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MIS Means Admissions Power

How effective your admissions administrators are may depend on their ability to find and intelligently utilize the best information management systems.

Once your institution decides it would like to build up its enrollment, that’s a good time to scrutinize your campus information software. There any many factors that contribute to building enrollment, but a strong information system, effectively used, is an essential aid.

Baptist Bible College (MO), for instance, took just such simultaneous steps to avert a declining enrollment trend. The college hired a new admissions director, brought in an admissions consultant, restructured some of its programs, worked on tightening its management of the admissions funnel, and upgraded to a modern information system from Campus Management Corp. to make its new measures practicable. Result: BBC’s enrollment of new students has nearly tripled in just two years.

Here are some specific tips for using your information management system to boost the enrollment bottom line:

Use History to Anticipate Student Needs

Mine the information in your student information system (SIS) to figure out how to turn one-time students into repeat customers. Colorado Mountain College has begun to be proactive in luring back continuing education students, letting them know about course offerings related to their academic interests.

“There are a lot of lifelong learner students who take one or two art courses for personal interest throughout the year,” notes Bill Sommers, dean of Enrollment Services. “Through [Datatel’s] Query Builder and Communications Management [], we are informing those students of all art courses that will be offered in the upcoming semester. This is a great retention tactic to keep students enrolled each semester.”

Data certainly can be used to boost retention and keep enrollment high. At Columbia College of Chicago, Jenzabar’s SIS lets the college collect detailed information about incoming students, including grades, test scores, and even comments on a writing sample. Students who may have a hard time surviving their first semester are offered a chance to attend a free Bridge Program to improve their skills before enrolling, says Bernadette McMahon, CIO and associate VP of Information Technology.

Tighten the Loop

Every time a potential or actual applicant contacts the institution, use the power of your information system to make sure that the response is prompt and on target.

The University of Newcastle in the UK has recently implemented the “E2R” project (Enquiry to Recruitment), using components from SAP AG’s campus management, CRM, portal, and business intelligence solutions. The specific focus is to handle and quickly turn around inquiries from international students. The E2R project has reduced the “time to decision” in international student acceptance by over 60 percent—from six days to 24 to 48 hours, and in most cases, in less than 24 hours. The project is already a runaway success, says Malcolm Woodfield, director of Global Business Development, Higher Education and Research at SAP.

Using Oracle’s PeopleSoft software, admissions staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison were able to cut in half the time required for an admissions decision—from four to six weeks, to two to three weeks, says Curtiss Barnes, senior director, Applications Strategy, Education and Research at Oracle.

Demonstrating the effect that efficient operations can have on admissions statistics, Texas Christian University gained significant admissions productivity after implementing Oracle’s PeopleSoft Finance and Human Resources systems. Applications increased 51 percent, admissions inquiries increased 88 percent, and the number of applications accepted online doubled.

Answer Questions Online

Tightening the loop also calls for quick turnaround to prospective students’ inquiries and questions. Nothing is as responsive and efficient as making information available online. Quick access to personalized information strengthens the perception that the institution cares about individual recruits.

“We’ve made the information in SCT Banner available online in a central portal with immediate self-service access,” says John S. Camp, the CIO at Wayne State University (MI). “It satisfies students’ expectations for on-demand service 24/7.”

Make Telephone Contacts More Productive

Relationship tracking software can display the details of previous calls and correspondence so that each phone counselor can pick up with a prospective student exactly where the last call left off, without wasting time getting up to speed on the student’s previous history, interests, and concerns.

In support of its efforts to build relationships with its constituents, Harding University (AR) uses its SCT Banner administrative system to store information including records of conversations and information received and sent. Harding also uses SCT Banner to assist in the tracking of admissions prospects and applicants from its K-12 school through its undergraduate and graduate programs, according to Mike Chalenburg, assistant VP-ITS at Harding.

Don’t Work in the Dark

Clearly, if you want to know if your recruiting strategies are working, you’ll need reliable information. That means good reports and analysis to show what progress the institution is making compared to previous years. Accordingly, the College of St. Scholastica (MN) is implementing SunGard SCT business intelligence solutions to leverage the data in its administrative system. “We’re moving beyond basic reporting to where we can really analyze trends and make projections,” says Lynne Hamre, CIO at the college.

Get a Checkup

If you’re not sure whether your information system is making the fullest contribution to your enrollment efforts, you do have options: You can get your vendor to perform an assessment (some will provide a checkup for free; see Datatel’s complimentary Action Planning Service on its Web site), you can organize an internal review, or you can bring in an expert from outside to help you measure unused potential. Bottom line: It’s good to know that you’re making use of the power that you already have at your fingertips.

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