Date of Award

Fall 10-30-2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

PhD Higher Education Leadership, Management, Policy

Department

Education Leadership, Management and Policy

Advisor

Eunyoung Kim, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kathleen Rennie, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj

Keywords

social media, Facebook, higher education, marketing, college admissions

Abstract

College admissions offices have developed and evolved to include increasingly sophisticated mechanisms for recruiting classes sufficient for meeting the financial needs of their respective institutions, and social media has rapidly become a popular tool for admissions offices in their efforts to meet enrollment goals. However, while social media is now used by practically every admissions office in the United States, little research exists that examines how universities use social media in this context. This qualitative study examines the use of a private Facebook group at a private university and incorporates observational study of the Facebook group and interviews with administrators. The researcher’s research questions are: 1) how does a university use Facebook to communicate with prospective students?, 2) why does a university decide to use Facebook in its admissions and recruitment processes?, and 3) how do universities determine if their social media strategy is successful for the recruitment of prospective students? The researcher found that the university used the group primarily as a way of allowing students to interact with each other with minimal administrative interference and this approach effectively allowed the students to recruit each other for the university. The university considers this initiative to be a success and evaluates it with a mixture of quantitative and qualitative methods, but also admits that it is difficult to establish causation between any single factor and enrollment outcomes. The researcher concluded that the university’s passive, student-driven approach is effective with prospective students but that developments in social media must be closely monitored in order to maintain engagement with prospective students on appropriate platforms.

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