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Top 3 university struggles with data and how to fix them

Rich Mazzola

As we reflect on last week's Hobsons user conference, we wanted to recap some of the awesome information that we’ve been able to gather from universities around the country. As they talk about the migration from Connect to Radius, another trend has emerged as well; the use of data.

From prospecting to admissions to alumni services, we’ve found that all universities strive for a cohesive data strategy. Yet, many of these universities struggle to achieve this due to budget constraint, internal processes and legacy systems.

We thought it would be great to outline 3 easy ways that universities can kick start a data revolution at their university.

  1. Data enrichment during the application process

More than ever, universities need accurate and complete data to make admissions decisions that align with their mission statement. This needs to be balanced with asking too many questions on an application form, which will increase the application abandonment rate. So what’s the middle ground? We’ve found that organizations that employ a data enrichment strategy are able to maximize applicants while collecting accurate data.

It works by collecting less data up front. For example, if you collect name and address you can automatically append:

  • Demographic data
  • Household income (great indicator for qualifying for financial aid)
  • If they are the first in their family to go to college

There are thousands of attributes that can be appended to your admissions data to streamline this process.

2. NCOA (National Change of Address) for alumni services

As the population of alumni grows every year, alumni services departments struggle to stay engaged with former students. Many schools' fundraising efforts depend on strong engagement of alumni and as these alumni move and change addresses, the connection is often lost.

By using NCOA services, you can automatically update the primary mailing address for any individual in your database. This service will update addresses for anyone who has moved in the last 48 months and uses the USPS change of address (COA) database.

We’ve found that the NCOA service is the most cost effective and efficient way to stay engaged with your student base after they have graduated.

3. Email validation for prospective students

Many admissions departments struggle with the same challenge: How to effectively communicate with students who don’t provide a valid email address. By validating the email in your database you can ensure you messages are getting to students, and if their email address is not valid you can pursue secondary communication methods.

This is important because mailing to invalid email addresses negatively affects your sender reputation, which can result in your emails being sent directly to the spam folder.

While at Hobson’s University, it became clear that most universities share a similar set of problems. While technological solutions can solve a majority of them, the collaboration of universities in the higher education space will result in longer lasting, sustainable changes.  

For more infomation on how we have worked with universities, download our case study with the University of North Texas

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