RNL guides colleges and universities to brighter futures
Learning is all about engagement, an evolutionary process that shape-shifts with every new generation of students. In higher education, finding and enrolling the students they want, retaining them through the successful completion of their schooling, and cultivating alumni relationships requires a progressive approach, building on existing knowledge and tailoring effective strategies for continued success.
For nearly half a century, RNL (Ruffalo Noel Levitz) has guided colleges, universities, and nonprofits through these forward movements. Driven by a mission to keep higher education flourishing, they offer customized services, solutions, and technology designed exclusively for the industry.
RNL is a tech-enabled company. Their advisory services are built on the strength of a rich, dynamic storehouse of data, and are supported by a foundation of new and next generation technology to create scalable higher education solutions that combine with the company’s strategic insights. They also provide software-as-a-service and deliver managed services that include native and hybrid solutions as well as products from their expansive partner network.
At present, the organization is undertaking a digital transformation that aims to revolutionize each of its business lines: student recruitment, student enrollment, and donor management. The digital pivot will support their hyperfocus on client experience, synthesizing technology across the entire business, and enable clients to leverage RNL’s ever-growing ecosystem of technology and human expertise to their best advantage.
“On the technology side you have to have a plan-build-operate model of how you’re actually looking at ways to deliver the client experience,” said Kader Sakkaria, RNL’s Chief Digital and Technology Officer. “Once you actually put client experience in the center, you must take a step back and consider the impact of any and every decision you make, whether it’s business, operations, technology, or finance.”
A single query summarizes that consideration: Will the decision enhance client experience or is it going to diminish it? “How will it impact the VP of enrollment if we make this investment or roll out this new feature or change the pricing structure?” he said. “We question everything this way.”
Creating the right marketing approach to generate high-value leads for their clients is an important aspect of the project. Historically, higher education has relied heavily on SAT and ACT scores as a key acceptance benchmark, using the data collected about the students taking those tests to build their storehouse of student leads. With more and more colleges and universities dropping SAT and ACT requirements, new sources of leads are needed.
“We are headed towards what I call the next level of disruption,” Sakkaria said. “We are not only leaning on SAT and ACT for list generation, but there are other lists we can create to better qualify the leads.” RNL generates some of these other lists from data captured by a number of institutions, including Princeton, Carnegie-Mellon, and a host of top-tier schools. The advantage of collecting nearly 50 years’ worth of legacy data and working with over 3,000 universities in that time leads to a tremendous pool of information that can be enhanced with modern technology.
“We’re able to infuse artificial intelligence and machine learning to qualify these leads upfront and choose the high-quality leads.” Additionally, prescriptive analytics help clients better understand how to shape their marketing efforts to achieve the results they desire, which is converting students who have been accepted to students enrolled in the school. “That’s going to change this whole game.”
Making Way for Gen Z
A generation of digital natives — defined by Pew Research as those born after 1997 — are beginning to enter the higher education system, and RNL’s tech transition is helping their clients prepare for that intriguing shift. Not surprisingly, it involves restructuring the way higher education systems deal with students’ demand for instant and precise access to data.
“Part of what’s happening in this whole digital transformation is removing many of the cyclical pieces within the higher education system, because the next generation of digital natives are asking for data now,” Sakkaria said. Deciding how to provide that content is equally paramount. “It might be a hybrid type of learning. How do you actually give students their curriculum or course information on demand and in the right format, whether that’s mobile, their home computer, iPad, or through text messaging or whatever that media is?”
Student acquisition requires schools to understand students’ digital footprints to meet their needs and to pinpoint the best way to present data to them so they can access it at their own pace. When it comes to student success, technology helps identify patterns of behavior to keep them engaged in the educational process and to find new ways to support them through the waves of change that define the student experience.
On the philanthropy side, high-quality data helps fundraisers maximize their engage opportunities with alumni and donors. Finding the most effective channels, timing, and messaging is also an RNL specialty. From Sakkaria’s perspective, creating the hyperfocus for each business line is essential. “Clients want to feel that the information that’s been given to them is theirs and theirs alone, and that’s based on all these attributions that we’re doing,” he said. “With a custom view of their relationships with their students and alumni, our clients can be successful on the acquisition side, the retention side, and the fundraising side.”
Technology can also help prevent the abuse of college enrollment systems. “For a number of years, higher education has been left out of any ransomware attacks or cyberattacks, but now that (hackers) have a good amount of information on student history, education, learning patterns, and attributions, it’s become a pretty huge target,” Sakkaria said.
Security is woven into everything RNL does, including processes, products, and software pipelines. To help tamp down on falsified applications, authentication methods are built into the digital profiles and footprints the IT team are building. As those digital profiles and footprints are built, careful attention to authentication is a way to curtail abuse of a school’s enrollment system.
As you might expect, RNL’s slate of tech partners making the journey possible is a roundup of the best and brightest. Microsoft, AWS, and Beta Robots bring the platforms together. “Brillio is one of our system integrators that's been very involved with us in developing the system life cycle, and we have a lot of hardware and software partnerships as well,” he said. Higher ed specialists including ThankView, Mongoose Research, ZeeMee, and CampusESP are just a few of RNL’s deep pool of business partners.
Sakkaria offers this guidance to education leaders contemplating their own digital transformation: “Make sure any and every decision made is based on the customer. Hyperfocus on the client experience will help you position yourself for the whole digital future.”
RNL is the leading provider of higher education enrollment management, student success, and fundraising solutions.
For more than 40 years, colleges and nonprofit organizations have turned to RNL to enroll the students they want, help more students graduate and succeed, and build lifelong relationships with donors.
Our mission is to make colleges, universities, and nonprofits successful and vibrant with inspired and relevant engagement.
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