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How Much Does a Call Center Cost for a University or College?

Does your admissions team struggle to contact new student leads quickly or effectively? If so, you’re probably evaluating whether to work with a call center - and you likely have a lot of questions about doing so.

One of the most common questions we hear from leaders like you is “How much does it cost to work with a call center?”

We want to provide you with as much information as possible so you can feel confident in making the right investment to hit your enrollment goals.

In this article, you’ll learn a general breakdown of how much it costs to work with a call center and the factors that influence pricing. After reading, you’ll be ready to discuss cost with a contact center with all the factors in mind.

Your Higher Education Call Center Cost Breakdown

On average, a monthly retainer with a call center can cost institutions anywhere from $8,000 to $30,000 depending on several factors. The variables that can affect the price of an outsourced call center include:

  • Type of Call Center
  • Point of Transition
  • Operational Hours
  • Monthly Lead Volume
  • Implementation Fees
  • Service Add-Ons

Continue reading to understand how each factor affects the overall price of a call center for colleges and universities.

Types of Contact Centers and Impact on Pricing

There are two options when looking into call center partners: a traditional call center or a higher education contact center. So what are the differences between the two and how does that influence the potential cost? Let’s dive in!

What Is a Traditional Call Center?

A traditional call center is a broad-service provider that offers customer service, technical support, and other communicative functions for a wide range of industries without specializing in any particular sector. These centers are equipped to handle a large volume of calls, utilizing a standardized approach to customer service that applies general best practices.

Because traditional call centers aren’t specialized, they typically cost less for outsourcing, and many of their pricing models are on a simple per-lead basis. 

If you have a tight budget, this could be music to your ears. However, there are some important factors beyond cost to be aware of when considering a traditional call center. 

Traditional call centers use a blended staffing model in which they swap out agents based on who is next available in the queue. In addition, many call centers that use this type of model have strict Average Handle Time (AHT) standards that reinforce the staff to get off the phone as quickly as possible and can be detrimental to the quality of the conversation. 

While this means you can have around-the-clock coverage, your prospective students may not find the relationship to be on par with what they’d expect from your institution. 

If you want an admissions partner that understands higher ed compliance and will seamlessly fit into your institution's values and communication style, a traditional call center may not be the right fit.

In addition, these types of call centers use phones as the primary means of communication. So if you’re looking for an omnichannel approach, it may not be the right fit.

What Is a Higher Education Contact Center?

A higher education contact center is a partner that solely focuses on working with higher ed institutions to grow enrollment and address admissions challenges.

Higher education contact centers usually have a higher price, due to their unique specialization and use of multiple communication channels. 

If you work with a higher ed contact center, you’ll collaborate with a team that understands higher education, your compliance requirements, and the unique challenges your admissions team faces.

A first-rate partner uses a dedicated staffing model that becomes a true extension of your institution’s brand and works closely with your admissions team to ensure students have an excellent experience.

In addition, contact centers typically use multiple methods of communication with students, including phone, text message, and email.

Wondering which type of outsourcing partner is right for your needs? Learn more here: Higher Ed Contact Center vs. Traditional Call Center: What’s the Real Difference?

How Does the Point of Transition Influence the Price?

The second factor in call center pricing depends on the “point of transition” - or how far you want your call center partner to take the students through the process before transitioning them to your internal team. 

In general, the more time spent working with your prospective students, the higher your cost will be.

When partnering with a contact center, the two most common transition points for admissions teams are Upon Qualification and Upon Completed Application. Let’s explore what each option includes and how the pricing differs between them.

Transition Type 1: Upon Qualification


Qualification services work best for institutions that can’t get to their leads quickly enough due to admissions staff bandwidth or willingness to work cold leads. 

They can also benefit institutions that want their team to focus on building relationships with interested students instead of spending time on front-end cold calling.

Qualification services focus on real-time contact and qualification of prospective students. Once applicable, the contact center will transition interested, qualified leads back to your institution. This is typically done via warm transfer or by scheduling an appointment with your admissions team. 

The goal of this partnership is for the contact center to do the lower-value cold calling and qualification. This allows your admissions team to stay focused on high-quality conversations with qualified, interested prospective students.

On average, a monthly retainer for Qualification services can range between $8,000 - $22,000 per month, depending on the number of leads and operational hours needed.

While the Upon Qualification point of transition can be done by either a traditional call center or a higher ed contact center, the student experience and collaboration with your team may be negatively impacted if you choose the “cheaper” route.

Transition Type 2: Upon Completed Application


If your admissions team is not getting to new leads quickly AND struggles to generate qualified applicants from your leads, Completed Application services could be exactly what you need.

