It's no secret that colleges and universities, especially private institutions, are facing a crisis. Applications are decreasing, enrollment numbers are plunging, and that spells bad news for revenue. In fact, Moody's outlook for higher education in 2014 cites an alarming trend of expenses exceeding revenues in the long term.
This steep decline has forced colleges and universities to take a hard look at their business model, which often results in a break from traditional recruitment strategies and long held features that have been part of the school’s identity. For example, in an effort to attract prospective students, one college offered $1,000 scholarship for a campus visit. Some institutions have started graduate and adult-learner programs while others have opened up their prospect pool by shifting from single-sex to coed. And while there are plenty of creative ways to attract more prospects, increase enrollments, and grow revenue, it's important not to overlook the role the institution’s most valuable marketing asset – the website -- plays.
If you’re higher ed website is missing any of these must haves, it’s time to start planning your redesign.
If you’re paying attention to your site analytics, you’ve seen the shift of site traffic to mobile devices from desktop. Your website must be optimized for mobile to effectively reach your audience, recruit prospective students, and engage your community. Check out this trend report to learn just how much mobile has changed higher ed websites.
The Right Content
Drawing visitors to your website and wowing them with an interesting creative design is only half the battle. Once you have people clicking around, you need to make sure that you’re presenting the right information in an organized and intuitive user experience. Prospective students want to read about:
- Financial aid
- Campus and student life
- Academic programs
Coming up with creative ways to showcase this type of content doesn’t have to be a challenge. Campus and student life can be illustrated with student blogs, week-in-the-life snapshots, videos, and online tours. Academic programs are easy to navigate with program finders. The important thing to remember is to give your content authenticity by:
- Using content contributors from across the campus community
- Incorporating authentic photography with actual students in real-life situations around campus
- Showcasing key aspects of campus life like dining halls and dorm life
If your website is going to help you meet your goals, it needs to appeal to multiple segments. Determining these segments and defining their needs is important to designing a great user experience. You’ll want to consider how you position your site to the following groups:
- Prospective students
- Current students
- Parents of prospective and current students
- Adult learners
- Faculty and administration
- Local community
Your website is a powerful cog in your recruitment and retention machine. While the crisis within higher ed is complex and multi-faceted, one thing that is clear – maximizing your website’s potential to drive business goals is a requirement for long-term success.
Check out our Student Lifecycle Infographic to learn the most effective messaging at different points throughout the student journey.