Educating students about FAFSA changes can pay big dividends

Posted by Priscilla Lee on October 28, 2016

Two major changes for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) are affecting the 2017-18 school year application season.

  1. The FAFSA is available earlier, starting on Oct. 1 of the previous year instead of Jan. 1 of the upcoming school year.
  2. The FAFSA collects income information from an earlier tax year -- prior prior year (PPY).

These changes can help colleges better assist students in the financial aid process and potentially achieve higher matriculation in the fall. “Summer melt,” wherein college-intending students fail to matriculate in the fall, is a double loss, hurting both the students whose college dreams fall by the wayside, and the schools that were counting on them to attend. Often, cost is the culprit.

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Topics: College Admissions, colleges, messaging, texting, retention, student success, students, recruitment

Click-to-message: How schools can start conversations from Google AdWords

Posted by Brian Ruhlmann on October 28, 2016
Today, educational institutions are presented with endless solutions to solve the challenge of meeting students where they are. So how do you choose what's most effective? This blog post focuses on an opportunity to connect with students with online advertising via an interesting Google AdWords update.
In the  "2016 E-Recruiting Practices Report", Ruffalo Noel Levitz points out a recruitment opportunity gap in the online paid advertising space. The report shares that most colleges are only beginning to use online advertising. They also share that just over 50 percent of colleges are using social media paid advertising, and less than half of colleges are using online search advertising like Google AdWords. Ruffalo NL also points out that 47 percent of high school juniors and 39 percent of high school seniors have clicked on a paid ad when searching for colleges. 
That, in itself, is an area of opportunity, but first, what's the point of paid advertising? Generally, it is to select an ideal target group of prospects, encourage them to click on a link to your website, and then connect with the prospective students (or perhaps family members) to answer their questions and hopefully convince them to apply and eventually enroll at your institution. Interestingly, Google just released an AdWords update that eliminates the need for prospects to convert on a webform, and instead starts a messaging conversation immediately. This new feature is called " click-to-message."
Google, along with lots of other tech giants like Facebook and Amazon, are betting big on messaging. They want to provide a better customer service experience to users by giving them the option to message with companies and schools directly from their ads.  This shift is happening because people generally despise the long hold times they've endured waiting to talk to people on the phone. Studies show that most people prefer messaging and texting to every other method of communication
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Topics: messaging, facebook messenger, recruitment

Texting and Privacy Laws: What schools must know when texting students

Posted by Brian Ruhlmann on October 17, 2016

Considering that 90 percent of text messages are read within 3 minutes and 45 percent elicit a response from the recipient, it seems like texting should play a big part in colleges’ communications and outreach strategies, right?

In a word, yes! But it’s important to understand how texting and privacy laws and consumer protection regulations relate to schools' efforts to properly and effectively text students.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. And there are key differences among various schools: whether they’re nonprofit or for-profit, how and when they’re engaging with students, the intent and nature of the messages they’re sending. But all colleges and universities should be aware of a few laws pertaining to texting prospective and current students and their families.


One of the most important acts to abide by is the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The TCPA was passed by Congress in 1991 to stop telemarketers from sending out unwanted messages to millions of people without any way to opt out of these messages. At a high level, the TCPA prohibits telemarketers from calling or texting without prior express consent when using an autodialer or mass calling/texting system. The three main parts of the TCPA are Do-Not-Call Restrictions, Limitations on Prerecorded Calls, and Limitations on Calls and Texts to Mobile Phones using an Autodialer.

The twist for many schools is that tax-exempt, nonprofit organizations are not subject to some provisions of the TCPA. Schools that send out informational and educational information are well within the bounds of allowable territory. Nonprofits in general are not held to as high of a standard as commercial organizations in terms of getting consent before calling or messaging. For nonprofits they must have oral consent or express consent. For example, this could come from the Common Application or an opt-in box on a webform or inquiry card.

And if a student provides a cellphone number, schools are free to assume consent. (We also recommend confirming consent via an initial text message, but there’s more on that below.)

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Topics: College Admissions, colleges, messaging, texting, recruitment

Your students are messaging. Are you?

Posted by Brian Ruhlmann on October 14, 2016

Text messaging and messaging apps are trending up as more and more people, especially young people, get smartphones and use them to communicate with one another and the world at large.

Messaging has both great breadth, in terms of the vast audience it reaches, and great depth, in terms of how engaged and responsive recipients of messages are. Consider:

  • The number of users on messaging applications has exceeded the number of users on social media. Check out Business Insider's report showing the rapid expansion of messaging:
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Topics: chatbot, College Admissions, colleges, texting, retention, student success, facebook messenger, recruitment

Reinvigorating the college search and application process

Posted by Brian Ruhlmann on September 8, 2016
Way back when I when I began my college search (in 2007, which I'm told was only yesterday when I talk to some of my seniors about it), I wasn't too excited about the process. And I certainly wasn't leading the charge... I knew I wanted to go to college, but when my parents would bring up pairing my summer vacation with visiting schools, I became very good at quickly moving the conversation to another topic.

To be fair, I did have some friends who really enjoyed exploring and dreaming of the possibilities at different colleges they visited. But when I think back on my college hunt, I get flashbacks of the enormous "Fiske Guide to Colleges" book, surfing the internet to skim generic descriptions of colleges, and generally feeling overwhelmed by what my parents and others were telling me would be the biggest decision of my life to that point.
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Topics: College Admissions, colleges, recruitment