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5 min read

Navigating Higher Education Budgeting Amid the Changing Admissions Landscape

Navigating Higher Education Budgeting Amid the Changing Admissions Landscape

Today is a unique time for college admissions and enrollment marketing. 

By 2027, the number of names nationally available for search will drop by 38%, according to Forbes. A shifting public perception of college and post-high school plans along with a drop in the young adult population has shrunk the pool of college applicants. 

With these enrollment and search cliffs, colleges are faced with the challenge (and opportunity) of diversifying their lead generation strategies and tapping into true content personalization. Perhaps an even greater challenge is setting aside the resources needed to pursue new avenues to reach students.

The higher education budget season is now in full swing. Ashley Murphy and Liz McGonigle, both former college admissions professionals who are now on our Scoir team, shared their higher education budgeting best practices for college admissions professionals. Liz is an Engagement Strategist focused on supporting colleges and Ashley is a Product Manager focusing on integrations between Scoir and Admissions CRM systems.

Before working at Scoir, Ashley worked in college admissions for 20 years, beginning her career at the front desk at the Stevens Institute of Technology, and then moving on to be a Director of Admissions and a key decision-maker in budget planning at NYU, Oregon State University, and Pennsylvania College of Technology. She then moved on to admissions technology consulting for 5 years before joining Scoir.

Liz spent 10 years in higher education, starting at the University of Pennsylvania, where she worked at the alumni relations office front desk, then the Penn Alumni Interview Program, and reviewing applications part-time for Wharton’s MBS program. She then worked at Bates College in marketing and communications to grow the applicant funnel and support the team with budgeting.

You can listen to the podcast here or read the recap below!

 

 

Higher Education Budgeting Tips and Best Practices

Whether your college is facing budget cuts or you’re simply working to optimize your resources, these tips can help! We organized the higher education budgeting best practices Liz and Ashley gave into 5 categories:

  1. Revisit Your Documentation
  2. Optimize Your Communications (Internally and Externally)
  3. Diversify Your Strategy
  4. Clean and Explore Your CRM
  5. Evaluate the Results

1. Revisit Your Documentation


When reevaluating your documentation, we encourage you to keep in mind: How can I gain a deeper understanding of everything that goes into a specific decision and result?

It’s an unnerving feeling not quite to remember where something is documented or why a decision was made. It can be even more stressful to be unsure if your tactics and strategies are leading to results.

That’s why step one to higher education budgeting is to ensure these systems are in place.

Liz recommends having a place to dump all notes regarding potential vendors. A good ‘ol spreadsheet could do the trick! You can throw in links, meeting notes, and any other gut checks so you can track your thinking. A folder in your email inbox is another simple way to get organized when reviewing opportunities.

 

2. Optimize Your Communications (Internally and Externally)


To save time and ensure everyone is aligned, Liz and Ashley recommend rethinking how your team communicates internally, plus externally with vendors.

 

Internal Communication Tips

Are there any team processes or systems you and your people can document? How can you enforce consistency? The more thorough your documentation, the less stressed you’ll likely be during higher education budget season.

Think: what can you do to remove silos?

Have conversations with colleagues about how they are operating and thinking strategically and holistically. Think about how the people on your team contribute to your goals, and how you can better support them on that journey. How can you involve different members of your team in the budgeting process? This will allow you to be more nimble and make decisions faster.

Communicating why you’re trying a strategy helps build the foundation for a more successful launch and implementation.

 

“In the admissions space, you move so quickly and always have competing priorities, and putting systems into place to track things is work that might go unnoticed, but it is so hyper-critical. That was an early mistake on my end, which was not thinking critically about who I needed to talk to to get systems in place so we could track the work that we were doing.”  - Liz McGonigle

 

External Communication Tips

Consider designating a point person on your team to:

  • Evaluate vendors
  • Watch for trends in college admissions and enrollment marketing
  • Be the main point of contact with vendors

This person can then field any questions your team has regarding vendors.

When it comes to communicating with vendors (or potential vendors), email templates can save a ton of time. Here is one to keep in your back pocket if a vendor reaches out to your team and you’re not interested at the moment, but might be open to exploring down the line:

 

Hi [first name],

Thank you for reaching out. Our team would be interested in revisiting a conversation about [vendor name] in [month and year]. Could you follow up with me then?

Take care,

[Your signature]

 

You can also use the spreadsheet concept mentioned in the Revisit Your Documentation and Tracking Links section of this article to organize conversations with vendors.

Another pro tip: don’t rely on a vendor to tell you what your college needs! Rely on your people and your data.

 

3. Diversify Your Strategy


As the saying goes, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

And, please don’t feel like you need to keep a strategy or vendor just because it has always been that way. What can you cut to introduce something new? Reduce risk by trying one new strategy a year.

Who you decide to work with vendor-wise should be driven by your college and your strategy. What are your goals for each strategy, campaign, or vendor? Define success, then work backward from that.

Seriously consider and document why you are trying something new, and set clear goals and a timeline for reaching those goals. It's important to give any new solution time to grow legs so you can generate the data that will tell you if it’s working.

 

“When it comes to enrollment marketing tools, diversify! Things are changing so quickly, so it makes sense to have a bunch of different ways you’re building and growing within each part of your office.” - Liz McGonigle

 

4. Clean and Explore Your CRM


Next, make sure the tracking is in place so you can evaluate the results and ROI of each tool in your toolkit.

A CRM will only give you value if you put time into it! Be thoughtful about the vendors with whom you work. Multiple vendors who do the same thing can put strain on your system managers and may introduce overlapping or conflicting data.

Liz and Ashley recommend connecting with your CRM expert to determine ways to track all of your efforts, glean insights from the data you already have, and document processes and expectations so you have a clear sense of how everything is performing.

Don’t be afraid to ask for your CRM expert’s help so you can calculate your ROI!

 

“I think this [reporting on ROI] requires your team to have strong data management operations. You can’t calculate your return if you’re not tracking it somewhere. Even the best CRM system can only give what you put into it. Take that step back and give a big-picture look into what you’re doing.” - Ashley Murphy

 

Ashley recommends starting with broad data categories you’d like to track and get more granular as you improve your CRM.

 

5. Evaluate the Results


Now for the moment you’ve been working toward: evaluating results.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine if a tool or strategy is worth the investment:

  • Is this tool helping us reach our goals?
  • What is the ROI of this tool or strategy?
  • How much time and money does this tool or strategy require? Is it worth the resources that we need to put into it?

And then go from there!

 

“If you’re not tracking outcomes, you don’t have a good way to argue for something different. Once we had the data to back an argument, we were able to go into our budget meeting armed with that information and not just a feeling about something that we needed to do differently. When we showed the data, we got support.” - Ashley Murphy

 

If you’re looking to diversify your enrollment marketing strategy, check out Scoir’s Managed Solutions. With Scoir Managed Solutions, our Engagement Strategists (all of whom were previous Admission Marketing professionals) will develop, execute, and monitor your end-to-end 12-month content and communications plan tailored to your institutional objectives.

Not only will our team provide ongoing progress reports and performance insights, but we’ll also use unique data to make real-time adjustments to your Scoir presence to maximize results.

We wish your team the best of luck as you navigate higher education budget season!

Get ahead of the cliff. Join Live Demo with Lauren Incudine, Client Partner
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