Moving a potential student from mildly interested high-schooler to enrolled and confirmed member of your college or university's student body takes many steps. From marketing to face time to communications, many factors play a role in recruiting a college student. But for the sake of budget-planning, how can you determine the per-student cost of landing an enrolled student?
On the high end, Ruffalo Noel Levitz estimates the median four-year private institution spends $2,232 per every new student. Here are four starting points for determining your own college or university's figure.
Arguably the most important factor in your student-recruitment efforts is your team—they're the front line for admissions and the one-to-one face for each and every student who enters your doors. So the first step in calculating your per-student recruitment cost is factoring in your staffing expenses—this includes salaries, travel and expenditures on communication capabilities, such as landline and mobile phones and email services. Consider the costs of these combined efforts, and divide it per the number of students you successfully enrolled in your most recent recruitment cycle.
Your print and traditional marketing efforts can go a long way toward successfully admitting and enrolling students to your college or university. How much are you investing in these avenues? You can similarly divide these costs by the number of successfully recruited students. To even further pinpoint your return on investment, determine how many of your direct mail pieces (or other targeted print pieces) resulted in an enrolled student on a per-person basis. Did the number of successes outweigh the number of pieces that fell on deaf ears? Factor this into your average per-student recruitment cost.
Perhaps even more so than print marketing, identifying successes on a case-by-case basis is typically highly trackable in digital efforts. Your upfront costs are likely low, outside of production time for developing amazing content and eye-catching graphics—now you just need to determine how that cost divides out amongst the students that actually ended up on your college campus. Since digital efforts can be highly targeted, it's much easier to tell which of your campaigns are more successful than others—and the student demographics that are attached to them.
Finally, college fairs and other recruitment events factor into the successful enrollment of new students to your university or college. How much do you spend in an average year on these sorts of events—from space rental, to travel expenses, to refreshments, to booths and signage? Divide this amount out by the number of students who opted for your institution. Like any other efforts, grilling down this figure to just the students that you can verifiably confirm were recruited as a direct result of a given effort (such as digital, direct mail or a college fair) via a "How did you hear about us?" field in your application web form can go a long way toward weighing ROI on your marketing budget.