Enrollment Blog

When recruiting Latino students, Spanish subject lines don't help

by Peter Farrell

Many colleges and universities that Royall works with as clients are seeking new ways to bring more Latino students to campus.

These efforts are becoming all the more important as the Supreme Court considers a case that could end affirmative action, potentially curtailing or eliminating a principal lever that institutions use to manage the diversity of their student bodies. Regardless of how the high court rules, though, schools can support class diversity by shaping their classes earlier in the enrollment process – ensuring that they are effectively communicating with a diverse group of prospective students and supporting their needs across the application process.

To support this ambition, our Royall data science team recently analyzed the online and offline responses of 730,000 Latino students to learn about how these students prefer to interact with the colleges and universities recruiting them.

Some hypotheses about how to more effectively reach Latino students turned out to be wrong. For example, according to Royall email campaign tests, Spanish-language subject lines do not boost recruitment email performance. In split A/B tests of Latino student email outreach, English-language subject lines significantly outperformed the Spanish alternatives.

However, some patterns did emerge in the data.

1. For outreach, Latino students are mobile-friendly

In our online recruitment outreach, proportionately more Latino students responded to searches via mobile platforms (phone or tablet) than either black or white students.

Likewise, among all demographic groups, Latino students were also the most open to communicating with colleges by text message. They were also the group most interested in being able to text questions to a college—in Royall’s recent communication preferences survey of high school students, more than 80% of Latino students said they would like this feature, compared with 77% of black students and only 69% of white students.

2. Key communication dates shift later

Our online behavior analysis found that Latino students tend to submit applications and deposits later than either white or black students, so institutions should consider adapting their timelines for key communications to accommodate this pattern.

While 48% of white students applied to college before November 1, only 33% of Latino students did. The disparity persists into December, but by January, Latino students begin to close the gap. Around 80% of students across all demographics tracked had applied by January 1.

How does your incoming freshman class compare? Check out our survey data from 141 institutions

Continuing the pattern, Latino students also took the longest time to submit an application of any group tracked. On average, Latino students submitted their applications nine days after being invited to apply, compared with seven days for black students and five days for white students.

Latino students also tend to submit their deposits a few weeks later than other groups. By March 1, around 30% of white students surveyed had submitted their deposits, but only 15% of Latino students had. Similarly, half of white students submitted their deposits by April 7—but Latino students did not reach this point until April 20.

3. Value at the top of Latino students’ minds

Colleges face scrutiny over the cost and ROI of attendance now more than ever before, and Latino students are just as focused on value as their peers—if not more.

Like most students, financial aid is a major factor in Latino students’ decisions about where to attend college. About 62% of Latino respondents reported that financial aid is “very important” to their college decision, compared with 56% of black students and 37% of white students.

According to Royall’s survey data of admitted students through the Deposit IQ program, “perceived value” was the top reason for Latino students to choose not to attend an institution. While 52% of Latino students said value factored in their “no” decision, only 41.8% of white students said the same.

As the nation’s Latino population continues to grow, enrollment leaders cannot afford to ignore this key demographic of incoming students. While there is plenty more to learn, our data analysis makes us optimistic that we can collectively do better to consider Latino students’ communication preferences and ultimately achieve institutions’ class shaping and recruitment aspirations.

Learn more

Interested in learning more about how to reach underserved students? Read our whitepaper "Access and Higher Education" to learn how to recruit more high-ability, low-income students. Download the white paper.


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