Geographic Student Targeting at University System of Georgia

What if finding the right prospective students was as easy as searching the map of a real-estate search site like Zillow?

Focusing outreach on geographic areas that offered the highest possibility of return could maximize marketing resources and grow enrollment faster.

This is exactly what the team at the University System of Georgia (USG) has been doing since they were able to consolidate and map out publicly available data to help their institutions achieve their enrollment goals.

We recently spoke with Dr. Angela Bell, Associate Vice Chancellor of Research and Policy Analysis at The University System of Georgia discusses how their Zillow-like research tool allows them to better geographically target untapped and underserved students.

During our conversation on the Enrollment Growth University podcast, she shared how the team is using the tool and steps your institution can start taking to replicate their process.

What Can Better Data Do For Your Recruiting?

The USG set out to use publicly available data to better target prospective students in order to be more efficient with their outreach and improve overall admission.

Their Zillow-like research tool allows them to easily visualize different data sets in a variety of formats that is easy for employees at their various institutions across the state of Georgia can use to modify their outreach to underserved student populations.

The use of the data tool has brought three distinct benefits to the USG, according to Dr. Bell:

  1. Helps the USG make better decisions on outreach

  2. Helps USG campuses make better marketing decisions

  3. Provides actionable data to help carry out their mission more effectively

The University System of Georgia’s Market Share Tool

The USG created the data visualization tool they refer to as The Market Share Tool as a multi-channel dashboard that helps their employees identify where more qualified prospective students live, which helps them strategically grow their enrollment.

Dr. Bell shared what their team sees when they’re using the tool.

It consists of a 4-panel dashboard that allows users to see the data in different ways and hone in specific sets of information for targeted analysis.

Panel #1: Grid of all state public high schools

Dots on a visual grid helps USG employees quickly see information like eligibility rates and unenrolled prospects.  Size and color differentiation of the dots help them to identify key data points.

Once they’ve targeted the information they want to see, they can more easily determine how to focus efforts on increasing access to targeted prospects, such as academically talented and low income students.

All of this allows USG institutions to hone in on greatest area of opportunity for future enrollment growth.

Panel #2: Dots on a map to visualize data

The same color coordination from the grid allows users to see the same data sets laid out geographically to make decisions about areas of the state to focus during upcoming outreach initiatives.

USG personnel can easily see the the location of the closest USG institution to pockets of underserved sectors of the population and follow up accordingly.

Users can even use a lasso feature on the map to see data only for very specific regions of the state, similar to homebuyers trying to target a specific neighborhood or school district on home buying sites like Zillow, Trulia or Realtor.com.

Panel #3: Details about each high school

This panel helps USG users easily see historical information, like the number of prospective students that typically graduate from certain high schools across the state.

Data like capture rate and most likely post graduation destination is easily recognizable in a visual format for users to analyze.

Panel #4: Filtering tools to hone in on data sets

At the top of the dashboard, users are presented with multiple sliders, toggles & filtering options.  This helps users target specific data set they want to focus on.

For instance, a USG employee may want to see only Georgia high schools where the USG is capturing less than 25% of qualified prospects.

This allows them to the limit data shown on the grid and map views.

Working with Publicly Available Data Sources

The USG has partnered with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and other organizations to leverage the publicly available data that is powering this and other tools within their system.

Combining outside data from sources like National Student Clearinghouse and College Board and then geocoding student addresses to incorporate census data, the USG can more easily analyze the information and see patterns, such as student origins and migration patterns within the state.

Data-Driven Geographic Recruitment Decisions

The USG has seen their ability increase to perform more targeted outreach to prospective students since the implementation of the Market Share Tool.

Even more so, they have been able to better target their approach to specific groups of prospects, based on segments of the student population that they can focus on.

For example, outreach and marketing efforts might be tailored differently to students who are more likely to attend private schools than those with a higher likelihood to go straight into the workforce after high school.

Admissions enrollment management teams and USG institutional staff have been able to refine outreach strategies as they segment and target different groups of prospective students with the data they’re using.

This has allowed them to more easily determine their return on investment on specific outreach spending.

The USG is also using a similar application for analyzing data on adult learners, in addition to high school students in Georgia, which pulls from additional data sources, like US Census and American Community survey data.

Employment information can be used to help craft messaging to better recruit adult learners and even align academic planning to workforce trends they see within their region.

Next-Steps Advice for Institutions to Better Target Geographically

Dr. Bell offered two straightforward next steps for any educational institutions looking to leverage data to make better decisions about admissions, outreach and enrollment growth.

Step #1: Look Within

On almost every US college campus, there are experts in fields like demography, GIS and labor.  These are exactly the types of individuals and teams you need in order to develop an application or a process for analyzing data in this way.

Step #2: Focus on Visualization

The tools being used by the USG and their campuses are all being powered by data that is already publicly available.

The challenge, and therefore the most important step for your organization to take, is to make those data sets approachable & interactive for your users.

Maps have been a huge help for USG users, Dr. Bell explained.

Anything that you can do to reduce the time from insight to action will have tremendous effects on tailoring your outreach efforts and messaging to increase enrollment and capture rates for your university.

This post is based on a podcast interview with Dr. Angela Bell from the University System of Georgia. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to Enrollment Growth University.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.