Three Digital Strategies to Attract Non-traditional Learners


From our colleagues at Jenzabar

Many colleges and universities across the country are building non-traditional programs to attract new learners and overcome enrollment challenges. They’ve read industry reports and survey results, consulted in-house analytics and local businesses, and have even hired faculty and created curricula. Now, they are sitting down to undertake the final, and often most challenging, step: marketing these programs to non-traditional learners.

So, how can institutions effectively market courses to non-traditional students? Continue reading the Jenzabar Blog to discover three digital strategies you may want to consider.

Support Your Yield Goals With Personalized Portals and Microsites


Spark451 Media RelationsBy Spark451 Media Relations|August 15, 2023

As you know, students are applying to more colleges than ever in their college search process. To maximize yield efforts, colleges and universities must leverage CRM portals and microsites to offer personalized engagement to admitted students and their parents. Shoring up communication tactics, microsites/portals, and marketing campaigns for both students and families is critical to keeping your institution top of mind — and user-friendly for tech-savvy generations.

During SparkThink@JAM 2023, Spark451’s Senior CRM Strategist Ed Flaherty teamed up with Brewton-Parker College’s Associate VP of Admissions and Retention, Michael P. Moran, M.Ed., to discuss “Maximizing Engagement of Admits and Parents With Personalized Portals and Microsites.” Here are some of the key tips they offered during their session:

Leverage Your CRM

Whether you’re using Slate portals, Element451 Microsites, Salesforce Communities, or an SIS or homegrown solution, creating a personalized, engaging, and responsive space to share succinct information will help keep admitted students and families organized, excited, and engaged.

Get Personal and Keep It Fresh

To keep students engaged, prioritize sharing relevant content, such as program and funnel stage-specific information and next steps. Also, be sure to share resources that are available on campus; add options to interact with students, faculty, and staff; and be sure to change content over time so that prospective students and their families will be compelled to come back again and again. After all, a student may log into your application status portal a dozen times until their decision is released — once they are admitted, you can conditionally display new, fresh, and hyper-personalized content creating a whole new experience in a comfortable space.

Engage Parents

Think about ways to engage parents that work best for your tech abilities and systems. Here are a few things to try:

  • Create email communications delivering parent-centric information (housing, deadlines, resources on campus, plus financial aid and ROI)
  • Create a separate or shared portal space and encourage students and families to visit your portal/microsite together
  • Consider deploying parent surveys, mailings, or other engagement tactics to keep parents feeling connected to your institution

Avoid Pitfalls

To make sure that your microsite or portal is functioning optimally, be sure to:

  • Test the site as much as possible
  • Test the user experience (Share it with student workers or current students to test and break)
  • Make sure it is mobile friendly
  • Check for outdated content regularly
  • Don’t let it get stale — share new videos, stats, and update staff contact information as turnover happens

Let Us Help

If you’re looking for additional ways to optimize your microsite or portal, please reach out to us to discuss your goals. Our experienced team of enrollment marketing strategists and CRM strategists will be happy to help you devise a path forward!

This is just a small taste of all that was discussed during this year’s conference. To dive in further, save the date and join us at SparkThink@JAM 2024!

SparkThink @JAM 2024

Wednesday, May 29–Friday, May 31, 2024
Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center Dallas, TX

This is just a small taste of all that was discussed during this year’s conference. To dive in further, save the date and join us at SparkThink@JAM 2024!

SparkThink @JAM 2024

Wednesday, May 29–Friday, May 31, 2024
Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center Dallas, TX

5 Anti-Melt Strategies

5 Tactics for Surviving Summer Melt


Lara SalazarBy Lara Salazar|July 11, 2023

Summer: A time for rest and relaxation, to re-energize after the long winter season, and enjoy the long, sunny days.

If you’re in enrollment management, the idea of those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer might sound like a dream. As you know, the summer months are still a busy time in admissions—it’s when we do everything we can to hold onto our hard-earned classes and ensure that deposited students matriculate and begin classes in the fall.

