Data-driven communication key for higher ed student and faculty success, study shows

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Personalized, data-driven communication improves student experiences and alumni community involvement, according to findings released this week by the higher education software company Ellucian.

The findings — gathered from 300 administrators, 500 college students and 502 alumni — highlight the benefits communication can have on both students and institutions. According to the study published Wednesday, “the integration of data across departments to tailor communication with students and alumni is vital to improving the student experience as well as long-term student loyalty and future giving.”

Of survey respondents, 87 percent of students who had received personalized communication from colleges and universities said that communication was an important factor in their enrollment decisions. The survey suggests that by generating personalized communication with prospective students, institutions can boost enrollment numbers.

Tailored communication is also important to students currently enrolled in institutions, according to the survey. However, the study shows that schools are not using data to strengthen communication effectively.

Seventy percent of students who responded to the survey indicated that they had submitted their personal information three or more times during their first year of school. Students also reported that when seeking answers to advising questions, they must often talk to three or more people before receiving an answer.

Jackie Yeaney, Ellucian’s chief marketing officer, wrote on Twitter that “personalized and relevant communications to students can have a huge impact on enrollment, retention and alum engagement.”

The study also shows that data-driven communication can have a heavy influence on donation decisions.

Although 57 percent of alumni respondents said they do not donate to their schools because they are unsure if they can afford it, the study found several other factors in the donation decision process.

Forty-four percent attribute their generosity to receiving continuous personalized communications from their school since graduation, according to the study, showing the impact of individually tailored communications. The study also shows that 85 percent of alumni agree they would donate more often if they knew their money was funding organizations and initiatives they had been involved with as students.

Data-driven communication can also benefit advisers and administrators, the study continues.

Results show that more than one-third of student advisers spend more than 20 hours each week manually communicating with students, but Ellucian says data analytics can help advisers with this and other responsibilities. Administrators appear to be receptive to new software, as 95 percent of those who responded say that customer-relationship management software would be beneficial in their work.

But despite the benefits of data-driven communication this study has laid out, many are still encountering obstacles in implementing CRM systems. Forty-six percent of administrators said that a lack of support from leadership was an obstacle, and 39 percent said a lack of funding was impeding implementation.

The study concludes by saying that students “share a lot of personal information and expect a personalized experience across all areas of the student lifecycle—admissions, advising, and advancement—in return.”

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