Every year, the EAB Enrollment Services Entering Class Survey polls our partner colleges and universities to measure how they performed across the past twelve months. In addition to helping us gauge the overall success of our partnerships, these surveys provide valuable insight into what's working (and what’s not) under current market conditions.
The most recent edition of the survey had good news: the strategies powering top-performing schools are easy to identify and share, so they're well-suited for a wide range of institution types and market contexts. This post shares the most important of our findings.
Application growth correlates with deposit growth
Perhaps the most striking insight from this year’s survey is that our partner colleges and universities grew deposits by an average of 9%—the highest increase we’ve seen in the past ten years. This result is especially remarkable considering how the industry as a whole performed—average freshman enrollment growth across all U.S. public and private institutions was 0% and 1% respectively.
One common feature of survey participants with high deposit growth was application volume. Schools in the top deposit-growth quartile (which increased deposits by an average of 38%) saw 28% more applications for entering class 2018, which is more than twice the average increase across all institutions participating in the survey.
Stronger performance on application growth was, in turn, attributable to multiple factors. These included sending applications out earlier (which resulted in a 26% increase in applications) and reducing application-completion requirements (which resulted in a 23% increase in applications).
Most noteworthy, was the impact of introducing a formal application-marketing program, including dedicated communication streams and an optimized online application. Schools adopting this approach saw a 66% increase in applications, a 35% increase in deposits, and an 8% increase in total net tuition revenue.
Earlier is better when it comes to engaging prospective students
Echoing past EAB research findings, this year’s survey showed that engaging with prospective students earlier has a beneficial impact on final enrollment outcomes. This held true for several different types of interactions with students, from application notifications to admitted-student events. On average, going earlier boosted deposits between 15% and 25%, depending on the type of student interaction.
Two yield tactics that make a difference
The survey also provided valuable insight on the influence of two different yield-management tools: survey-based yield analytics and financial aid optimization (FAO).
While it can be difficult to isolate the effect of any one intervention on yield rate, several data points from the survey suggest a positive influence. For example, even though schools using yield analytics saw twice the admit growth of schools not using them, the change in their yield rates was identical, suggesting effective mitigation where significant drops in yield might reasonably have been expected.
Similarly, schools using FAO saw deposit growth comparable to their admit growth, while for the non-FAO group, admit growth was approximately three times higher than deposit growth. In other words, the FAO group was able to convert a higher proportion of admits into deposits.