The biggest threat: summer melt, a.k.a., when students change their minds prior to the first day of classes. Sometimes students have specific reasons for changing course: financial barriers, lack of resources being provided to them, or choosing a different major not offered at your institution. Other times, it’s a bit more ambiguous, which makes it challenging to find creative ways to limit summer melt. Either way, admissions offers must pull out all the stops to prevent as much melt as possible.

Need help finding a place to start? Here are five anti-melt tactics you can implement to continue connecting with incoming students all summer long. The goal of these different approaches is to help ensure a smooth transition to campus in the fall and include the personal touch that so many students need.

1: Personalized Check-ins

By now, many incoming students have formed relationships with their admissions counselors. From getting them excited about attending your school, to holding their hands through the application process, these counselors have become a trusted guide throughout students’ late high school years. It’s important to continue that relationship over the summer and for counselors to help facilitate the transition to campus in the fall. By continuing communication between the student and counselor with phone calls, texting, or other personalized outreach, the student will feel supported and connected to the school. Ideas for discussion topics include following up on housing applications, health and immunization paperwork, and making a registration appointment with their academic advisor.

2: Figuring Out Finances

Without a doubt, finances are one of the most important factors influencing a student’s ability to attend college. Providing clear information to help students and their families understand their financial aid and tuition payment information will help them know what next steps need to be taken. As a start, try connecting students to their individual contacts in the financial aid and business offices so they’ll know who to go to with questions.

3: Connect Students to Students

There are a lot of opportunities to connect students with each other through different social media platforms. Encourage students to join a “‘Class of” group online, where they can get to know each other. Create an Instagram account that encourages students to share what they’re planning to study and why they’re excited about attending your school. You might also want to consider hosting a social event on campus to bring students together and invite current student representatives from select clubs and organizations. The incoming students can sign up to get involved with a campus group when they arrive in the fall. These bonding opportunities will help get your incoming students excited about their future on your campus.

4: Stay in Contact With Parents

While much of your focus is on the student, it’s also important to recognize the transition this experience brings for the families. Make sure that parents and guardians know who their contacts are on campus, and provide them with tailored information about the transition to school, and how their student will be supported so they’ll feel included in the experience and confident that their student belongs on your campus. You may even want to administer a survey to parents so that the student services team can follow up with answers to any questions that arise.

5: Keep It Personalized

Continue sending personalized emails and other messages to incoming students. Try including a video message welcoming them to campus and letting them know you are looking forward to seeing them soon. Share information on upcoming events for the fall semester to help students get excited about getting involved in activities. Invite them to connect with their academic advisor or career services to get them thinking about their futures. We know personalization is key for keeping students engaged, and it will help to reinforce that they’ve made a good decision to attend your institution.

Ultimately, the goal of any anti-melt tactic is to create long-lasting connections for incoming students on your campus. If students feel supported throughout this process, connected to the campus, and excited about what’s to come, then they will likely be there this fall. Summer is an opportunity to show your incoming students that they are already a part of your campus community and that their future with you is the right choice. It’s important to remember that until these students are on your campus this fall, there’s always a chance their plans can change. Take the necessary steps to make sure you’re doing everything possible to keep these students engaged and excited, and you’ll be able to welcome them to campus this fall.

If you’re looking for additional ideas to address summer melt or other pain points you’re currently facing, please reach out to us. Our experienced strategy team would love the opportunity to help you succeed in diminishing summer melt.

Utilizing Social Media to Attract Adult Learners


Spark451 Media RelationsBy Spark451 Media Relations|June 13, 2023

Impressed by our accomplishments with an affiliate school, a public institution recently approached Spark451 to help kick off a brand-new program. The college was preparing to introduce a tuition-free certificate course for adult learners. Funded by a grant from Google, individuals completing the course would earn a Google IT certificate and build valuable skills — opening a range of opportunities in an in-demand field.

