How One Community College Improved Enrollment with TrueDialogOctober 19, 2020
As free, online programs gain popularity, the already-competitive landscape of campus-based university and college programs has struggled to attract and retain students. COVID-19 has made this even more difficult: traditional schools with on-campus housing have had to shift to all-online teaching models or adopt a hybrid model that combines virtual and in-person classes.
As education undergoes this dramatic transformation, schools must still convince potential students that their tuition-based courses are superior to free, online educational opportunities. Modern technology may be the solution to this challenging problem.
As an example, Davidson County Community College (DCCC), with campus locations in both Davidson County and Davie County, North Carolina, has achieved great success from recruiting and building solid relationships.
Leveraging Technology to Drive Engagement
Historically, connecting with potential students included visiting high schools, holding open-campus college days, and mailing invitations to apply to soon-to-be high school graduates. The snail mail invite was slowly replaced by email and telephone contact, which worked well for a time. Today, many students admit that they get such a high volume of emails that they rarely visit their inboxes to review messages.
When both traditional and electronic mail weren’t motivating targets to respond to promotional messages, DCCC added text messaging into its overarching communications plan. Specifically, the college began using TrueDialog, a mass texting platform that specializes in communication technology and software solutions for higher education environments.
TrueDialog Eliminates Ignored Messages
The DCCC administration knew that its current students and staff members were comfortable using text messaging for internal alerts and reminders. It was a logical next step to develop a recruitment plan that included expanding its reach with a mass text messaging program for potential students.
After researching several SMS platforms, admissions counselor Paul Riley chose TrueDialog. He found that mass text messaging was more reliable than email marketing campaigns, and since potential students must opt-in to receive texts, messages were less likely to be ignored than mass email campaigns. Riley also discovered other benefits that TrueDialog offered the school.
Marketing for Success
Initially, Riley had high school students sign interest cards that he handed out at high school events, which gave DCCC counselors and recruiters permission to send texts with information about upcoming classes, degree programs, and campus events. He developed a multi-channel marketing campaign that included social media advertising, billboard messaging, and promotional content about texting on the school’s website.
The flexibility and functionality of the TrueDialog platform appealed to prospective students. Student engagement and enrollment increased as students participated in question-and-answer sessions via text, learned about specific course offerings and requirements, and explored financial aid packages. The new system also made it easier for students to receive application assistance and guidance.
Key Capabilities of TrueDialog
Connecting with students, faculty, and DCCC staff is much easier with a mass text communication strategy with a full suite of customization options and features. According to research, 75 percent of all consumers are comfortable receiving texts from brands and companies so long as they give those businesses permission to receive them.
After opting in, DCCC students and prospects receive alerts about campus emergencies, as well as routine reminders about events and class changes. DCCC now routinely uses text messaging to conduct short surveys, announce job openings, share campus news, and send crisis response instructions to affected community members.
Text messaging can come from either long codes (10-digit phone numbers) or from short-codes (4-6 digit phone numbers). The flexibility to send both long- and short-code texts gives the school opportunities to connect with all current and past students, a single department, or one student or prospective student at a time. Along with controlling how many recipients are included in a text group, TrueDialog offers the school the choice to send texts from a local phone number, which usually has a higher response rate than an out-of-area calling number.
Two-way texting capabilities extend communication opportunities. For example, two-way texting has helped the school respond faster and more efficiently to prospects’ questions, which boosts satisfaction and engagement. Plus, the platform enables prospective students to use the two-way texting component to schedule campus tours, explore available programs, and learn more about the DCCC’s staff and faculty.
DCCC also chose to promote its “Career & College Promise Program” via mass text campaigns targeted at high school students. This program offers high school students access to college-level DCCC courses free of charge. Credits can be transferred after graduation and applied to future certificates or diploma requirements.
DCCC Engagement Experience Recap
Paul Riley and DCCC are very satisfied with how TrueDialog has helped the school boost engagement and enrollment numbers. The new system doesn’t just better serve students, however. Parents, front-line educators, department heads, staff, security personnel, alumni, and all stakeholders benefit from more efficient, effective communication that connects the community.
With TrueDialog, prospective students get answers to important questions faster. Also, educational institutions can dramatically increase their reach with a mass text campaign, using short-code messaging to promote campus tours and events. Personalizing messages is simple and does not require one-on-one engagement to build a customized response strategy.
Plus, communication during a crisis or emergency is more efficient, accurate, and effective because everyone can receive an alert immediately, rather than relying on telephone or email.
Adding an SMS platform to the DCCC communications tool chest demonstrated the school’s commitment to improving the student experience. Community colleges interested in boosting enrollment, increasing student satisfaction, and improving campus engagement would do well to follow DCCC’s lead and add text messaging components to their communication policies.