Solving the Discount Rate Dilemma for Colleges & Universities

The tuition discount rate problem is a plague for colleges and universities across the United States. In our conversations with schools, we have seen discounts as high as 60%. Years ago, universities gave financial aid, scholarships and grants to potential students to increase class size and diversify the student population. But today, large discounts are needed at most colleges and universities in order to just maintain student population goals.

In partnership with our clients, Fathom has developed an approach to the discount rate problem. It can be solved through a two-pronged approach:

Part 1:
Increase the total pool of applications through high return-on-investment forms of digital marketing. 
We call this “digital funnel management of new students.”  To begin, you must acquire traffic to your website and social properties. Your traffic will include students who are highly likely to enroll, along with their parents. The next step is to convert that traffic into new student inquiries and then nurture those new student inquiries into enrollments.

When effectively done, a college should receive, on average, $26 in new student revenue for every $1 invested in marketing.  Since 1 in 4 students now do 100% of their research on universities online, and almost all new students interact online with a university prior to enrolling, the universities that dominate the digital funnel through search, social, email and a strong Web presence will win.

Part 2:
Score new student inquiries for their likelihood to need a discount to enroll. 
By looking at all available variables, and your competitors’ variables, you can set up lead scores for all new student inquiries.

Then, you can rate each prospective student on a scale of 1-10, based on how likely it is that a discount is required to obtain each student. Once you have discount rate scores for each student inquiry, you can prioritize your communications and acceptance of low-to-no-discount-rate students within admissions.

As a result of this two-pronged approach to discounted tuition rate challenges, schools can obtain larger class sizes, more student diversity, and do so at a lower discount rate.  Yes, it’s possible!

Do you have stories of tuition discount success? Share them in the comments below.


There’s power in 1:1 messaging across the student life cycle. See how it influences student recruitment, retention and alumni engagement in our free guide for higher-ed marketers.

Student Life Cycle Nurturing

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