With a goal of filling their first class, the school was budget conscious and seeking a cost-effective solution. Partnering with Spark451 provided the necessary expertise for achieving this milestone in ways that exceeded their expectations.


new leads in 43 days



Deploying an Impactful Digital Media Plan

The team set to work on determining the most effective solutions for meeting this school’s specific needs and staying on budget. That involved selecting the best digital media formats to reach their non-traditional audience and developing engaging creative content that would elicit a response.

To that end, Spark451 established a Facebook and Instagram campaign, focusing on these platforms due to their popularity with the target demographic. Much to the school’s delight, leads started coming in immediately.

Securing Enrollment With Lightning Speed

In just 43 days, the paid social campaign generated 1,056 new leads. That translated to an extremely efficient cost-per-lead of $5.10, which certainly helped the school to stay on budget and get the most bang for their buck. In fact, Spark451 shut the campaign off early, since the school quickly filled the class to capacity with 24 students. An additional 30 students were then referred to a college they were partnering with on this program, so they could also enroll in an online version of the course.

Let's Connect

We’d love to help you achieve your adult learner and non-traditional student enrollment goals, too. Reach out when you’re ready to discuss relevant strategies and tactics.

Integrating Science into Marketing


IntegratingScience Into Marketing

Spark451 Strategy TeamBy Spark451 Strategy Team|May 24, 2023

In the latest installment of our video series, “Total Conviction,” Steve Kerge, Co-founder of Spark451 & Jenzabar Vice President for Enrollment Marketing, discusses how to apply scientific theories to modern marketing methods.

Steve invites you to push your marketing tactics beyond one-to-one interactions with a single student and focus on optimizing your communications to the influencers in that student’s life. Check out how he breaks down the science of this strategy in our latest episode above!

If you’re looking for further guidance on how you can integrate science into your enrollment marketing strategy, please reach out. One of our team members can discuss how we can help you reach your goals affordably.

You can also revisit the full collection of “Total Conviction” videos here!

We’re Truly Honored: Spark451 is Recognized for Excellence in Marketing


Westbury, NY — Higher education marketing firm Spark451, a Jenzabar company, is proud to announce that several recent marketing projects — launched in cooperation with our valued partner institutions — have earned accolades from the Collegiate Advertising Awards.

“We are very proud that our creative work is not only achieving exceptional results, but also receiving the highest honors in our industry,” says Irene Scala, AVP, Executive Creative Director. “Everything we create is a reflection of the meaningful and collaborative relationships we’ve established with our college and university partners, as well as the talent and hard work of every member of our team.”

Here are our latest award-winning projects:

Metropolitan College of New York

Category: Outdoor Transit/Airport/Subway - Series (Gold)
Project: Subway Advertising

University of Medicine and Health Sciences

Category: Student Viewbook - Printed (Gold)
Project: UMHS Student Viewbook

Longwood University

Category: Advertising Specialty (Silver)
Project: Sidewalk Sticker Collection

Cedar Crest College

Category: Brochure - Series (Bronze)
Project: Graduate Brochure Series

To view more of our work, check out our creative portfolio.

Regarding the College Board’s Recent Changes


Steve KergeBy Steve Kerge|April 5, 2023

Westbury, NY — On Wednesday, March 29, the College Board held a webinar regarding substantial changes they are making to the student search names availability this coming Fall 2023. Spark451 would like to share some thoughts with you on the topic.

First and foremost, as a leader in higher education enrollment marketing, Spark451 is an advocate of student data privacy. We practice the highest levels of data security while remaining committed to multi-tactical approaches to data acquisition, augmentation, and creative development. We have never guided our partner schools to be reliant on a single source for names, and continue to create a balanced approach to developing a qualified pool of students and their families to whom you can market. We have strong relationships with multiple names sources and will continue to monitor and work with the College Board as they evolve.

