Changing applicant perceptions—and increasing enrollments—with personalized recruiting
Seven years ago, Santa Fe College was delivering a remarkable retention rate—a major contributing factor to being named the best community college in the nation by the Aspen Institute. And yet, the college was challenged with declining enrollment numbers as it combated a label as a “second-choice school” among applicants.
“Enrollment had been declining for years,” shares Quinten Eyman, Admissions Coordinator for Santa Fe College. “Departments were working in silos, and our small admissions team was comprised of mostly part-time staff struggling with traditional recruitment strategies that were just no longer effective at attracting new students.”
Santa Fe College needed to reframe its admissions tactics and external perception to engage prospective students, increase applications and grow enrollment.
As Eyman remarks, “It is very hard to make inroads or do anything new and innovative without new resources, but that’s an easy excuse. We knew we needed to find a way to capture todays ‘stealth investigators.’”
The admissions team knew that connecting with these stealth investigators—that is, prospective students who withhold sharing personal information with the college until formally submitting an application—was crucial to increasing applications and enrollment.
Rolling out Salesforce, one success at a time
Admissions, with support from its leadership team, took a big first step in revolutionizing its approach by implementing Salesforce. Due to limited financial resources, which were compounded by departmental silos, the focus was initially just on student recruitment. But Salesforce enabled the team to deliver personalized outreach and start to redefine the perception of the college in the digital world- and the strategy’s been working.
That success gained more support from college administrators to add Salesforce’s Pardot, Social Studio and Community Cloud solutions. These new capabilities further improved the outreach of the admissions department, making it possible to:
Conduct nurture campaigns
- Plan high-level email automations
- Develop fast-response communication strategies for prospective students
- Create personalized communities encouraging multiple levels of communication
- Build a powerful social media system to monitor external attention and interact with students
As Eyman notes, “Salesforce lets us think more broadly, be nimble, embrace ideas, and try new things. That has allowed us to deepen our relationship with our prospective students.”
Tangible results create opportunities for expanded growth
During the first three years using Salesforce, the admissions team attained a 250% increase in engagement, 60% rise in digital inquires, and a 75% increase in campus tour requests. Admissions applications jumped by 15% and enrollment increased by 4%—an impressive accomplishment given the college’s previous track record of declining enrollments. These proven successes laid the groundwork for extending Salesforce on campus to further grow enrollment with:
Transfer students. Create outreach and social leverage targeting transfer students enabled the team to increase transfer applications by 170%.
International students. Creating a personalized roadmap for international students led to an international student enrollment increase of 16% in the 2017-18 academic year, the same time period in which the U.S. experienced a nationwide decline.
Stopped-out students. The college is now reconnecting with students who stopped-out just thirty or fewer credits shy of graduating. This program, called “Finish at the Top,” has helped more than 300 previously lapsed students finish their degrees.
Building a truly Connected Campus
Santa Fe College continues to grow its personalized recruitment strategy while breaking down the interdepartmental silos, enabling the college to adapt to the changing higher education landscape. The admissions department’s strategy of starting small and letting strong results speak for themselves has converted many and helped encourage the adoption of outreach strategies. Even traditionalists are seeing the benefits of Salesforce. “We still encourage direct touch,” says Eyman, “but we can initiate contact or follow up digitally.”
Eyman expects the success of Salesforce will continue to gain traction among the other departments in the college, strengthening Santa Fe’s connection with its students.