For a baby born today, this means the college costs will be more than 3 times the current rate when the child matriculates.
We are seeing demographic shifts in those who are graduating from high school and in our applicant pool. We are seeing an increase in first generation students who find the admission process challenging and overly complicated. We are seeing a dip in college readiness and an increase in the need for remediation at the college level. We are seeing an increase in the number of college ready ethnic and cultural minorities in both domestic and international applications. Especially Asian (46%) and Latin American (27%) students entering the prospect pool. We are seeing a spike in international students as well. We are also seeing more students transferring and an increase in older non-traditional students.
I don’t need to tell anyone what the state of the economy is. Families and educational institutions need more money and budgets are getting cut drastically across the country. The economy is effecting students and their families, the high schools they are attending and the colleges and universities they are applying to. Increases in demand for financial aid are meeting increases in tuition and as a result we are seeing students concerned with more concerned with cost earlier. This is important. Students are now making their lists based on cost and “sticker prices” are not always what they seem.
In a good economy, this geographic shift would not be a problem. Understanding this shift in the market is critical. In the north east we are seeing an increase in competition for a limited number of students. Where we are seeing an increase in graduates most are traditionally underserved populations. As a result higher ed is seeing an increase in demand for access and access services.
Our labor economy is changing and we are seeing an increase in the need for degree-holding citizens. Un-skilled labor is on the decline and the country is in dire need of innovation and creativity. Yet, media and public opinion continue to question the value of higher education framing it as expensive and competitive, discouraging aspiration of a college degree in a doomed economy. This is what we are up against.
We have systematic problems effecting our ability to provide access and the support students needs to graduate from college. Our admissions processes are overly complex. We have ED, EA, RD, Rolling, not to mention the transfer admission and financial aid processes. Higher ed needs to invest more in support services during admission and enrollment that will support completion.
Here’s a quick snap shot of how American education is stacking up world-wide. We still lead in STEM, but China and India are on our tails. We have the most degree holding workers age 55-64, but looking at their children – we drop to number 7. In 1960 America was leading the world by far in the number of students graduating high school and having access to higher education. Today we have dropped to 13th in world and in that time Korea has moved from number 27 to number 1.
I’m going to break down a marketing communication strategy that supports fit factors and also show you how you can leverage communication technologies to reach your target markets.
I am not going to speak about your brand or your market selection. You need to know where your best fit students are and how they are finding you. Know who your market influences are leverage their communication channels for all they are worth. Provide these people with knowledge about your brand and allow them to advocate for you. These people provide genuine, trusted, authentic communication to your market at a low cost. The so-called safe way to create brand awareness is in advertising, because it’s a controlled message with a somewhat guaranteed reach. Today we have our content delivered to us by influencers and the messages are less controlled, so consider press releases, citizen journalists and bloggers to be your greatest weapons, and you want to provide these people with early search information which I will talk about in just a minute.
The admissions process and it’s communication delivery needs to be simpler, clearer, and more predictable.
Students want to connect. When you tell your story you need to also connect the reader or viewer back to your community and allow them to join in. Don’t forget about parents. They are a part of this process to and have a big impact on the decision making process.
Google street view might already be available on your campus, especially if you have an urban campus. In the fall of 2010 the Google trike came to the RIT campus and took street view footage of all the campus walk ways. You don’t get much more authentic than 360 degree views of every inch of your campus taken during a random school day. We are currently working on a project that will leverage this content for an interactive campus tour.
The RIT college of imaging arts and sciences, launched new major finding tool this year call the Path Finder. Students will start by choosing a category of academic interest…
… and the pathfinder will guide them to available RIT degree programs. Content provided for each degree program includes an overview of the program, along with student and faculty work. The careers tab shows top careers, job titles our graduates receive and top employers of RIT graduates from each program.
We provide lots video content through video blogs and webisodes made for students by students. These RIT students are social media ambassadors for the undergraduate admissions office. Prospects interact with these current students through their blogs and YouTube channel, on twitter and Facebook. Our international team has also been leveraging video for admissions interviews using Skype, and webinars using Adobe Connect.
