Illinois, others trial new enrollment marketing toolkit

The university's business college is testing an application from startup AstrumU that gives students personalized maps to show the value of a variety of career paths.
By: | March 17, 2021
Darren Wise/Getty Images

How valuable would it be to have specific data that showed the real return on investment of career paths to prospective students during the enrollment process?

A cohort of 20 colleges and universities believes it could be a game-changer, especially during this challenging moment for higher education. So, they have signed on to pilot a new application called the Enrollment Marketing Toolkit from startup AstrumU that is designed to provide the next generation of talent, especially graduate students, with specific financial outcomes for degrees and majors that meet their needs.

One of them is the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign and its renowned Gies College of Business, which features online graduate programs in accountancy, management and brand communication as well as its MBA program. It says the ability of the Toolkit to give students ROI information on positions within specific industries can help them better navigate or adjust their pathways.

“At a time when so many students and families are facing significant financial and economic hardship, colleges and universities have an imperative to not only focus on the affordability of the degree, but to provide clear and actionable information—early in the application process—on how each academic experience translates into an economic opportunity,” said Kacie Jones, associate director of admissions and recruitment for Gies College of Business’ online programs. “With AstrumU, we have the data to show prospective students how our programs can help them get where they want to go at a more personalized, granular level than traditional employment reports. With a clear path to their career goal, prospective students can apply with confidence.”

Illinois is one of nine graduate business programs that will trial the Toolkit, which uses the company’s Translation Engine to help colleges assimilate ROI into their enrollment efforts and help boost outreach and communications. AstrumU says its platform, driven by machine learning, “contains analysis on millions of educational and career journeys that can forecast the value of educational experiences in the labor market.”

Although graduate programs have seen their enrollment numbers rise despite the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education, institutions are continually looking for edges in recruitment and retention. The Toolkit can be used by colleges to show students how they might be able to boost the skills they need or paths they must navigate to take their careers to the next level.

“It can be easy to fall into the trap of letting majors and courses of study predetermine a student’s career potential—and by extension their life trajectory,” said Tess Surprenant, Director of the Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. “As recent graduates contend with the most volatile job market in history, it’s never been more critical that we help them understand how their skills can translate into predictable long-term career opportunities.”

For institutions that have missed their enrollment targets, Toolkit data might enhance the value of postsecondary education as part of an overall marketing strategy to students who may be weighing their options or seeking more flexible, convenient and affordable paths. AstrumU says colleges can showcase their programs by presenting outcomes from alumni to show the actual “return on education” or ROE.

“The research is clear that the value of a college degree has never been higher, but students need better information on how programs pay off in an uncertain labor market in order to enroll with confidence,” said Adam Wray, founder and CEO of AstrumU.