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For-Profit Colleges Lax in Followup to Prospective Students

Private, for-profit institutions could greatly improve their responsiveness to prospective students. A recent study found that nine out of 10 private colleges and universities fail to reply to new inquiries by phone from prospective students within the first 12 hours; four out of 10 let a full day go by before they reply. These same schools did much better in their responsiveness to e-mail inquiries, with slightly more than three-quarters responding via e-mail within 12 hours. But even then, some schools never reply to e-mail inquiries with e-mail.

These results come out of a "secret shopper" research project sponsored by Leads360, which sells enrollment management software. The test, which focused specifically on private sector higher education, examined responsiveness at 28 schools selected as a representative sample.

The full version of "Failing Grades: Evaluating Admissions Processes at For-Profit Schools," is available for registration at

The research focused on four key performance indicators (KPIs): speed-to-call, speed-to-e-mail, number of call attempts, and number of e-mail "nurture" attempts.

According to project results, the best performing schools managed to call prospective students within an hour, but only one school met the Leads360 best practice of calling within two minutes. The same responsiveness is expected for e-mail inquiries too. The best performer in the speed-to-e-mail category, Grand Canyon University, was the only school in the survey to send an e-mail to prospective students within an average of one hour.

The study also looked at the number of call attempts and e-mail attempts. Best practice as set by the company is to send between two and four e-mails per inquiry or to make six call attempts, depending on which medium was chosen by the prospective student.

More than half of the schools in the study group attempted 10 or more calls; 30 percent averaged more than 16 calls. Two colleges in the sample averaged more than 65 calls--one at 68, the other 88.

"If school administrators knew how poorly equipped their admissions departments were to effectively respond to inquiries, they would think twice about their marketing strategies," said Nick Hedges, CEO and president of Leads360. "This report sheds new light on where schools can improve their approach to recruiting high quality students by responding more promptly and better controlling the actions of their admissions departments throughout the recruitment process."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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