The Diminishing Value of Deposits

Adam Castro (@AdamCastroEdu) Well, deposit season is upon us once again. Stage Manager, cue the collective groan. Colleges all over the country are projecting Fall 2013 enrollment based on one, three, even five years of deposit data hoping to see a pre-May 1 uptick that will ultimately result in a strong new student cohort. Give that a second read and tap into your inner Agent Scully: Question everything.

We have accepted the fact that students apply to more schools than ever before, right? In that same vein, we can no longer ignore that the once infinite power of the deposit has been watered down. Some schools have raised, even doubled, the cost of their deposits in recent years with varying results. The bottom line is, the ability to deposit and/or deposit at several institutions, is variable depending on the student population you serve. There is one enrollment factor that is consistent, however: time.

The new deposit is one of an expressed level of commitment through a student’s time. What could be a better indicator of interest than a millennial spending meaningful hours preparing for the start of their college career at a particular institution? To that end, I would argue the following actions are better indicators of student interest than a monetary gesture:

Attending two or more yield-based recruitment events

If a student attends say an Accepted Student Preview Day and a Scholarship Reception, they are highly interested. Get a third visit and you better be helping that student move-in in September. A prepared student may attend 10 Open House events, but they will only attend a yield event for schools they are strongly considering. One, maybe two, schools get multiple yield-based visits.

Taking a placement test

How awful. Imagine giving up your Saturday to sit in a lab for two hours and take a test that has no bearing on your acceptance, but could seal your academic fate as a freshman? I would pay you $150 right now to never have to experience such a thing. Online tests are just as bad. There, I beat you to it.

Registering for classes

Large schools that register their freshmen online en masse, skip the next couple of sentences. Small, niche schools, allow me to holler at you for a second. There is no better indicator for enrollment than registering for classes, right? Well, don’t stop them. Allowing them to register, deposit be damned, opens up a myriad of yield-based, counseling opportunities. You will have every opportunity to find out if they are committed to enrolling at You U. My institution serves a high financial need student body (about 50% of the incoming class has an EFC of $0 - $3,000) and we are often able to present students with a financial aid award that has a $0 out-of-pocket expense after federal, state, and institutional grants, and federal student loans. Does it make sense to ask them to pay out-of-pocket to confirm their intent to enroll? I say no.

The payoff here is in assessment. Broadening the deposit conversation can help you identify problems within your yield strategy. Are your events not up to par? Does your placement test format, or how results are presented, scare the bejesus out of students? Does your initial advising session hook ‘em or push them away?

Deposit to enrolled yield is so 1990’s. Get a handle on your engaged to enrolled yield and it will serve you well in the turbulent years to come.