Our team was well represented at the College Board Connections webinar, and we have already asked questions seeking clarification on a number of factors regarding the new Connections platform. In short, we will continue to be your voice as we help you navigate through this new platform and collaborate with you in support of your institutional goals. As you might expect, some of the details for the College Board Connections plans are still being developed, and we will keep you updated as we keep our finger on the pulse.

Beyond the core student search activities, Spark451 continues to lead the industry with innovative digital marketing strategies that undergird each school’s unique goals. Our teams of strategists and digital media professionals have released thought-leadership pieces on our Spark blogs and vlogs, regarding topics such as:

This is a moment to pause and consider if your institution has a cohesive digital approach to engaging high school students and their parents. If you work with Spark451, you likely do – if you don’t, let’s get to work together.

Furthermore, our science of collaborating to meet the enrollment goals of your institution each year is not focused solely on creating a wide dragnet at the top of the funnel. Spark451 has always preached focusing on quality, as opposed to quantity, and marketing all the way from the suspect stage through enrollment. Our strategies remain solid and are nimble enough to evolve with shifts in the landscape.

Finally, as we digest the announcement from yesterday, we feel the need to share our position that shifts like this from the College Board are detrimental to both small and mid-size institutions, and more so, high school students and their respective access to information about college. When you combine this news with other shifts they have made, such as forcing institutions to purchase through plans that favor larger budgets, along with market announcements where they were attempting to purchase a marketing services company, the message is clear: the College Board is consolidating its power (under the flag of data privacy) through its quasi-monopoly on access to college-bound student data.

We’ve all experienced the countless examples of students saying, “I never heard of X small college until they reached out to me, and now, I am headed there this fall.” Moments like these will disappear under the new College Board Connections plan.

Spark451 remains committed to our mission of fueling the futures of colleges and students to be their masterpiece. That includes students of all walks of life, and institutions of all sizes and types.

About Spark451

Spark451, a Jenzabar company, is a higher education enrollment strategy, technology, and marketing firm that combines creativity with powerful technology to achieve measurable results. With a mission to help colleges and students fuel their future, the firm integrates a multitude of communication channels and platforms for effective enrollment marketing, student search, creative services, and digital media. Since 2011, Spark451 has worked with over 200 colleges and universities nationwide. For more information, please visit

The Power of Digital Media for Lead Generation and Engagement


The Power of Digital Media for Lead Generation & Engagement

Spark451 Strategy TeamBy Spark451 Strategy Team|March 27, 2023

In the latest installment of our video series, “Total Conviction,” Megan Brammer, Senior Client Strategist at Spark451, joins Steve Kerge, Co-founder of Spark451 & Jenzabar Vice President for Enrollment Marketing, to discuss the power of a strong digital media marketing strategy for lead generation and engagement in higher education. Megan highlights two of our partner institutions who have implemented substantial student lead gen digital campaigns as part of their recruitment marketing tactics. Check it out above!

When you’re ready to dive in deeper on how a timely and measurable digital media marketing strategy can support your specific goals, please reach out. Our digital and enrollment marketing experts will be happy to help you develop a budget-friendly plan.

You can also revisit the full collection of “Total Conviction” videos here!

Enrollment Marketing and EdTech Veteran Jerald Harrison Joins Spark451

Enrollment Marketing and EdTech Veteran Jerald Harrison Joins Spark451

Meet Our Latest Senior Business Development Strategist

Spark451 Media RelationsBy Spark451 Media Relations|March 7, 2023

Westbury, NY — Spark451, a Jenzabar company, is proud to welcome Jerald Harrison, our newest Senior Business Development Strategist. Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Harrison will focus on our college and university partners in the Southwest and Western regions to help them reach and exceed their institutional goals.

