Academics & CRM

Every Student Counts


Most of the time, the phrase customer relationship management (CRM) brings to mind sales and business applications. However, a recent study suggests yet another useful purpose: Student Retention. Administrators at post-secondary institutions can now look to increase student retention statistics using CRM variables.


Student Retention

According to research from Central Washington University, educational enrollment is competitive at every level – from private and non-profit institutions, to small colleges and large research universities. With all of the recent competition for enrollment, retention rates are dropping.

In this scenario – where academia is the arena instead of business – brand loyalty can be defined as a student’s perception of their university and the feeling that they belong there. The concept of student retention is measured as the number of attending students who re-enroll on a yearly basis; usually from fall to fall. First and second years students may seem the obvious priority for retention strategies, but third and fourth years are of equal importance. At that grade level, they are enrolled in a Major – these are the students that take the high level, department-specific classes, which benefit the school by bringing in financial credit.


How can CRM theory target students?

One of the main tenants of a successful CRM is satisfying needs. For success, an institution’s initiatives must be aligned with the needs of its students, much in the same way that a business enterprise must target customer satisfaction. Students needs include:

  • Financial assistance
  • Schedule accommodation
  • Post-graduate career assistance
  • Social fulfillment (student satisfaction is confirmed to relate to peer recommendation)

Students who perceive their university as responsive to individual needs have higher likelihood of loyally remaining with their university through graduation.


How Does Brand Loyalty Relate to Student Retention?

Brand loyalty refers to a favorable attitude towards a brand and the steady pattern of purchase of that specific brand over a period of time. A student’s attitude is an emotional product. Universities need to develop programs that cultivate emotional loyalty by addressing the psychological factors that satisfy student needs. They include:

  • A feeling of belonging
  • A feeling of connectedness
  • Trust
  • Emotional attachment or commitment

It’s a good bet: Once emotional loyalty and student satisfaction rates are raised, retention rates will probably follow.


So how can CRM variables help?

Admission and administrators at large institutions can target students through web portals with online surveys, which provide unbiased and timely feedback. Most cloud CRM software provides an email campaign function that can accomplish this. The questions should focus on student perception of:

  • Their school – how it satisfies their needs
  • Themselves – how do they feel they fit with their program
  • Their future – do they plan to finish their degree at the university


These types of targeted questions provide data points that act on CRM relationship building theory. Processes can then develop from the information these questions provide. Keep in mind that students who do not perceive their school as satisfying their needs are most likely to transfer to another.
Schools can strive to target students on an individual basis. Department heads can concentrate on student centric relationships and engender a sense of value, belonging and support.
Armed with data, departmental persona can go a long way to boosting retention rates while admissions and financial aid administrators can tailor their literature.

While a challenge to develop, with the help of a CRM to create a process that improves student experience, retention rates can raise and university enrollment can grow exponentially.

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