Q&A with Scott Jeffe on RNL’s 2022 Online Student Recruitment Report

We’ve been friends with RNL’s vice president of research, Scott Jeffe, for a few years now. Recently, in an effort to better understand (and perhaps influence) the marketing, recruiting, and enrollment aspects of online education, we joined the RNL Advisory Board.

One of the benefits of serving on the advisory board is the ability to get an early insight into RNL research. A recently released report (which we recommend you check out) is the “2022 Online Student Recruitment Report: 10 Challenges and Solutions to Engaging Prospective Students Online”. We asked Scott to answer our questions about the report’s findings.

Q: We noted that this new report presents not only 10 challenges, but also what you call solutions. How did you proceed?

A: There are many reports available today that talk about the challenges facing higher education. But I know that when I present data like this, the public always wants to know what it means to them.

With this in mind, I gathered a group of my colleagues and asked them to each select one of the challenges and imagine that institutional actors had just read it and asked them: “So what should I do this subject ? This was the starting point for solutions.

Q: You write in the report that expanding the program online has become essential for institutional growth. Why is that?

A: We start the report here for a very intentional reason. There was a time when online would have been a nicer thing to have rather than a must-have, but that’s no longer the case. Although the pandemic probably accelerated this, it was in the works long before. This first challenge presents data indicating that since 2012, there has been no net year-over-year growth – whether at the undergraduate or graduate level – among students enrolled in only class lessons.

All growth comes either from new students enrolling in all distance learning courses, or one or more distance learning courses. In both cases, the total distance exceeds the distance one or more, so we must conclude that the integration of some online courses in the classroom programs will not be adequate, perhaps with the exception of the most prestigious institutions. or the most affordable.

Q: What was your most interesting discovery?

A: We asked respondents about expected response times to a request for information. Overall, around a quarter expect a response within minutes, another quarter within an hour or so, and 30% within a business day. Whenever I present data like this to enrollment manager groups, I hear, “I wouldn’t want an answer in minutes,” “I think that’s scary,” or similar responses. .

Well, now we know why: When we segmented this response data into five-year age blocks, more than 40% of respondents over 45 indicated that they agreed with an answer that took more than one business day. The message: we (those of us over the age of 45 who typically run the registration operations) are not the public.

Q: How does meeting the expectations of future students contribute to the success of today’s institutions?

A: We asked respondents two questions: How likely are you to enroll in the institution that admits you first? More than 80% said they would most likely or definitely enroll at the first institution to admit them. But that’s not all. We also asked them how likely they are to enroll in the institution that responds first to their request.

More than half of respondents said they probably or definitely would. Since the rise (and acceptance) of online has given students more choices than ever before, meeting these types of expectations has a real impact on enrollment growth.

Q: Why do you think students value this speed so much?

A: Today’s students in general, and online students in particular, truly view their higher education as just another commodity they buy. They think more about costs than ever, they weigh costs against results (searching for career data on websites) in a way that looks awfully like ROI. Let’s also not forget that we now serve two generations (millennials and Gen Z) who have grown up in a world of personalized and instant response. They have the same expectations vis-à-vis their institutions.

So with these response time questions, they equate colleges and universities with everything else they do.

Example: the restaurant that does not respond to its misplaced order on GrubHub will never be used again; the retailer who does not facilitate the return of something will no longer be used. They expect good customer service regardless of the organization they interact with.


This new report will be a centerpiece of the online track and graduates of 22 sessions at the RNL National Conference in Washington, DC, July 14-16, during which we will also present on “Six Post-COVID- 19 Taunts”.

There is still time to register.

Amanda J. Marsh