Data-Activated Email Campaigns Boost Retention at the University of Central Oklahoma

Data-Activated Email Campaigns Boost Retention at the University of Central Oklahoma

Civitas Learning Success Stories

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The University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) serves nearly 14,000 students in the greater Oklahoma City metro area. Over half of the UCO student body is first-generation. Fifty percent of its 2019-2020 freshman class were the first in their families to enroll in college. Over two-thirds of all UCO students receive financial aid or scholarships, and nearly half are eligible for Federal Pell Grants.  

UCO empowers students to become ethical, creative, and engaged citizens and leaders through their commitment to transformative learning experiences. To support this mission, the university’s Student Advocacy team has a strategic approach to student retention in ways that connect students to relevant, digestible “nuggets” of information precisely when they need them. This approach allows Student Advocacy to proactively connect their students to a network of collaborative student success initiatives at scale with limited staff and little additional implementation costs.

Data-Activated Email Campaigns Leads to Significant ROI

There is an anecdotal assumption that students don’t read their university-assigned emails among higher education staff and faculty. With Civitas Learning, Student Advocacy challenged that notion on UCO’s campus. Their email campaigns show consistent open rates between 60%-70% with intentional and timely messaging, proving that UCO students do read their emails. UCO achieved this level of student engagement by using precise communication campaigns directed to specific student groups instead of large-scale general outreach. 

More precise communication allows UCO’s student success units to work together to create multiple touchpoints for vulnerable student populations. This approach enables them to break information into small, digestible messages they drip out over time, rather than sending redundant mass communications to everyone. These efforts improved student engagement and persistence, increased retention, and gains in net tuition revenue.


“Civitas Learning has helped us be able to drill down and get even more intentional about our retention efforts. We’ve been able to use our analytics and platform to improve enrollment awareness, resource referrals, and ultimately re-enrollment in future semesters.”

— Dr. Samantha Kramer
Director of Student Advocacy
University of Central Oklahoma


UCO’s intentional approach to student engagement combined with data-activated student impact strategies powered by Civitas Learning resulted in 321 students persisting who would have otherwise withdrawn since implementing the Civitas Learning Student Impact Platform. These gains mean more students reaching their goals and translates to $1.2 million in net tuition revenue compounded by term.

Focused Campaigns Lead to Significant Student Outcomes

  1. Financial Literacy Campaign

Data from the spring 2019 enrollment cycle showed that just over 40% of students seeking to enroll with an outstanding balance above the enrollment threshold were first-time freshmen trying to enroll in their second semesters. Common reasons for high balances included:

  • Not submitting a FAFSA 
  • Failing to complete entrance counseling and other aid requirements
  • Lack of awareness of financial impact of college education 

Student Advocacy implemented a financial literacy initiative supported by the Civitas Learning Student Impact Platform to increase financial literacy touchpoints during new student orientation that addressed these issues. The team wove nine touchpoints on financial literacy throughout the orientation programming. The result? The highest fall-to-fall retention rate in 6 years, an increase of 3.4 percentage points. 

2. Transition to College Campaign

When the institution decided to restructure its first-year seminar experience, the Student Advocacy unit lost one of its most critical touchpoints for engaging 60% of the freshman class. To fill this gap, they developed a Civitas Learning-powered campaign to provide 1,566 students with resources to build effective practices that influenced success, supported the transition to college, introduced the LMS, and connected them with campus activities. 

In their efforts to provide timely, focused support, Student Advocacy sent personalized messages based on persistence likelihood to 2,579 first-year and transfer students to highlight relevant resources around applying for financial aid, including deadlines, step-by-step guides, and FAQs. Students who engaged with these emails persisted at a higher rate than expected and drove +$58,200 in retained net tuition revenue with just one outreach message.

3. Criminal Justice Campaign

With Civitas Learning, the Criminal Justice department uncovered data that criminal justice majors earning an average grade of 74% or lower were less likely to persist to the following term. With the help of the department chair, these actionable analytics empowered Student Advocacy to develop precise messaging to connect students who were less likely to persist to resources to help them succeed in their classes. Using precise messaging to reach students in the most need, the Criminal Justice department engaged 300 students with individualized support, resulting in positive student feedback and improved persistence and retention.   

Intentional, data-informed student engagement campaigns resulted in 112 additional students retained and a $375,712 gain in net tuition revenue in 2020.

Cumulative Marginal Gains Matter for Student Success Outcomes

UCO achieved marginal cumulative gains by using a multi-pronged data-activated student impact strategy. These intentional, data-informed student engagement campaigns resulted in 112 additional students retained and a $375,712 gain in net tuition revenue in 2020.

By themselves, these initiatives may not have contributed to a sizable persistent lift or tuition revenue. Still, together they have made a significant difference in student outcomes and institutional financial sustainability. UCO’s regular communication with their students, using messages crafted to meet specific student needs, allows Student Advocacy to deliver timely and relevant support at scale.

This multi-faceted, data-activated approach to student success led to significant marginal cumulative gains in student retention. Over the lifetime of UCO’s partnership with Civitas Learning 321 students persisted who would have otherwise withdrawn translating to $1.2 million in net tuition revenue when compounded by term. These gains make a difference in UCO students’ lives and provide the institution with funds to reinvest in student success and to remain financially sustainable.

ON-DEMAND WEBINAR: Building Student Impact Strategies that Support Academic Experience & Drive ROI

Explore how the University of Central Oklahoma achieved steady improvements in persistence and over $1.07M in retained tuition revenue using multiple data-informed, student-focused engagement strategies. Join this session to hear how leaders built partnerships within colleges to centralize engagement and scale effective strategies across departments. You’ll also learn how UCO disaggregated data around specific populations to identify what programs are most effective for particular student groups and how their team adapted their first-year seminar and FAFSA communications to improve the academic experience for their students, support better outcomes, and drive higher returns to reinvest in student success.
WATCH HERE

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