Cincinnati, Ohio (PressExposure) October 06, 2009 -- When most parents and university administration leadership think of the term "campus technology," images of expensive laptops, complicated cell phones or even overzealous computer science majors banding together to create the next "killer app" are bound to come to mind. But, in reality, some of the biggest technological advances at college campuses are happening much more in the board rooms rather than in the student unions.
The hot buzzwords on campus these days are student "enrollment" and "retention," clearly bringing with it an infusion of university tuition dollars, but also a significant challenge to those charged with bringing in and keeping a thriving, growing student population. Enrollment Management Technology (EMT) offers a range of services, from admissions management to at-risk student alerts, all designed to ease the workload of competing recruiters and stressed retention services departments.
And the chief information officers throughout academia couldn't be happier, as in the past, many have been forced to attempt to fit square pegs into round holes with existing, traditional customer relationship management (CRM) software not specifically designed for enrollment services or even academia at all. Stories abound of technology being properly used and implemented that deliver dollars to a university, while lessening the heavy lifting associated with the task of recruitment.
"Since we have adopted enrollment management technology, the services have become an indispensable tool," University of Tennessee assistant director of undergraduate admissions Cyndi Sweet said. "Without the system, we would have a difficult time communicating with and retaining such a large number of contacts in a timely manner."
And, EMT services don't end at recruitment. The new online tools enable students and administrators to connect in ways never before available. Retention programs, for example, are capable of identifying students at risk of dropping out due to academic, social or financial challenges, and communicating with them available services and areas of improvement.
At the forefront of this movement, social networks such as Facebook, exclusive to a given university are beginning to take root around the country. Leading the pack, the University of Kentucky has implemented its own social network, Big Blue, to connect students and faculty and improve retention rates.
The Big Blue network, developed by Cincinnati-based college enrollment technology firm Hobsons (www.hobsons.com) was used alongside their EMT Retain program to bring freshman to sophomore retention to a UK all-time record of 82 percent. In working with Hobsons, UK was able to re-enroll 208 students who had dropped out due to financial reasons. The early alert system within EMT Retain allowed the university to identify these students based on a combination of attributes, then automate communications alerting them to financial aid programs available to assist them so that they could return to campus.
"Retention programs provide us with the targeted tracking of students by attributes that could signal problems a student may encounter and the ability to provide timely intervention," University of Kentucky director of retention and student services Chela Kaplan said. "The focused communications using filters supports our criteria for providing students with the information they need in a timely fashion."
And, UK isn't the only one adopting new methods of EMT. Twelve hundred other colleges have employed new EMT capabilities to their recruitment and retention arsenal and nearly 100 more are anticipated to adopt similar applications within the next year.
Hobsons explains that it doesn't stop there. The software firm works with CIOs, recruiters and enrollment specialists across the country in developing and implementing a host of enrollment management programs that improve efficiencies, make communication with students more engaging and ultimately save institutions valuable budget dollars.
For example, their newest offering provides a mobile application where recruiters can manage and update database information remotely from their phones, making recruiters more productive and allowing them to immediately enter a student into a personalized communication plan before they return to the office.
Hobsons EMT president Sasha Peterson says, "Technology packages are expanding into new territories to include full-on social media capabilities designed to create additional touch points with current and prospective students. We continue to innovate in areas that are specifically designed to ease the burden and make the hard work of recruitment and retention easier, simpler and more efficient for those professionals charged with such endeavors."
Alternatives to EMT software are few and far between. Custom-built in-house databases and student information system recruitment modules bear cumbersome and infrequent updates, often costing schools a pretty penny.
Peterson explained that each Hobsons program is tailored specifically to a given university's needs, and is capable of managing an extensive database of students and prospects and, once enrolled, provide both the university administration and prospective students tools to increase opportunities for enrollment and retention growth.
As more institutions of higher education are setting success metrics to revolve around retention and graduation rates, this software has found a niche market as institutions struggle with budget shortfalls. According to Moody's Investor Report, 35 states are projecting budget shortfalls of more than 10% in the 2010 fiscal year. EMT solutions, such as Hobsons, allow institutions to manage the increased competition for applicants looking for the most cost-effective college options.
"Increased applications require more intensive database management in order to develop and maintain a successful student body," Peterson said. "EMT applications are giving technologically-savvy universities a competitive advantage by not only saving themselves the footwork of manual and often delayed database management, but enabling them to effectively communicate and build relationships with students throughout the duration of their time at school. It makes the entire experience of enrolling that much more fulfilling for both the student and the administrator, which ultimately leads to a positive experience for everyone."
Peterson adds that his group will continue to find new and innovative ways to better create a relationship between student and college - a relationship that brings dollars to the university and smiles to the administration.