Bill Hampton, Senior Vice President for External Relations & Chief Marketing Officer at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU), is redefining the enrollment experience that he was a part of as a student fifteen years ago at ERAU. And he will be the first to tell you a lot has changed.
When Hampton attended Embry-Riddle in the late ‘90s, the recruiting and enrollment experience was like most institutions’ at that time: transactional, linear and limited to one or two modalities. Communications were paper-based, dry, and often talked about the institution rather than about the student. And to compound the problem, the process students were expected to navigate in order to pick a program and register for their courses was complicated and inconvenient.
Due to increased competition, a more diverse community of learners, and higher expectations for customer service, higher ed institutions began feeling pressure to completely overhaul the student enrollment experience. By the time Hampton accepted the SVP position, Embry-Riddle needed an updated recruitment and enrollment process to meet these changing expectations. He set out to create an enrollment process that includes personalized pathways and empowers students to make the right decisions for themselves. He achieved this in three ways.
#1. Make enrollment management a priority across the organization
Hampton knew that to create a new enrollment experience for students, he needed support from all leadership, faculty and staff. He encouraged buy-in at all levels by:
- Having frequent conversations with the President about how improving student satisfaction within the enrollment process could have a significant positive impact on enrollment yield.
- Educating his colleagues about how shifting student demographics requires updating the Embry-Riddle message to align with priorities, perspectives and expectations of students.
- Mitigating concerns that the focus on student experience would diminish the focus on academic excellence, by demonstrating how they are codependent.
- Communicating his goals, successes and performance outputs throughout the institution.
By making enrollment a priority for leadership and taking a collaborative, team-oriented approach to change, Hampton ensured the institution would have the support and resources required for the design, implementation and measurement of a radically new enrollment experience.
#2. Create a holistic experience
Changing the enrollment process from a disjointed, transactional experience into an engaging one that inspires and motivates applicants through each step is crucial for connecting the student to the institution. It also leads to a smart, forward-thinking, modern brand that differentiates the institution from its competitors.
Hampton began the process of creating a holistic student experience by reviewing all content related to the enrollment process and replacing complicated, boring and authoritative communications with simple, engaging, personalized ones that guide students through the process step-by-step. His universal rule for content creation is that it should be both meaningful and relevant.
But being engaging isn’t enough; the experience also needs to be convenient and unified. The new structure allows students to access resources through multiple channels, and regardless of whether they choose to reach out by text, by phone or in person, they will receive a consistent message that is clear, simple, and uniquely Embry-Riddle.
#3. Build with an eye to scalability
During the time Hampton was defining and implementing the new enrollment experience, Embry-Riddle was growing, adding 60 academic programs to its existing catalog of 30. To enable fast and efficient program activation, the enrollment team built out an easily replicable go-to-market process for developing supporting materials and training advisors. They also augmented their enrollment support staff with outsourced advisors from Blackboard to ensure students received the right level of service. With this partnership, Embry-Riddle ramped staffing and service levels to align with the seasonality of requests and not impact its full staff working at campuses.
Supporting rapid program growth also necessitated the development of a robust, easy to use program, knowledge-base accessible to staff and students. Hampton enlisted the assistance of the academic staff to develop a playbook for every program ensuring the value proposition, competitive differentiation and career opportunities upon completion are clearly documented and understood. This approach creates shared ownership of program-growth goals between marketing, enrollment and faculty.
By building a personalized and engaging enrollment experience supported by a framework that leverages collaboration and accountability across the institution, Embry-Riddle has positioned themselves for continued programmatic and enrollment growth in the most efficient and cost effective way.