Late in the search and decision process students are shifting their focus from information gathering to envisioning themselves at a student on your campus. So, don’t just give swag… Give swag that allows them to envision themselves as a student. What do enrolled students do? – they wear college gear, they put stickers on their cars, they attend campus events, they have access to clubs, sports, and faculty advising and they have a community of peers.
Allow your work to come full circle making your prospective students and their parents brand ambassadors. Make all of your content easy to share and create a guest blog program for students and parents who are going through the admissions process at your school.
A few closing thoughts about access to higher education and the admissions process. College access helps improve individual lives and strengthens our nation as a wholeThe college search process needs to be reexamined based on validity, reliability and value We can do better by providing accurate information and focusing on outcomes rather than selectivity In order to do this we need to have an understanding of our institutional value and function, without ignoring diversity and institutional purposes. We can change our processes by making them simpler, clearer and more predictable. Access can be simplified to by providing the right information at the right time. This information, delivered in a way that allows students to become community members will support your institutions ability to influence fit during enrollment and through to completion.
Thank you to .eduGuru. Thank you to Environments for Humans.
State of College Admissions Access & Completion Fit Factors Marketing Communication Strategy Community Building Discussion & Questions Resources NACAC – State of College Admissions Report College Board Advocacy – Open Letter to Professionals
Tuition rates increase at twice the general inflation rate On average 8% Cost doubles every 9 years Tuition-based business models NOT SUSTAINABLE
Changes in high school graduates Increase in 1st generation college students College readiness ▪ Many require remediation Increase in ethnic minorities Non-traditional applicants
Puts a further strain on resources that are already limited Affecting all stakeholders Increase in demand for financial aid Prospective students are more concerned today with cost as they consider where to apply
Decrease in HS graduates in the NE Increase in HS graduates in the SW NE schools are recruiting nationally Midwest is struggling to fill seats California schools are overflowing
Decrease in un-skilled labor Increase in STEM disciplines Higher education in question Too expensive Too competitive
Systematic problems Complicated processes ▪ EA, ED, RD, rolling admission ▪ Financial aid & scholarship Support services ▪ College counseling ▪ First year transition ▪ Remediation ▪ Career services
#1 STEM, with China and India #1 degree holding workers age 55-64 #7 degree holding workers age 25-34 1960 - #1 high school graduates & access Today - #13 Since 1960, Korea has moved from #27 to #1.
At its best the admissions process will determine fit between a student and an institution. In order to provide access and support completion college admissions offices must focus on fit.
There is a place on a college campus for every high school graduate. 46% enroll at community colleges 37% enroll at 4-year public 17% enroll at 4-year private
Location/proximity Support services Academic portfolio Affordability Predictability Culture
Know your market Provide timely information Provide support Build community Foster loyalty Encourage advocacy
Where are your best fit students and how are they finding you? Know your market influencers School counselors Parents Community members Alumni Current students
To present mission, brand and admissions process clearly, accurately and with transparency. To provide concise information about programs and requirements. Make selection criteria available and select students based on valuable and equitable methods.
Tell your story Word of mouth Campus visit School visits Interviews Show off your college community ▪ Blogs ▪ Video ▪ Virtual tours
Know what your market wants and when they want it Early search information ▪ Location ▪ Academic profile ▪ Cost Late search information ▪ Admissions process ▪ Support services ▪ Financial aid
Multiple communication channels Advising Admissions process Financial aid process Be transparent and predictable Calendars Checklists Deadlines What comes next
Share your community experiences with your prospective students Allow them to connect with your community Communicate your mission and allow them to join in Provide leaders and success stories that relate to your target market Include parents
Virtual tours Major finders Leverage video Chats Interviews Live Stream Events Blogs Presentations Communication channels Facebook Counseling office Text message Parents Twitter Direct Mail Email Phone
Provide tools that allow students to engage with your brand Not just swag Campus events Clubs and organizations College community
Make the experience easy to share Sharable content Guest blogs Prospective and their parents will become the influencers
College access The college search process We can do better!
Contact Ashley Hennigan Assistant Director of Admissions ▪ Rochester Institute of Technology Host of Admissions Live ▪ higheredlive.com Twitter: @ashleyhenn Email: email@example.com