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content strategy for student recruitment

More than ever, parents and students are looking at post-secondary education as a practical investment that ought to “pay off” with tangible outcomes – like a secure job after graduation, the potential for income growth, and the knowledge needed to evolve and advance.

In response to demand, a growing number of websites have emerged to help decision-makers comparison shop for colleges with the best “return on investment” (ROI). These resources look at a number of factors when evaluating schools, including:

  • Total cost of college (text books, living expenses, room and board, etc.)
  • Potential debt
  • Expected future income (based on program of choice and projected industry demand)
  • Graduate outcomes and job placement

But schools who put “ROI content” front and center on their own website make the task much easier for prospective students and parents to complete, without navigating away to pursue their research elsewhere.

Giving decision-makers the tools they need to evaluate your institution should be the primary goal of your recruitment content strategy. Facilitating the easy discovery of key information on your website helps nurture the conversion process – while enhancing your reputation for transparency, helpfulness, and overall trustworthiness.

Here are four examples of ROI content students and parents are likely to look for on your school’s website:

Net Cost Calculator: Make it Visible, Attractive & Easy to Use

Cost Calculators can be so hard to find on school websites, that US News & World Report compiled a long list of links that lead directly to the calculators of various colleges and universities in the United States. It’s no doubt better (and more reliable) to cut right to the chase, and ensure that you have this crucial tool on your website, and that it’s easy for visitors to find and use.

Harvard College puts the calculator right in the middle of their Financial Aid page. They also place relevant ROI content over the top banner image to help resolve the decision-maker’s concerns around affordability and eligibility for financial assistance:

content strategy for student recruitment

They even use the calculator as a Call-to-Action by offering a persuasive description of the tool, plus the first two “steps”, to get the ball rolling:

content strategy for student recruitment

Now here’s an example of a buried Net Cost Calculator. Wilbur Wright College has the tool, but the link to it is hidden in a crowded drop-down menu on their website’s secondary navigation:

content strategy for student recruitment

It’s not easy to find in the Financial Aid section either. The calculator gets lost in a long and overwhelming list of “Learn More” links:

content strategy for student recruitment

If you know that affordability is a top concern for your audience, consider moving your calculator to a more prominent location on your website – or featuring CTAs that direct visitors toward the tool on your homepage, program pages, financial aid resources, application section, etc.

Average Salary & Career Outlook for each Program

Some career colleges do this quite well. Much of their recruitment marketing rests on the promise of effectively preparing students for in-demand, reliable jobs. Providing stats on wages and industry outlook is key to building confidence that the training investment will “pay off” after graduation.

On the other hand, even though it seems intuitive, not all career colleges and universities are making this information easy to find (or present at all) on their websites. Students are left to research salaries and industry trends on their own – which means navigating away from your domain, and relying on others (very possibly competitors) for important guidance.

Here are a couple of career colleges who are doing a great job of highlighting ROI content in the form of average salaries and career outlooks for each of their programs.

Herzing College Toronto offers a handy graphic on the “Careers” section of their program pages (in this case, their Network Systems Technology program):

higher education online recruitment

Here’s a closer look at the graph. It features average salary, possible job titles, recent employers, and Herzing’s graduate placement rate:

content strategy for student recruitment

Visual, easy to interpret, and prominently displayed, this graphic offers visitors persuasive decision-making information at a glance – supporting Herzing’s brand as a reliable career college while helping to mitigate bounce rates.

Statistics on Job Placement & Alumni Success

If you’re a university – and each of your degree programs leads to a range of potential careers – pinning down average salaries and employment outlook might be a bit challenging.

However, you could definitely survey your alumni and provide statistics on how many found work in their field after graduation. Visitors to your website want proof that their degree will lead to a rewarding job. This evidence should be prominently displayed in your academics/programs section, to spur inquiries and prompt applications.

Here’s a strong example from the University of Iowa, which offers graduate placement statistics for each faculty in the Academics section of their website:

higher education website content

Full Sail University offers its own version of career outcome-related ROI content with their series of “Graduate Profiles” – detailed descriptions of how alumni from each program have successfully applied their degree in the real world:

content strategy for student recruitment

Their extensive list of profiles (in this case, from the Art & Design faculty) includes very specific information about who employed Full Sail Art & Design graduates, for which projects, and exactly how many grads found employment on that particular project.

This resource is up-to-date and presents precisely the kind of hard data prospective students are looking for when calculating ROI on enrollment.

Additionally, links to evidence of graduate success are found in many strategic places across the Full Sail website, including program pages, their Career section – and in plain sight on their main navigation:

content strategy for student recruitment

This last example is from Ranken Technical College, which offers comprehensive job placement statistics for every one of its programs, in the website’s Admissions section:

Nothing builds confidence in successful outcomes like concrete data on alumni career success. ROI content like this, combined with detailed information on career support services, is ideal for persuading decision-makers that your school delivers on its promises.

Accessible Data on Your School’s Performance Track Record

Mohawk College provides an interesting resource to website visitors who are eager to determine the effectiveness of its training programs and learning environment.

In a section called Institutional Research, Mohawk lays out its mission to offer total transparency into how it performs with regard to:

  • Overall quality of programs (by comparison with competitors)
  • Quality of teaching (according to student feedback)
  • Viability of training programs in the current marketplace (according to projected demand)
  • Professional success of graduates (according to the Graduate Employment Report)

Here’s a look at the section, which is located under the “About Mohawk” tab:

content strategy for student recruitment

Mohawk breaks down each Key Performance Indicator (KPI) in an easy-to-read chart, explains how the KPIs are determined, and how results are gathered.

Although this resource could perhaps be more strategically located on the website, its presence clearly reflects a genuine interest in helping visitors make informed decisions about their post-secondary education. It is a pragmatic rather than promotional approach to student recruitment, and definitely helps substantiate Mohawk’s claim that its graduates are “Future Ready.”

As websites get flashier and content marketing grows ever more flamboyant, solid ROI content (effectively presented and easily accessed by visitors) can be a refreshing and reassuring breath of fresh air to the overwhelmed decision-maker.

What’s your take on incorporating more ROI content into your website? We only touched on a few examples here. Are there others types of content your institution is using that would fall into the “ROI” category?

Learn more about website content and student recruitment