Where the Students Are

Efficient use of online outreach at UWG.

GUEST COLUMN | by Justin Barlow

UWG signThe University of West Georgia is a public institution with an undergraduate student population of approximately 9,000 students. Located in Carrollton, Georgia, UWG offers endless opportunities for students to make their mark through offering a comprehensive curriculum with programs ranging from business to education and social sciences to the performing arts.

Faced with enrollment challenges not unlike those of our peer institutions, one of our focuses has centered on effective use of resources (both time and financial), while serving students to the best of our ability throughout their college search. Some of our biggest challenges include:

  • Finding qualified applicants with a genuine interest in our institution
  • In absence of an unlimited budget, reaching students at the height of their interest
  • Shaping our class to meet unique enrollment needs

Recent research indicates that nearly 80 percent of college-bound students find college review and scholarship sites useful in their college search. Understanding this, it is critical to our institution to ensure that we “are where the students are” and are making the most of every opportunity to engage with students about, not only college information in general, but the University of West Georgia specifically.

To address these objectives, UWG partnered with an online enrollment solutions provider to assist with the cultivation of prospective student inquiries across a number of third party content aggregation sites that specialize in providing information to high school students who are researching scholarships and college matching services. With Chegg, UWG receives exposure on the company’s privately-owned and -operated college matching site (Zinch.com), as well as a network of partners that includes popular sites like CollegeProwler.com, US News and World Report, YoUniversityTV, and Parchment.

By partnering with Chegg to focus on students at the height of their interest in UWG, we have been able to address our challenges in unique ways.

Finding qualified applicants

Since 2011, Chegg has produced over 9,000 inquiries for UWG that have genuinely expressed an interest in our institution across the Zinch online network. The overall yield of these inquiries to the applicant phase has been on average 27 percent. This is 3 points higher than our overall inquiry pool. In addition, online network inquiries are admitted at a rate of 80 percent since 2011 (also 3 points higher than the institutional average), yielding nearly 250 enrollments a year (about 10 percent of our incoming class). The overall inquiry to enrollment yield of our online network inquiries is about 12 percent, which is 2 points higher than our institutional average.

Reaching students on a budget

In absence of an unlimited budget, it’s up to our team to ensure we are using our precious financial resources to their fullest potential. This is particularly important considering that, based on the 2012 NACAC State of College Admissions Report, institutions nationwide invest an average of over $2,300 in resources recruiting a single enrollment through traditional activities such as prospect name buys and college fairs. This average cost would far exceed our total recruitment budget. While still leveraging many of these traditional activities, the UWG team has diversified our outreach to place an emphasis on organic web inquiries to ensure we are engaging students at the height of their interest. Our objective is to stop spending money on ineffective, high cost lead generation and spend time focusing on the students who have actively expressed interest. By relying on leads from Chegg’s network and pairing them with our out-bound call center and internal communication plan, we are generating great results.

Since 2011, our average cost per inquiry, with a shift to more online recruitment, has been just under $7 per inquiry, with our overall cost per enrollment of online network inquiries coming in at about $52. This 98 percent cost-savings over the national average from NACAC’s study enables us to shift financial resources to yield based initiatives, helping us to improve the results of our other recruitment efforts as well. In sum, in 2013 the ROI of our investment with Chegg is about $337 per $1 invested in online recruitment.

Shaping our class

Like most institutions, UWG offers unique experiences students cannot find anywhere else. Leveraging the Zinch.com site within Chegg’s network, we are able to generate unique campaign messages intended to introduce students to some of our unique offerings while engaging students that we are trying to reach. As an example we are able to create a campaign centered on our Opera and Vocals major, informing students that have an interest in those programs who are doing research on Zinch.com about this unique program offering. About 20 percent of our online network inquiries have come from these unique outreach messages, while the remainder come from the college search and matching tools available across the network.

Continuing to invest in Chegg has been an easy decision for UWG. Using their Zinch enrollment solution has helped us continue to introduce our brand to students who may not have known about us before, while still ensuring we are reaching students who are at the height of their interest.

Justin Barlow is the Director of Admissions at The University of West Georgia. Write to: jbarlow@westga.edu

One comment

Leave a Reply