“Jerald has a wide range of EdTech and enrollment marketing experience, and he brings a great deal of valuable expertise to this role,” says Steve Kerge, Co-founder of Spark451, and Jenzabar Vice President for Enrollment Marketing. “I’m very confident about the insights and solutions he can provide for our partner colleges and universities.”

Harrison holds an MBA from Mid America Christian University and a Master’s in human resource management from Webster University. For more than 15 years, he has been moving the admissions needle for higher education institutions. Harrison started his career in enrollment management services, working his way to becoming Chairman of an education technology consulting company that finds enrollment management solutions for institutions such as Southwestern Christian University, Southwestern Assemblies of God University, the University of Central Oklahoma, and Oklahoma Wesleyan University.

Harrison’s expertise allows him to advise both prospective and current institutional partners, providing crucial insights and understanding into solutions that colleges and universities may not have considered. He has a long track record of success in developing personalized enrollment strategies for recruiting traditional, non-traditional, and international students, and his unique knowledge of enrollment strategy, technology, and proven processes helps colleges and universities grow within their capacity, increase proceeds, and expand into new markets.

“This work allows me to help change the lives of students, faculty, and stakeholders every day within the higher education landscape,” says Harrison. “I chose this profession because it’s what I’m passionate about. I’m thrilled to be joining a group of individuals who feel the same way, and to use that passion to create strategic, innovative solutions for Spark451’s college and university partners.”

About Spark451

Spark451, a Jenzabar company, is a higher education enrollment strategy, technology, and marketing firm that combines creativity with powerful technology to achieve measurable results. With a mission to help colleges and students fuel their future, the firm integrates a multitude of communication channels and platforms for effective enrollment marketing, student search, creative services, and digital media. Since 2011, Spark451 has worked with over 200 colleges and universities nationwide. For more information, please visit

2023 Digital Media Trends for Higher Education


Ann LevyBy Ann Levy|March 7, 2023

Between the continually evolving digital preferences of college-bound Gen Z students — and the latest waves of targeting challenges resulting from platform evolutions such as the recent iOS14 privacy updates — savvy digital marketers must always keep an eye out for new workarounds and fresh opportunities.

As we fully settle into the first quarter of the new year, now feels like a great time to invest in some digital brainstorming for the months ahead. To help your planning process, here are some of the biggest areas of opportunity we see for higher education marketers in 2023.

The Year of Programmatic

Programmatic advertising is essentially automated media buying that allows you to bid on and buy media placement deals in real-time via an exchange (online marketplace), and serve your ads to specifically targeted audiences using either third-party data from sources like Oracle, Nielsen, and the like, or first-party lists such as your inquiries, parents, or even search vendor lists.

This is the year of programmatic everything, and higher education institutions need to get on the programmatic advertising train, because there’s just too much to lose without utilizing this tactic. With the ongoing fallout from privacy reform on Meta, and other social advertising platforms since the introduction of iOS14’s update, targeting audiences on social sites has become more challenging than ever. For example, when you’re trying to reach students who are under 18, using first– and third-party data targeting on programmatic has been increasingly important to get in front of audiences.

NYU Programmatic Ad Example
JMU Programmatic Example
Lehigh Programmatic Example

While programmatic display advertising has been popular among select higher ed marketers for a while, another form of programmatic advertising to watch for this year is programmatic audio — the cool new kid on the block for higher education. Gone are the days of buying radio spots on certain stations during specific time blocks, only to hope that your desired audience is tuning in during the times you selected.

Instead, programmatic audio makes it easier to connect directly with the right person at the right time, since it empowers you to target your audience with more specificity than traditional radio. Instead, you target your audience using third-party data and deliver your audio ads on popular streaming platforms such as Spotify, SoundCloud, Audacy, and iHeartRadio, as well as during podcasts and audiobooks. In a nutshell, it makes it easier for your ad to appear within the content that your target audience is already listening to on their apps or desktops.

