Tracking the ROI of international student recruitment initiatives

Introduction

Iowa State University (ISU) is a public research university located in Ames, Iowa. The university places a high importance on diversification of the student body, consistently exceeding the 8.5 percent minority enrollment goal set by the Iowa Board of Regents. In the fall of 2015, 4,041 international students, representing over 100 countries, were enrolled in ISU, comprising over 11 percent of total enrollment.

ISU has been able to surpass their international student enrollment goals by consistently evaluating and honing their international recruitment strategy. These international recruitment efforts are very broad, and finding methods to attribute what specific initiatives are resulting in enrollments is the ultimate goal. Unfortunately, methods to measure what recruitment efforts can be attributed to enrollments are limited.

This case study highlights one component of ISU’s international recruitment strategy, and how the university was able to prove its return on investment (ROI).

Tim Tesar
Tim Tesar
Assistant Director, International Admissions, Iowa State University

“Measuring ROI is important for us in order to track expenses and to see if our efforts are worth the resources. ROI helps our institution make the best of resources, time and money. It also helps us to know if we are able to produce the outcomes we want in terms of both hard and soft returns.”

Challenge

ISU has been a long-standing partner of Hotcourses as a means to increase brand awareness among international student markets and to fill the top of the recruitment funnel by way of international student inquiries.

Over the years ISU has expanded their partnership, currently advertising on 10 international sites and hosting 8 translated microsites on the ISU website. ISU leverages the analytics from both Hotcourses and Google Analytics to determine which countries students are viewing their sites from, and based on that data, where to focus their recruitment efforts.

While ISU was able to see the value in Hotcourses through the student inquiries, tracking those initial inquiries through to enrollments remained a challenge.

Tim Tesar
Tim Tesar
Assistant Director, International Admissions, Iowa State University

“The benefit of Hotcourses is their nimbleness. We have conversations focused on what our goals are, and they are able to custom build a solution to help meet those goals. We appreciate the student leads and the ability to see the analytics of who is looking at ISU on Hotcourses as well as on our ISU site.”

Solution

In the fall of 2015, Hotcourses released Enrollment Matcher Tool (EMT) to give partners a clear sense of how many offers and enrollments were a result of students using Hotcourses’ websites to research their institution. The only information needed from the institution to run EMT is a list of international students that have enrolled, or that have been extended offers.

Hotcourses does not require students to register, so EMT is only able to match less than 2 percent of students that have used the site in the past 4 years. Therefore, the enrollment matches that EMT provides is the absolute minimum that have used Hotcourses to research a particular institution.

Given the high importance that ISU places on analyzing the effectiveness of their international recruitment efforts, plans to run EMT were immediately set in motion.

Tim Tesar
Tim Tesar
Assistant Director, International Admissions, Iowa State University

“I was delighted to hear about EMT. On the international side, this is the first tool we have had with a partner that has been able to actually track who enrolled with ISU.”

Results

ISU used EMT to determine, of every international student currently enrolled in the university, who can be attributed to Hotcourses.

Tim Tesar
Tim Tesar
Assistant Director, International Admissions, Iowa State University

“I was surprised at how simple it was to import our institutional data from an Excel sheet into EMT, and also pleasantly surprised at how quickly the results were delivered to my inbox. The detailed PDF results analysis was a very effective and quick way to show a breakdown of the data by country of origin, how the students were matched, and what part of the Hotcourses sites they were coming from.”

The numbers speak for themselves:

With EMT, ISU has verified Hotcourses to be a highly effective component of their overall international recruitment strategy.”

  • 8 percent of ISU’s current international students used Hotcourses to research ISU
  • Cost of an international student via Hotcourses is $250 over last 4 years
  • Hotcourses generated $6.7 million in tuition income for ISU during the 2015/2016 school year
  • This resulted in 88 times the ROI for the cost of marketing to enrollment income
Tim Tesar
Tim Tesar
Assistant Director, International Admissions, Iowa State University

“Overall I was very impressed to see that we had over 300 students at ISU that had come from our partnership with Hotcourses."

What next?

Thanks to the ease and flexibility of EMT, ISU plans to run the application with more segmented student data to uncover additional insights and help inform future marketing strategy, including:

  • Undergraduate vs. graduate enrollments to gain deeper insight into successful markets
  • Isolate the year of enrollment to determine the average length of the recruitment cycle
To learn more about Hotcourses and EMT, schedule a live demonstration with a member of our college partnerships team.