Recruiting Out-of-State Students

John W. Dysart
President
The Dysart Group, Inc.
As colleges and universities seek to increase enrollments, many are attempting to expand their geographic reach by trying to recruit more out-of-state students. There are real challenges for schools seeking to grow the pool of out-of-state students:

Studies show that 72% of high school graduates attend college in their home state and that only 14% leave their home geographic region to enroll in college.

Out-of-state students usually are not eligible for state grants and this can increase the financial aid costs for the
institution.

There can be new expenses associated with dedicated out-of-state recruitment activities.

Conversion rates throughout the admission funnel tend to be lower for out-of-state students.

The extra costs for students and families such as travel, housing charges and higher tuition rates (at public colleges and universities) can be real barriers.

Despite the obstacles, there are a number of advantages to increasing out-of-state student counts:

For public institutions there are significant tuition differentials to be realized. This is becoming even more attractive as many states continue to cut support and subsidies.

Recruiting more out-of-state students can help underenrolled colleges and universities fill excess capacity in the residence halls.

American College Testing reports that there are correlations between higher test scores and increased family experience with higher education for students who attend geographically distant institutions.

There are a number of cost-effective tactics available for colleges to increase the number of out-of-state students:

Expand your geographic search parameters from providers such as The College Board, American College Testing and NRCCUA.

Focus communication with these students using electronic outlets such as text messaging and social media.

Ensure your website addresses specific concerns of out-of-state students.

Utilize skype as a personal form of communication that does not require the expense of travel.

Add virtual tours of your campus to your website.

Include compelling messages such as the opportunity to graduate in four years; tout any specialized academic programs; sell the benefits of new experiences for students and boast of the unique characteristics of your geographic region.

Emphasize outreach to state systems reducing available seats such as Texas and California and geographic regions with a history of exporting students such as New England. Consider the following states where fewer than 70% of students stay at home for college:

– Massachusetts 44%

– Rhode Island 51%

– Pennsylvania 55%

– New York 55%

– New Hampshire 59%

– Vermont 60%

– Connecticut 64%

– Missouri 58%

– Iowa 49%

– Minnesota 61%

– Illinois 56%

– Arizona 58%

There are also several tactics that may not be as cost effective:

Hiring part-time, out-of-state recruiters may not be the best option since their efforts are difficult to track and monitor.

Spending more money to increase travel for admission counselors can be expensive. In addition, the effectiveness of most high schools visits and many college fairs is dubious.

As demographic changes cause drops in the number of high school graduates in many states, initiating recruitment activities that will increase the number of out-of-state students may be a viable option for some colleges and universities.