiar to the student.
When prospective students research schools, they often have questions. Make it easy by sending a text instead of gettting lost in their email or with an unanswered call. By losing valuable time, prospective students may have already moved on to another choice. Let students know they can text you by promoting your phone number on your website, emails, flyers and other marketing materials. Also, include an easy click-to-call button in your text message.
Going from high school to college is a big change for students. Counselors who show they care about their students’ success and overall experience can increase retention and graduation rates. Good counselors send frequent text messages to their students to check in and find out if there is anything they can do to help or improve their experience.
Students may have questions they either forgot or were too shy to ask in class. Enable a more open line of communication between students and professors by allowing them to text specific questions they may have about the class. This can help develop a better relationship between students and professors, and improve class performance.
When it comes to communication, nothing is quicker and more convenient than texting for today’s mobile-centric students. This article provides only a few of the many ways colleges and universities are leveraging text messaging to boost enrollment, improve retention, increase graduation rates, and improve each student’s overall experience.