A Framework for Profiling Prospective Students in Higher Education

A Framework for Profiling Prospective Students in Higher Education

Santhosh Kumar Lakkaraju (Dakota State University, USA), Deb Tech (Dakota State University, USA) and Shuyuan Deng (Dakota State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch335
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Abstract

Internet became a primary source of valuable information for everyone over a decade. Before purchasing a higher education program, prospects invest a significant amount of time researching about a different program. This chapter intends to provide a conceptual framework to profile prospective students by giving an overview of higher education marketing literature and extract a theoretical model analyze different prospect decision-making factors. These decision-making factors are further categorized into prospect profiles based on their contextual relevance.
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Background

In general, the consumer buying decision-making process consists of five different phases that drive potential shoppers throughout their purchase process. Kotler & Armstrong (2006) defined the five consumer buying decision-making phases as Need Recognition, Information Search, Evaluation of Alternatives, Making a Decision and Post Purchase Behavior. The higher education institutions tackle these consumer buying decision-making phases through the four phases of the admission funnel. The admission funnel primarily consists of the awareness, inquiry, and application and admissions phases as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Admission Funnel

The awareness phase involves different marketing techniques the institutions rely on to reach out to prospects. The awareness phase will address the need recognition and information search phases by providing relevant information on the institutional websites. During the inquiry phase, a prospect tends to look for potential information on the institutional website and makes an inquiry by filling out the inquiry form. The institution responds to those inquiries by sending out different kinds of communications to prospects. These communications play a critical role in helping prospects to make a decision to apply or not.

The inquiry phase primarily targets the evaluation of alternatives and making a decision phases.

In the application phase, the institutions receive an application from the prospect. The cycle ends with the admission phase where the prospect would receive a decision on the application from the Institution.

To better market themselves and increase their student population, higher education institutions are employing different techniques like online (or) pay per click marketing and print media to increase their local and global presence and, social media to increase their social presence as well as brand awareness. Because of this exponentially growing educational market and varying prospective student behavior, institutions are receiving a large number of inquiries from prospects about a specific program than the actual enrollments into that program (Hemsley-Brown & Oplatka, 2006; Moogan, 2011; Morris, 2009).

Earlier studies investigated several key decision-making variables of a prospective student (Aarinen, 2012; Moogan, Baron, & Harris, 1999; Moogan, 2011; Schäfer & Kummer, 2013), and some studies investigated the current student demographics to predict prospective student enrollment (Desjardins, 2002; Goenner & Pauls, 2006; Tareef & Balas, 2009). Other research studies developed predictive models using prospective student geo-demographic information collected through the online inquiries and estimated the prospective student enrollment rates (Goenner & Pauls, 2006; Michael, 1990; Morris, 2009). However, most of the online inquiries that educational institutions receive are incomplete, which will eventually provide incorrect predictions (Dupaul, 2010).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Profiling: The recording and analysis of a person's psychological and behavioral characteristics, so as to assess or predict their capabilities in a certain sphere or to assist in identifying a particular subgroup of people.

Conversion: A marketing tactic that encourages a customer to take a specific action. In electronic commerce, conversion marketing is the phrase used to often describe the act of converting a customer who browses your site to a paying customer.

Prospects: A person regarded as likely to become a potential customer.

Analytics: The discovery, interpretation and communication of meaningful patterns in data.

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