Noel-Levitz eases college recruitment process -- garners savings

HONORABLE MENTION: Tools & Technologies

Competition among colleges and universities for the best and the brightest has never been stronger, and institutions are always looking for an edge. It is the job of Noel-Levitz, a unit of education funding provider SLM Corp. (better known as Sallie Mae), to provide that edge. The Littleton, Colo.-based consultant has long aided university clients in student recruitment and retention, financial aid, market research, publication and Web site development.

Clients look to Noel-Levitz for help in selecting those students that are most likely to attend and stay at a school through graduation. Tim Thein, senior vice president at Noel-Levitz, said accurate and rapid forecasting can save significant recruiting costs.

Thus Noel-Levitz set out more than a year ago to boost its predictive modeling capabilities and provide real-time results to clients.

Thein said the development team first looked at utilizing C++ to rebuild the so-called scoring engines and to create Web services to deliver the results to clients over the Web in real time. The C++ option was dismissed due to the need to rewrite the models each year as changes are required.

The team instead agreed to utilize integration and other tools from SAS Institute Inc., Cary, N.C., to build a predictive engine, and additional SAS tools and Microsoft's Visual Studio .NET toolset to build the accompanying Web services.

The company continued utilizing the SAS Enterprise Miner data modeling and mining tool used on the previous implementation of the toolset. Thein said the year-long project resulted in ForecastPlus tools for building and scoring models in real time and a Web services component dubbed SmartData for real-time delivery to clients. The Web services enable clients to input proprietary data, manipulate it and submit it to the ForecastPlus engine for scoring, Thein said.

The decision to utilize new tools for the project was a significant risk to the consulting firm, as the project deadline was fixed at the start of the annual college recruitment season. Any delay would mean a return to the older system and force Noel-Levitz to renege on the promise of real-time forecasting and client access to the results.

Thein said clients are finding significant savings as the right students are targeted early and contacted quickly, providing an advantage in the hot competition for top students. Thein noted that Noel-Levitz has found corresponding success, as nearly 75% of existing customers are renewing contracts for three years or more.


Project: ForecastPlus for Recruitment with Smartdata Web services

Purpose: To provide admissions offices with instant data on applicants and potential applicants.

Benefits: To speed the recruitment process and to instantly select students most likely to attend and stay at a specific college. To significantly cut the chances of college loan defaults.

Platforms: Windows 2000 Server, Windows IIS5, SQL Server 2000, .NET Framework TOOLS SAS Enterprise Miner, Microsoft Visio Enterprise, SAS Integration Technologies, Microsoft Visual Studio .NET, SAS/Access, ERwin, Microsoft Visual SourceSafe

Charlie Hutchins, Dan Edstrom, Tim Thein

About the Author

Mike Bucken is former Editor-in-Chief of Application Development Trends magazine.


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