The isolation and physical limitations of the pandemic heightened the need for digital engagement in higher ed. And, even though COVID restrictions have lessened and in-person classes and visits have resumed, the bell cannot be un-rung. Students want quick answers and instant gratification from the college and universities they’re looking into.
Mongoose partnered with Higher Ed Dive to develop a survey with feedback from 150 higher ed leaders. In this survey school administrators gave insight into their 2022 Admissions outlook. 90% of respondents said the pandemic impacted their move toward digital solutions. Institutions are making the investment to improve their outreach, but there are roadblocks in the way.
Know Where Gaps Are
Your institution’s website makes a first and lasting impression on prospective students. If they can’t find what they’re looking for, they will not linger for more than a moment.
Cassie Cunningham, Assistant Director of Admissions at The University of Akron, recently joined Mongoose for an episode of For Your Institution Live to discuss the impact of digital engagement. In order to find potential roadblocks that can occur in a student’s journey, Cassie suggests you find someone who is not familiar with your website to audit it.
“We include current students in our focus groups where we might ask them, ‘Can you get to this page? Show me how you would get there.’ Then we can watch to see what they’re doing, since it’s hard to get yourself into that perspective when you already know all the shorthands.” - Cassie Cunningham
Get Leadership Buy-In
In most cases, the Admissions staff using the tools are those who best know what a school needs, but they do not have a seat at the ‘decision-making’ table in keeping or using the tool. That can make it difficult to replace or acquire the digital tools they need to do their job more effectively.
More than one-third of higher ed leaders in the survey mentioned the reality of budget setbacks, and the need to find a “one-size fits all” solution.
It’s important for staff members to advocate for their needs and use data to obtain new tools and show the return on investment of current tools. When staff members can communicate how digital solutions are saving a college money by cutting down on time spent on arduous, repetitive tasks, it can be influential to decision makers.
“If there are things you need to support your students and support your role, don’t be afraid to look into those solutions. With chat, I did my own research ahead of time and figured out what was best. I was able to share with my administration the five options. Here are the pros and cons of all of them. Here are the pricepoints, what do you think we can do?” - Cassie Cunningham
Ensure Tools are Compatible
CRM, ERP, and SIS systems are powerful tools for managing student and alumni data. But in order for schools to properly utilize that data for communicating, the system needs to integrate with the institution’s digital tools. Explore whether or not new systems can easily pull data from your CRM.
Using the texting or chat feature of a CRM as an ‘all-in-one’ tool for the purpose of saving money can have drawbacks. If a texting feature doesn’t allow for two-way conversations, you’re sacrificing engagement. If staff members are having trouble finding when students have responded to texts because they’re not getting notifications, students will become frustrated that they’re not getting answers.
“Students want to know right away, and if they don’t find the answers they want from your school, they’re going to look somewhere else.” - Cassie Cunningham
In a perfect world, colleges and universities would have everything they need. Our survey found that 40% of higher education executives cited the total cost of ownership — including costs to implement and maintain the system — as the top consideration when evaluating digital initiatives. The survey shows that higher ed institutions understand the shift to more digital solutions. Knowing what leaders are thinking can help you develop a gameplan for advocacy.