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What Admissions Leaders Think: Report Highlights Top Priorities

By Benjamin Rhodes January 16, 2020

Approximately half of admissions leaders—53 percent—say their institution is using tools that predict the likelihood that a potential applicant will apply and, if admitted, enroll.

This is just one finding from the 2019 Survey of College and University Admissions Officers*, a study by Inside Higher Ed and Gallup.

The report reveals ongoing pressure on admissions offices, with 86 percent of respondents saying they were concerned about reaching their institution’s enrollment goals in the 2019-2020 academic year. More than half of admissions directors say their institution did not meet its enrollment goals by July 1, 2019, and only 37 percent did so by May 1.

Cover image of the 2019 Survey of College and University Admissions Officers Director of Industry Solutions Margo Martinez says these statistics relate to challenges institutions face differentiating themselves and engaging with applicants in an increasingly competitive landscape.

“Today’s students want ease of use, relevancy, and to be engaged with on the channels they prefer,” says Martinez.

Survey respondents recognize the relevancy gap, with 91 percent saying higher ed needs to do a better job explaining the value of a degree.

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Managing Relationships

At RMIT, a multi-sector university with 91,000 students and 11,000 staff globally, digital transformation is key to its “Ready for Life and Work” strategy to prepare students for a changing world.

“We were relying on too many applications and too many channels for relationship management, which made it difficult to get a single view of the customer,” says RMIT CIO Paul Oppenheimer, who deployed Salesforce across the university. “We wanted a platform we could leverage across the entire organization — helping transform ourselves to better support our students, staff, and partners to succeed in a fast-changing world.”

When it comes to this type of support, 67 percent of admissions leaders say they are satisfied with their institution’s ability to give students a clear path to enrollment and graduation.

For many institutions, this support begins in admissions, with 88 percent of respondents saying they use chat boxes, social media or other digital communication tools to interact with applicants or potential applicants.

But on the whole, 37 percent of respondents are dissatisfied with their institution’s marketing, with only 11 percent saying they are very satisfied.

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Predictive Analytics in Higher Education

Among the 53 percent of respondents who say their institution is using predictive tools in the admissions process, 3 in 4 respondents are satisfied with the tools. These tools help institutions gain insight into prospective students’ likelihood to move to the next stage of the recruitment funnel.

At Taylor University, Interim Chief Enrollment Officer Nathan Baker uses data to glean information that will help admissions counselors focus on prospective students with the most potential to enroll.

But Baker noted in the webinar Recruiting Smarter with AI, “This does not dictate how we operate. It’s just another point in our process where we can be efficient.”

Baker adds that history repeats itself with predictive analysis, because this analysis looks for the next opportunity based on something that happened in the past.

“We have great potential to leverage this information,” says Baker. “But we can’t just let history repeat itself, because that doesn’t benefit our institutions or society at large.“

According to the report, community college admissions directors are much less likely to use such predictive tools, with 27 percent indicating they do. Close to three-quarters of admissions directors at private baccalaureate colleges use such tools.

Additional highlights from the report include:

  • 81 percent of admissions directors believe their institution is losing potential applicants due to concerns about accumulating student loan debt.
  • One in three are strongly concerned about maintaining the same number of international students in the years ahead.
  • More than half are likely to increase efforts to recruit online students and students older than age 24.

To learn more, join our exclusive webinar about Inside Higher Ed’s 2019 Survey of College and University Admissions Officers. Download the full report: 2019 Survey of College and University Admissions Officers here.


* is a sponsor of the 2019 Survey of College and University Admissions Officers.

About the Author
Benjamin Rhodes
Ben Rhodes is a product marketing manager at Prior to his work at, Rhodes led internal communications at Columbia Business School. Connect with him on LinkedIn.