This startup is betting college students will use chatbots
- Admithub is a chatbot built for college campuses.
- Using Admithub students could, for example, ask a last-minute question about FASFA at 1 a.m or a question about applying for housing. Or university officials could send a message with a reminder to submit enrollment forms.
- Admithub is used by 30 colleges and universities, including Arizona State University and Georgia State University.
As a college prep tutor, Andrew Magliozzi had a difficult time getting students to respond to him. Emails and phone calls were unreliable at best.
Eventually, he found, texting was the only thing that worked."I said one day 'Wouldn't it be nice if kids could text their way to college,'" Magliozzi told Business Insider. "Before I could say how dumb that was, Kirk was encouraging me to build it."
Based on the idea of students texting their way to college, Magliozzi and his friend, Kirk Daulerio, eventually founded Admithub, an AI powered chatbot made for college campuses. Using an avatar of the school's mascot, Admithub's chatbot can send reminders to student's phones and answer questions about campus life, from financial aid to parking on campus.
A student could, for example, ask a last-minute question about FASFA at 1 a.m or a question about applying for housing. Or university officials could send a message with a reminder to submit enrollment forms.
"The challenge is providing students with individualized support, but there's limited human resources available at these colleges. So how do you capture their attention and do that at scale? The solution is mobile messaging. They're on their phones 24/7," Magliozzi said.
Admithub is used by 30 universities, including Arizona State University, Georgia State University, and The Cooper Union.
Magliozzi and Daulerio first envisioned Admithub as a way to decrease summer melt, or the number of students who get accepted into colleges, but ultimately do not make it on campus. According to researchers at Harvard University, summer melt can affect between 10% and 40% of students who intend to enroll.Previous research had shown that texting campaigns were successful in alleviating the problem, which is prevalent among low-income, first generation, and minority students. But mass texting campaigns aren't practical for schools with limited resources. Magliozzi and Daulerio thought a chatbot that could automatically send "nudges" or suggestions to students would allow the same concept to scale.
"Chatbots can really scale and supercharge the daily lives of staffs," Magliozzi said. "You would need so much man-power or a mass call center to make an idea like that happen.
The team built its own AI and natural language processing system to power the chatbot. While Magliozzi and Daulerio could have used something off-the-shelf, those programs weren't made with particular university-specific terms in mind, such as "quad." The names of a specific events, too, caused some trouble. Georgia State's orientation is named "Incept" and with Admithub's own AI, the team could build that in.
In 2016, Georgia State became the first school to use Admithub as a way to combat summer melt. After one summer, the school increased enrollment by 3.3%, which saved the university $3 million dollars in tuition revenue. From there, Magliozzi and Daulerio found that the same concept could be applied to all aspects of university life.
"There's so much potential to distill all of the communications from every department into one vehicle," Magliozzi said.
Still, while Magliozzi and Daulerio said that Admithub helps to solve a major problem for universities, some don't have a budget to invest in a chatbot. And making the case to move from physical mail, email, and phone calls to AI, is a challenge.
"Some are willing to make that leap, there's others that would rather take an incremental approach and try to make something on their own," Magliozzi said.