Sophomore Bo Henderson calls an average of 23 prospective students an hour. It’s one of the highest averages for the 31 students employed at the Student Recruitment Communication Center on campus.
The center can reach out to roughly 1,200 prospective students in a single day to answer any questions or help during the application process. It all depends on how many agents are working and how quickly they’re calling. Henderson said he could give his over-the-phone pitch with his eyes closed.
“I probably could,” he said. “It’s kind of gotten to that point.”
The center started its first official campaign, a call list of over 15,000 prospective students, on Feb. 26 in support of the University’s UM to You bus tour in Spokane, Washington. This list contains the names and contact information from any students who engaged with UM or the student application in the U.S. This includes students who have scheduled visits, requested their standardized test scores to be sent to UM or have attended UM recruitment events.
“Hi, this is a message for Haley,” Henderson read over the phone. “I was just calling because you expressed interest in our school and wanted to see if you have any questions about the University. When you’re ready to apply, our online application is super easy. It only takes about 15 minutes to complete, and it doesn’t require an essay!”
While Henderson was only working a six hour shift that day, he assumed he would make over 100 calls to students on that list by the time he punched out for the evening. Students run the center every weekday, usually all day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The center selects prospective students to call throughout the day based on the time zone they live in, trying to catch students when they get out of school. But Henderson said he mostly leaves voicemails.
Every caller follows the same script when they call prospective students, encouraging them to call back with questions and wishing them well during the rest of their senior year. Henderson usually wraps his messages up with a “Go Griz!” It isn’t required, but he said it adds an extra touch.
Director of the Student Enrollment Communication Center Bill Nevala said these conversations create a deeper connection with prospective students and the University. Student staff members track the center’s success by keeping record of each student they were able to contact and their responses.
“We want to show we will go the extra mile to welcome and assist students in their decision to pursue higher education at UM,” Nevala said in an email. “We are tracking all contacts made and measuring how those yield throughout the enrollment life cycle.”
Cathy Cole, vice president for enrollment and strategic communication at UM, said the idea behind the communication center has been discussed since early 2019. She said having current students contacting potential students is essential, calling it recruitment’s “most effective tool in the box.”
Cole said UM can’t keep up with Bozeman or other universities that spend “millions” on recruitment, but more personal recruitment methods at UM, like the communication center, will make up for the difference. She said that the UM to You tour in Spokane, Washington and Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, saw a “much larger” student turn out than expected.
Cole said prospective students can go to professors and directors with questions about majors or curriculum, but they want to hear about the residence halls, financial aid and campus life from current students. She said, “if a current student says 10 words, it makes all the difference in the world.”
There are a lot of recruits to make up for. Enrollment at the University of Montana has dropped 40% from its record high of 10,567 in 2011 to 6,321 in 2019, the Montana Kaimin reported last month. On the other hand, MSU enrollment reached an all-time high in 2019 with 14,510 enrolled students. Cole said she plans for UM’s more personal recruitment methods to convince students to choose the University.
“In the end, I feel like that’s the way we will win the day,” Cole said.