The most damaging phrase in the language is: 'It's always been done that way.'
—Rear Admiral Grace Hopper
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To me, one of the fun parts of helping to pull together our annual “Year in Review” article for The Lawlor Review is that we never know ahead of time where the story will lead. This issue was no exception.
During the recruitment cycle for Fall 2012 entry, admissions officers and college counselors alike witnessed students and families approach the college search with a new level of concern and diligence—and a laser focus on cost that higher education enrollment managers couldn’t afford to ignore.
Like most private institutions, Concordia University, St. Paul (Minnesota) is acutely aware that sticker price is a big hurdle in today’s college marketplace—and that the hurdle has become more like an obstacle for families in recent years.
Don Hossler is a professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Indiana University Bloomington and a nationally recognized expert in the areas of student college choice, persistence, enrollment management, and higher education finance.
In front of glowing rectangular screens—computers, tablets, smartphones, or other gadgets—we’re absorbing thousands of information snippets every day as we consume, create, and sort through content of all types. The sheer volume of digital information we interact with today would have been unthinkable even a decade ago. How can colleges and universities cut through this clutter with targeted, engaging, and strategic content for their various audiences?
Presenters at this year’s Summer Seminar, the annual higher education conference co-sponsored by The Lawlor Group and Hardwick-Day, reminded senior enrollment and marketing professionals from private colleges and universities throughout the nation that dealing with the “new normal” demands innovative strategies and tactics. If they are to succeed in their campaigns for the hearts and minds (and wallets) of today’s prospective students and families—and achieve their institutions’ enrollment goals—then they need to think differently.
Whatever you have to say to today’s youth, it is clear from research conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project that you’ll increasingly be saying it primarily on the Internet and via mobile devices.
Offering visitors to your website pretty, easy-to-find packages of information is fine, said Kristina Halvorson, but if they are filled with junk, what’s the point? As Sun Tzu wrote, she noted, “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” When your website is a prospective student’s single most important source of information about your institution, it cannot be a “launch it and leave it” affair. You have to make sure it continues to meet not just the needs of its owners, but also of its users.
The subtitle of his book is “Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business,” but Charles Duhigg said enrollment managers need to study how they do business, too—not only how they treat their potential customers, but also how they enable their staffs to succeed at jobs that are complex and stressful.
Once you have made contact with a prospective student, what will you say? That will be easier to determine if you have current, in-depth information not only about the characteristics and attitudes of the students who just entered your school, but also about those of first-year students nationwide.
Whichever tactics you choose to use to attract students to your institution, your overall strategy has to speak to this disheartening statistic: While 76% of college presidents recently rated the job higher education was doing as “excellent/good,” 57% of the general public rated the value they were receiving as only “fair/poor.”
Friday’s first speaker, Andrew Delbanco, gave his address without PowerPoint slides and with little in the way of notes. His talk was delivered in the tradition of the best college lectures: in an effortless, poignant, and thought-provoking manner.
Social psychologist Nicole Stephens gave a data-packed presentation that undoubtedly left the enrollment and marketing professionals in attendance with much to think about as they returned to their institutions.
Kevin Winge brought Summer Seminar 2012 to an emotional and inspiring close with his humorous and heartfelt address.
Old-school marketing executives and new-school social media professionals alike learned the “4 P’s” early in their careers: the marketing mix of price, product, promotion, and place. While marketers have added to and tinkered with these pillars (conceiving of “7 P’s” and “4 C’s,” among other variations), the original 4 P’s have largely stood the test of time. However, the digital revolution and other emerging marketplace forces are calling into question the continued viability of a formula created half a century ago.
Dawn Lerman is professor of marketing at Fordham University (New York) and director of its Center for Positive Marketing. The Center conducts research that explores marketing as a value exchange relationship between consumers and marketers and encourages leveraging this relationship for mutual benefit. Lerman’s own expertise is in the field of consumer behavior, with particular emphasis on consumer language processing.
Higher education has been a remarkably stable industry, existing in more or less the same form for some 750 years. However, there are those who say online teaching and learning could drastically alter that, ushering in the kind of “disruptive innovation” that fundamentally redefines our notions of what constitutes post-secondary education. Skeptical college administrators may be wise to heed the experience of the head of Digital Equipment Corporation, who famously opined in 1977 (the year that the Apple II was introduced), “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
As the nation’s unemployment rate hovers near 9 percent and the economy continues to stagnate, admissions officials across the country are well aware that the moribund economy isn’t going to spring to life any time soon. Within the framework of this year’s flat (and the looming threat of a declining) economy, colleges are adjusting to the long-term reality of a “new normal”—a reality that demands colleges work smarter, harder, and more efficiently than ever.
Richard A. DeMillo spent several years as a business executive—he was Hewlett-Packard’s first chief technology officer—before becoming Distinguished Professor of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology. His latest book, Abelard to Apple: The Fate of American Colleges and Universities, warns that today’s higher education institutions are facing disruptive forces that will require them to either change or risk irrelevance and marginalization.
News headlines remind us daily that the job market is still slow, personal debt continues to rise, most people are seriously anxious about the future, and many Americans are beginning to question the value of a college degree. Three years after the global economic meltdown, outcomes have become the gold standard for measuring a college’s worth.
This year for the first time, The Lawlor Group hosted a daylong workshop prior to the Summer Seminar, the annual conference it co-sponsors with Hardwick-Day in Minneapolis. Social media thought leaders shared strategies and tactics with an audience of senior higher education marketing and enrollment management professionals, as well as those with direct oversight of social media efforts at colleges and universities. Participants learned how to apply both art and science in leveraging social media users’ behavior to provide them with value while meeting institutional goals.
Author of an acclaimed book on social media and business, Engage: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web, Brian Solis is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in new media. A digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, Solis has studied and influenced the effects of emerging media on business, marketing, publishing, and culture.
Summer Seminar, the annual higher education conference co-sponsored with Hardwick-Day, once again gave senior enrollment professionals from private colleges and universities throughout the nation much to contemplate. The intensive two-day event drew a capacity crowd and featured speakers who provided a wealth of research and insights about the economic and demographic conditions that are currently shaping strategic enrollment management and higher education marketing.
A report of the second day of Summer Seminar 2011, The Lawlor Group’s annual higher education conference co-sponsored with Hardwick-Day.
The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 requires every college or university that administers federal student assistance to make available and accessible the information consumers need to understand its cost of attendance and to make accurate comparisons across institutions. One element of the legislation is a soon-to-be-enforced mandate that colleges and universities host a net price calculator on their websites. But will this indeed bring transparency to the issue of cost? Or will the net price calculators only increase public confusion and frustration?
With the release of their book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses earlier this year, Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa shocked the higher education community with the findings of their study. In tracking more than 2,300 students at a diverse mix of 24 four-year colleges and universities from the first semester of their freshman year through the end of their sophomore year, the researchers found that “for a large proportion of them, the gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and written communication are either exceedingly small or empirically nonexistent. At least 45 percent of students in our sample did not demonstrate any statistically significant improvement during the first two years of college.”
Transfer students, long the neglected stepchildren of private higher education admissions, are gaining greater respect and attention of late, as more and more institutions recognize the value that transfers can bring not only to their balance sheets, but also to the richness of their academic programs and campus life. The gains don’t come without costs, however. Done right, recruiting transfer students and helping assure their success requires significant investments of time, planning, and money—and a willingness to be flexible.