Elevating Student Engagement: A New Model for Blending Marketing with Care

Posted By Sirley Carballo on Mar 5, 2024 10:14:35 AM

Read Time: 5 Minutes

In the dynamic world of higher education, Devin Purgason, Executive Director of Marketing & Student Care, stands out as a pioneer at Forsyth Technical Community College, blending the realms of marketing and student care into a cohesive strategy aimed at enhancing student success.

His recent appearances on "The Hidden Gem" and "Confessions of a Higher Ed CMO" shed light on an innovative approach that could very well set the standard for colleges nationwide.

The Fusion of Marketing and Student Care

Purgason's dual role at Forsyth Tech encompasses the seemingly distinct areas of marketing and student care, yet he demonstrates how intrinsically connected they are. The integration aims to not only draw students to the college but to support them through every step of their academic journey.

At the core of Forsyth Tech's strategy is the recognition that marketing and student care are two sides of the same coin. Marketing, traditionally seen as a tool to attract and enroll students, is reimagined to extend beyond the point of enrollment.

It becomes a continuous engagement mechanism, ensuring that students feel supported and connected throughout their educational journey. This redefinition of marketing’s role within the college environment underscores a commitment to not just filling classes, but filling them with students who are supported, engaged, and primed for success.

The Student Care Philosophy

At the heart of Forsyth Tech's success is the student care team, described by Purgason as a concierge service for the college community. This team is the frontline, handling inquiries and providing support in a way that mirrors customer service best practices in the corporate world.

Their goal is to tackle 80% of all inquiries, streamlining the process for students and freeing up other departments to focus on their core responsibilities. This proactive approach has not only improved efficiency but has deepened the marketing funnel, ensuring that prospective students become active, engaged members of the Forsyth Tech community.

The Role of the Student Care Team

The student care team, as envisioned by Purgason, functions akin to a concierge service, but with a scope that transcends traditional customer service boundaries. This team is the initial touchpoint for students, handling inquiries with a level of personalization and empathy that sets the tone for the entire student experience.

By managing a vast majority of inquiries, the team not only enhances efficiency but also allows specialized departments to focus their expertise on more complex student needs. This approach reduces friction and builds a seamless pathway for students, from their first interaction with the college to their last.

This approach has led to a significant milestone for Forsyth Tech, achieving the highest enrollment in a decade during the spring of 2024, a testament to the team's hard work and innovative strategies.

Leveraging Technology for Student Success

A key component of Devin's strategy involves the use of artificial intelligence, particularly through Element451's AI chatbot, BoltBot that can handle inquiries 24/7.

This tool has led to a 24% decrease in call volume, allowing human representatives to focus on more complex issues.

The AI chatbot is part of a broader initiative to leverage technology in order to meet students where they are, offering them the support they need when they need it.

The Impact on Student Retention and Completion

The fusion of marketing and student care has not only boosted enrollment numbers but is also showing promise in improving retention and completion rates.

With a 9% increase in completion rates, Forsyth Tech is making significant strides towards ensuring that students don't just enroll but also succeed and graduate. This focus on completion rates is crucial for community colleges, where the path to graduation can often be non-linear.

Future Directions and Advice for Others

Looking ahead, Purgason is focused on further enhancing the student experience and success rates at Forsyth Tech.

His advice to other institutions looking to adopt a similar model emphasizes the importance of securing buy-in from leadership, starting small, and scaling up based on success.

By proving the effectiveness of the student care model and demonstrating its impact on both enrollment and student success, colleges can make a strong case for adopting this innovative approach.

Final Thoughts

Devin's work at Forsyth Tech exemplifies the power of combining marketing and student care to create a supportive and nurturing environment for students.

By breaking down silos and leveraging technology, Forsyth Tech is redefining what it means to support student success in the modern educational landscape. This approach not only benefits students but also sets a new standard for how colleges and universities can operate to meet the needs of their diverse student populations.

For those inspired by Forsyth Tech's success, the message is clear: innovation, technology, and a student-centered approach can transform the higher education experience, leading to higher enrollment, retention, and completion rates.

The journey of Forsyth Tech underlines the potential of unified strategies in higher education to create lasting change and positively impact students' lives.

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