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The Problem: Mismatches, Missed Opportunities, and Inequalities in the College Application Process

The college application process is replete with stress, limited information, and uncertainty. College-bound students select a set of schools to which they will apply, develop their materials, and send them in blindly, hoping that a top choice sees in them a strong match and offers them acceptance. Without knowing schools' preferences in advance, students are unsure whether they will be accepted – and so, each year, they apply to a greater number of "safety" schools to ensure at least one school will accept them.

Underlying this all-too-familiar dynamic is a mechanical dysfunction: The collegiate Application Based System (ABS) assumes that all students can equally articulate their capabilities, resources, and preferences before they search for educational opportunities.  The ABS depends upon a priori preference articulation, requiring that students make decisions before searching (decide-then-search), and it’s hurting both students and universities alike.

Such a system is reasonable when most students applying come from similar socio-demographic and educational backgrounds. However, over 50 years of significant effort to bolster the pursuit of educational opportunities for disadvantaged students has proven one thing repeatedly: disadvantaged students limit themselves by their own belief in what is possible (which social environments often inform and reinforce). In other words, higher education’s current decide-then-search application process is implicitly biased toward those students who believe themselves deserving and capable.

The ABS self-selection bias hurts colleges too. For one, admissions offices are limited to evaluating and admitting those students who’ve applied – regardless of the college’s preferences for certain types of students. The inability to efficiently reach a plethora of students constrains college administrators from exploring alternative directions for their institution and reinforces the status quo. And two, admissions offices are obliged to review each applicant. This obligation is a growing financial burden as more students are applying to more schools year-over-year. Sadly, while administrators may wish to attract certain types of students that diverge from traditional applicants and to be unshackled from the mountainous application review process, there is currently no alternative. 

The Solution: Collegiate Recruitment Based Systems

A Recruitment Based System (RBS) is perfectly suited to solve this multifaceted problem. The goal of an RBS is to inform every student of their entire set of real, present, and personalized educational opportunities before they decide their capabilities, resources, and preferences. Showing a student all their opportunities empowers them to stop self-limiting behavior, make more informed decisions, and create better outcomes for their lives. Moreover, an RBS gives each college access to the universe of students, allowing them greater flexibility in their student body planning and development.

How is an RBS different from traditional recruiting?

An RBS is distinctly different from the modern conceptualization of collegiate recruiting. An RBS is a process for a posteriori preference articulation: search before making decisions (search-then-decide). Traditional collegiate recruiting (TCR) is marketing. TCR consists of hosting time-consuming info sessions, sending out mass emails and postcards, and attending (virtual) transfer fairs — leaving recruiters hoping they’ll convince their “perfect match” students to apply. Not only is TCR expensive and time-consuming, but it also elicits the same a priori preference articulation as the ABS (since students must opt-in to take part in these activities). Worse still, since TCR is designed for an ABS, the college rarely learns of recruited students’ genuine interest, quality, and compatibility until after they receive the application. Unsurprisingly, a 2020 Ruffalo Noel Levitz report suggests that TCR has a 1% success rate.

Why isn’t an RBS being done today?

An RBS requires a lot of data. A recruiter needs complete access to future potential students and a process to efficiently identify all “perfect match” students, while students (and their advisor) need complete knowledge of educational opportunities to properly articulate a posteriori preferences. Concerns about data privacy and the seemingly unfeasible institutional coordination problem makes higher education reluctant to develop this level of shared knowledge.  

How do we fix this?

HiyerEd solves this problem with a simple, holistic solution that supports the interests of all parties. As a cloud-based AI service, the platform guides recruiters to discover their “perfect match” students. It enables interested recruiters to contact both the student and advisor simultaneously—streamlining coordination among advisors, prospective students, and college recruiters.

The mechanics of the platform are simple: Admissions offices define their student-body-composition goals within the platform. Recruiters and advanced AI work in tandem to efficiently discover the “perfect match” students that meet their metrics. Depending on the student’s privacy preferences, recruiters can view the student’s public or private profile. For private profiles, interested recruiters can only view anonymized data (e.g. GPA or course history) and must send the student a request to view their personally identifiable information (e.g. name, school, letters of recommendation). In either case, once a recruiter has full access they can request a meeting, more information, and send an acceptance notification. From the student’s perspective, their opportunities are arranged on an interactive dashboard that allows them to weigh the pros and cons of each offer. Once the student commits to an opportunity all other interested parties are immediately notified, their profile is saved for later (should plans change in the future), and their profile data is sent to the receiving institution.

Where does the data come from?

The goal of the platform is to provide all students as many opportunities as possible, before they decide their capabilities, resources, and preferences. Relying on students to opt-in to the service would be counterproductive to our mission as it, once again, biases opportunity toward those students who believe themselves deserving and capable. To combat this systemic tendency, HiyerEd and partnering institutions established the platform as an opt-out service. Secure data integration automatically populates student profiles, while simultaneously reserving all personally identifiable information until the student chooses their privacy preference. 

Is HiyerEd a RBS?

No. HiyerEd is the underlying platform technology that enables higher education institutions to adopt an RBS. HiyerEd facilitates the interaction between students and colleges in a unique way that preserves the interests of all parties involved. HiyerEd empowers colleges to change the student matriculation experience.

Who does HiyerEd currently support?

One day, all students. But for now, HiyerEd is limited to college transfer students because this is where we can have the most immediate impact. Currently, community college advisors are advising too many students with too few resources at their disposal. And sadly, for fear of early transfer or university poaching, community colleges are often cautious when helping students discover transfer opportunities. All these factors add up to placing the burden of navigating complicated transfer agreements and contacting many university recruiters on the student—once again, biasing opportunity toward those students who believe themselves deserving and capable.

What are the benefits for starting with transfer students?

From a transfer recruiter’s perspective, a “perfect match” transfer student is someone who has taken (or will take) articulated coursework that meets university requirements and whose background and interests meet the university’s goals. Efficient access to these “perfect match” students promises to reduce recruitment and admissions costs, while increasing total enrollment and student success rates. From a community college’s perspective, providing community college students with guaranteed future educational opportunities means a more motivated and successful student body - leading to an increase in student full-time equivalency (FTE) and degree completion.

As the first RBS technology, HiyerEd enables the ideal transfer planning process. HiyerEd is personalizable, efficient, and transparent, complete with information about the receiving university’s preferences for community college students — a list of transfer opportunities for each advisee, complete with credit equivalency and financial information — while also protecting the identity of the student.

Besides benefitting the student, efficient access to these transfer opportunities promises to (1) reduce advising time and costs while increasing advising effectiveness and student outcomes and (2)  provide a cost-effective, highly efficient recruiting platform where student quality is known before initial contact.


Is there an underlying theory for a priori versus a posteriori decision making?

Coello & Coello, in Evolutionary Algorithms for Solving Multi-Objective Problems (2007), explain that a priori techniques require a decision maker to define the objective’s relative importance prior to the search. In essence, the preferences of the decision maker evaluate and compare solutions. The ramifications of “bad” objective choices are easy to understand: the decision maker’s “weight” (no matter how defined) could be greater than necessary as more “acceptable” solutions are missed. Optimizing mostly profit could lead to poor quality or reliability — a compromise that is not sustainable. No matter the optimization algorithm used, this is an inescapable consequence of a priori techniques. Whereas, a posteriori techniques are explicitly seeking to perform a search as widespread as possible, to generate as many different elements as possible.

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