As enrollment managers and higher ed admissions leaders, we can get comfortable relying on old tried-and-true zip codes to matriculate students onto our campuses. After all, these areas are familiar with your school, so less leg work is needed in where brand recognition is strong.
But banking on easy stifles long-term growth.
Market expansion, at every institution, is essential for maintaining growth and enrolling a right-fit size cohort. Most schools garner the bulk of their enrollments—around 60-65%— from a 50-150 mile radius of campus.
Though it’s easy to fall back on ol’ reliable, in order to generate growth, it’s important to take the plunge and expand traditional reach into new markets.
Here’s what you’ll need so you aren’t shooting in the dark.
Data, Data, Data
The answers live in the data. If you’ve kept good record of your historical enrollment data, you should be able to determine pockets of influence, where there’s an ability to convert untapped geographic locations to yield students.
A good CRM, like Slate, will keep track of these metrics for you. You’ll want to view at least three cycles (more is better) worth of enrollment data to see what zip codes and high schools you’ve had high numbers of prospects, applicants, and enrollees.
Features like Slate’s Voyager make it even easier to locate your pockets of influence. It uses geospatial representation of your historical enrollment data coupled with ACS (American Community Survey) data which updates every three years.
Using this, you can see institution-specific markers like academic performance or event engagement, along with national overlays like density of college-bound students, families with incomes above 200k, families living below the poverty line, and the likes to fill out your class.
Once you understand your geographic reach using data, you can utilize this to plan campaigning and travel.
Of course, to make yourself known in these newer markets, you’ll need to create a multimodal messaging flow to establish lines of communication to these areas. We always recommend using a mix of both print and digital in your communications strategy.
However, sending communications out without proper follow-up strategy… you might as well burn your budget.
In order to yield, you’ll need team members dedicated to continuing conversations in these secondary and tertiary markets. That could mean travel.
Admission counselor travel has become somewhat of a challenge in our industry. It’s expensive and hard on counselors who spend the better part of their year on the road. Institutions without proper budgeting to hire and maintain counselors may not have the ability to travel to secondary and tertiary markets.
But with good data, you don’t have to send your counselors cross-country willy-nilly. Determining what high schools garner high inquiries is a great starting place.
Here’s where the real fun is.
It’s well known that by senior year, a majority of students have decided where they want to go to college. So it can be difficult to squeeze your way into an unfamiliar market that late in the game.
Primary markets make up your bulk. Secondary fills in those gaps. Tertiary… you may get five or so students from these markets without persistent effort.
That’s why these newer markets—especially tertiary—are a long game. By that, we mean start younger.
Go after sophomores and juniors who haven’t started or are just beginning to think about college. You’ll have about 24-48 months to create brand awareness and affinity with these populations.
That being said, you’ll need to have 24-48 months worth of non-repetitive communication at the ready. You’ve got to support these students, and hopefully by establishing a great relationship, you’ll become their go-to for questions about the college application process.
Expand Your Market Horizons with The Parish Group
We’re at a crossroads in higher education. Demographics are changing. The product we offer is becoming less desirable and harder to justify economically. As such, demand is decreasing.
As an industry, we have to evolve at a quicker pace. That’s why it’s imperative to go out of your comfort zone and into new markets.
If your school’s looking to expand your reach and need support, The Parish Group is at your service. Our predictive modeling service is the perfect way to jumpstart this process, and our enrollment experts are always keeping up with new data, technology, and strategy to best help our partner institutions.
Reach out at email@example.com or call our office at 828-505-3000.
Together, we do BIG things.