Online education was hit hard by the pandemic. With online learning and no campus visits, universities had to find new ways to engage and attract students. Here's how MIU used SMS to do just that.
Maharishi International University (MIU) is a nonprofit accredited university offering undergraduate and graduate programs. As the home of consciousness-based education, MIU attracts students who share a commitment to personal inner growth, wellness, sustainability, and positive values.
When education went online in March of 2020, MIU’s previously in-person recruitment events turned into online Zoom webinars. The university needed to find a way to remind signups and increase turnout.
When MIU started to incorporate SMS updates in their marketing strategy, they saw webinar attendance increase by 10%, and that contributed to an increase in enrollment numbers.
The education sector is a $77.1 billion business in the U.S.
With students paying thousands of dollars to attend university, in 2020 the onus fell on institutions to ensure those enrolled would continue to receive the education they were paying for.
Lectures and events were replaced with webinars, as over 44% of universities and colleges developed fully or primarily online teaching methods.
Once virtual learning was up and running, the question became, how do you encourage enrollment when students aren’t able to see campuses or experience recruitment events in-person?
Like many institutions, MIU was struggling to find the answer. Over 70% of their undergraduate student body is composed of transfer students, and the average age of all students enrolled is over 30.
The university knew the stakes were even higher for prospective students. Many had families, jobs, and other responsibilities which had been impacted by the pandemic. Others had already experienced unsuccessful university placements and were keen to ensure their transfer choice was the right one for them.
“We found traditional marketing techniques don’t work at MIU,” Shawn Diddy, Brand Manager, tells us.
With the average American checking their phone every 12 minutes, MIU recognized that students were far more likely to open a text message than an email.
“I think it’s how instant text messaging is. They’re students, they don’t want to be bugged by their school all the time. Sending an SMS was an easy way for them to receive important information without it going into a spam folder.”
MIU uses SimpleTexting’s service to send out two messages for each event, one to thank them for registering, and the second 24-hours beforehand with a link to the webinar.
Sending just two SMS messages around the same event has led to a 10% increase in attendance, Shawn estimates.
“Not everyone who registers for the event attends, and it’s always been that way. Without SMS reminders, we’d usually see around 30% attendance of signups. With SMS reminders, we’re now seeing 40% of signups attending. That 10% can make a big difference, they could be the people who end up as students.”
The success of these event reminders led MIU to explore how else they could use SimpleTexting to reach students.
MIU admissions started using text message campaigns and two-way communication to answer questions and send out important messages to incoming students.
The pandemic showed just how quickly things can change, and the university’s priority was to make sure students received important information in the quickest and easiest way possible.
“Texting is such an intergenerational thing. We have students in their 50s and students in their 20s. I think most people prefer a text over a phone call these days, and they check texts more often than emails,” Shawn explained.
“This time of year is so busy for MIU. SMS is the best way to respond quickly, especially when the information is often very important… using texting has made that whole process smoother.”
At the start of every academic year, the amount of information can overwhelm both students and staff. Universities and students both need to communicate as quickly as possible to make sure nothing is left uncertain when it comes to enrollment day.
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