Ruffalo Noel Levitz Study Ranks 80 College Marketing and Recruitment Practices

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A new study of marketing and recruitment practices at four-year campuses shows email and texting are now running neck and neck as favored ways to connect with prospective students.

What’s working best in undergraduate student marketing and recruitment? A new study from Ruffalo Noel Levitz ranks the effectiveness and usage of more than 80 strategies and tactics, including specific approaches to event marketing, advertising, print communications, student search, digital marketing, internal operations, and much more.

The 2016 Marketing and Student Recruitment Practices Benchmark Report was based on a 105-item, web-based Ruffalo Noel Levitz poll of campus officials in November of 2015. The report provides separate findings for four-year private vs. four-year public institutions. More than 160 institutions participated in this study.

One important new finding: In response to the federal government’s new FAFSA rules which allow use of PPY (Prior Prior Year) information, the majority of campus officials indicated they will be adjusting their communication flows to prospective students and providing earlier estimates of financial aid. FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. (More information on PPY preparations is available in a complimentary white paper - see link at bottom).

Among the highlights of the study:

  • Email continues to be effective when communicating with prospective students, but many undergraduate officials now give even higher marks to text messaging.
  • Events and event-related activities head the lists of the “top 10” most effective strategies and tactics across four-year private and public institutions.
  • Advertising is fairly popular, with online ads receiving the highest marks, but respondents generally rated the effectiveness of advertising lower compared to 30 other practices.
  • Overnight campus visits and college-paid trips to campus appear to be effective but under-utilized practices for private institutions, while weekend visit days and campus visits designed for school counselors appear to be effective but under-utilized for public institutions.
  • Use of a CRM for managing and tracking recruitment communications ranked at the top of 13 internal operations practices.
  • Fall of the senior year of high school was among the most popular times for purchasing high school student names from list vendors such as NRCCUA, the College Board, and ACT.
  • Only about 10 percent of private and public respondents in this study gave an “excellent” rating to their strategic, multi-year enrollment plan, and nearly 40 percent indicated they don’t have one.

“Benchmarks like these can point to new opportunities as well as confirm practices that deserve ongoing attention,” notes Sarah Coen, senior vice president of consulting services at Ruffalo Noel Levitz. “In a time of limited resources, what are the most effective and efficient strategies that campuses should be using to connect with future students? PPY will bring even more focus to this question.”

For a copy of the 44-page report, visit

For more information on campus preparations for PPY, an 8-page white paper is available at


About Ruffalo Noel Levitz

Ruffalo Noel Levitz is a nationally recognized consulting firm focused on higher education enrollment management, student success, and fundraising. Since 1973, Ruffalo Noel Levitz has partnered with more than 3,000 colleges and universities throughout North America and beyond. For more information, visit

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Pam Jennings
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