Stop Advertising, Start “Authenticizing”

To connect with Gen Zers or Millennials on social platforms such as TikTok, Snapchat, or YouTube, it’s important to lead with content that feels authentic — whether it’s paid or organic. Users flock to these platforms in search of quick hits of brief, entertaining, and original content that feels both immediate and a bit raw. In many cases, traditional highly produced ads tend to stick out for all the wrong reasons in these realms. (Don’t worry, those commercial-quality ads are still great for ConnectedTV, but more on that later.)

To make more of an impact on social platforms, rely on user-generated content as much as possible. For example, try utilizing your student ambassadors and tour guides while they’re still around campus, and ask them to record short videos about the places and traditions that make your campus feel special. Or, consider holding a school-spirit creative contest, and have students submit their favorite pictures or video snippets showcasing their favorite activities on campus.

While many institutions are just dipping their toes into the waters of TikTok, it’s important to remember what makes TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube so popular for our high school and college audiences: the authenticity of the platform. Be sure to channel that authenticity in your media presence across the board.

Netflix and …Ads

While we have been telling our partner schools about the importance of ConnectedTV (CTV) for a couple of years now, many institutions have yet to add this tactic to their multi-channel media strategies. Essentially, CTV gives you the ability to run video ads on streaming devices that are connected to the internet (AppleTV, Roku, FireStick, GoogleTV, etc.). As with programmatic advertising, you no longer have to buy television airtime on a certain channel during a specific timeblock. Instead, you can target your specific desired audience(s) and “follow” their watch habits so that your ads appear with the content they’re already watching. For example, some of the recent CTV campaigns we’ve run for our partner institutions have seen top-tier placements on streaming platforms such as ESPN, Peacock, NBC, Paramount, Fox, Hallmark Channel, and others.

The robust targeting options and the array of third-party data sources available on CTV are what make this tactic so compelling for our partner institutions. Among the thousands of targeting options available within the platform, you’re able to intersect interest segments based on what household viewers are searching for online, their household income brackets, demographics, and level of schooling, all layered in with other aspects of their persona profiles.

"Consumers have been attempting to reduce their subscription count to save money — 25% removed a paid CTV subscription this year and replaced it with a free, ad-supported service."

MNTN Research

If you haven’t done so already, now is a great time to start testing the waters with CTV. Last year, Netflix announced they’d be introducing ad-supported tiers, and Disney+ followed suit by the end of 2022. With streaming inventory supply increasing, prices will start lowering as more players enter the space. And, with advertisers spending less on Meta and Google than in years past (in fact, this is the first time since 2014 that Google and Meta have not had over 50% of digital ad market share), streaming platforms have the opportunity to have their moment in the spotlight.

Landing Pages and First-Party List Building

First-party list building (the process of gathering direct inquiries) has been top of mind since iOS14’s release in 2021, due to its widespread impact on digital advertising. As a refresher, iOS14 limited the tracking and attribution of users’ online actions. Ever since, paid media advertisers have been limited in targeting users under the age of 18, which has made it harder to retarget those users from websites and attribute actions they’re taking while using an iOS device. Of course, the paid social campaigns of our higher education partners who recruit this under-18 audience for undergraduate enrollment have been heavily impacted by these changes.

This is where first-party data gathering becomes the hero in this story! With your ability to serve retargeting ads to website users severely compromised, it’s more important than ever to collect direct inquiries early and often. To build your funnel, make sure that your ads drive prospective students to responsive landing pages with short inquiry forms — and use whatever incentives you have at your disposal (fee waivers, downloadable brochures, etc.) to make it as appealing as possible for them to share their information with you. Then, continue to cultivate these students via e-communications throughout the enrollment cycle.

We’re Here for You

While the items we’ve mentioned here are generally high on our radars for 2023, our teams of digital marketing and enrollment strategy specialists are prepared to help you craft a specific plan that will support your goals and help you connect with your desired audiences. When you’re ready to talk, reach out.