Completed Application services include the initial work of real-time contact qualification and maintaining the relationship until after the application and required admissions materials have been collected. This allows the institution to make an admissions decision on the applicants, and the transition to your internal team typically occurs once a student is admitted by the university.

Due to the level of knowledge needed, Completed Application services will only be available when you partner with a higher ed call center. It also becomes more important to consider partners with a dedicated staffing model when outsourcing this amount of the prospective student experience to a contact center.

The pricing for Completed Application services varies widely, depending on your number of leads and operational hours. Our clients spend between $10,000 - $30,000 per month for dedicated specialists to nurture their prospective students through application completion.

Overall, deciding on the right point of transition depends on the challenges you’re trying to solve and your biggest areas of opportunity. It will also depend on whether or not your institution will need the flexibility required to go between these two levels of service as your needs fluctuate.

How Do Call Center Operational Hours Affect Pricing?

When comparing different call centers, the impact that operational hours have on pricing depends on the type of call center team model. Two options you’ll find available are a blended staffing model and a dedicated staffing model.

Operational Hours with a Blended Staffing Model

Most outsourced call centers use a blended, or shared, staffing model. In a blended model, the agents working with your institution also work with other clients - sometimes across multiple industries.

This means there are a large number of call center agents available in the queue to speak with your prospective students. Because of the large pool of agents working, a blended model provides around-the-clock availability and the cost per lead is usually lower.

While this type of model can provide short-term benefits for availability and cost, the conversations are more transactional and agents often focus on quantity over quality.

Operational Hours with a Dedicated Staffing Model

Here at Enrollment Builders, we use a dedicated staffing model. This means you have a dedicated team within the contact center who only works on your account. This allows them to act as an extension of your admissions team, truly understanding the uniqueness of your brand and your prospective students. 

The dedicated staff typically operates during the same hours as your admissions team. This allows for effective collaboration with your team and a seamless experience for prospective students with real-time or warm transfers.

Night and/or weekend hours can usually be added at an adjusted cost. Institutions will decide to extend or change the operational hours when the prospective student population has higher response rates outside of standard working hours.

When you partner with a contact center using a dedicated staffing model, the price may increase or decrease depending on the operational hours you choose and the number of individuals assigned to your account.

How Does Monthly Lead Volume Factor into Contact Center Pricing?

Monthly lead volume can have an incremental effect on pricing, based on a few considerations:

  • New number of leads per month
  • Whether the leads are aged, new, or a combination
  • The point of transition

In addition, a higher monthly lead volume means the call center will need to assign more dedicated specialists to your account. This is crucial to ensure deliverables like speed-to-lead, answering inbound calls, and making callbacks are held to standard.

How Do Implementation Fees Factor Into Call Center Pricing?

A call center will include a flat fee for implementation to ensure the partnership is set up for success from day one. This implementation fee ranges from $4,500 - $12,000 and usually includes discovery, integration, scripting, resource development, training, and anything else required to launch services.

What Call Center Service Add-Ons Are Available and How Do They Impact Pricing?

Some higher ed contact centers may offer optional services on top of their monthly retainer of working your leads. Add-on services can include:

  • Website chat - A higher ed contact center can set up or take over your website chat and pricing is usually on a per-lead basis.
  • Inbound phone number - If your team would benefit from being protected from inbound admissions calls and texts, a phone number for the contact center can be set up for prospective students to call or text as if they are contacting the institution directly.
  • Aged lead scoring - If you have a large number of aged leads and don’t know how to prioritize them, aged lead scoring can help you segment and re-engage the most valuable ones.
  • Working aged leads - If your admissions team doesn’t have the bandwidth to continually re-engage with aged leads, a contact center may be able to do so for you.

To find out how much these additional services may cost, you’ll want to work directly with any call center you are considering partnering with.

Key Questions to Ask a Call Center When Evaluating Their Services for Higher Education

Now that you understand the factors that influence call center pricing for higher education institutions, you’re likely ready to start contacting potential partners. But cost isn’t the only reason to choose one vendor over another. You want to invest in a partnership with the right contact center based on your unique needs and challenges.

When vetting call center options, admissions leaders like you have found great success by asking these questions:

  1. How far do you take the admissions process for a client? What are my options?
  2. Do you have clients outside of higher education or are you solely focused on higher ed?
  3. Do you use dedicated specialists for client accounts or would our call center staff also be assigned to other institutions?
  4. How much experience in the admissions process do your specialists have?
  5. How do you adapt your strategy as you learn about what works best with our prospective students?

With these questions in mind, it’s time to vet your potential partners! Click below to discover popular higher education contact centers to consider in 2024: