How are some colleges and universities responding to the ever-increasing costs of higher education and our continued economic challenges? They are cutting tuition and fees. In fact, Sewanee is cutting its tuition and fees by 10% for the coming academic year. Click the image below and find out why.
We all know that the US News and World Report rankings are here to stay–that’s a given. But ever wonder about the extent to which the college selection process (in general) and a school’s marketing and enrollment efforts (in particular) are influenced by the rankings. Here are some highlights from a study of NACAC’s members that specifically looked at that those issues:
- 71 percent of the colleges promote their rank in marketing their school
- 65 percent of high school counselors spent some time or a great deal of time discussing the rankings with students and their families.
- 95 percent of NACAC’s members at both colleges and high schools believe that “Yes, colleges either occasionally or consistently invest in strategies and policies to improve in the rankings.”
It’s that time of the year. No, not Halloween, Thanksgiving, or the upcoming holidays. It’s time for NACAC’s State of College Admission Report. If you haven’t seen it, you need to—it’s filled with all kinds of interesting admission trend data, including application volume information, acceptance and yield rates, use of technology in the admission process, and my personal favorite: the cost of recruit students. The cost-to-recruit statistics is a quick and easy way for schools to assess how they are doing an increasing competitive market. According to the report, “Colleges and universities spent about $524 to recruit each applicant for Fall 2009admission, $843 to recruit each admitted student and $2,553 to recruit each enrolled student (when admission staff salaries and benefits were included in the admission office budget).” How does your institution compare?
As they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Check out this chart from the Chronicle of Higher Education that shows enrollment growth over the past ten years among for-profits compared to any other area in higher education. Now think of all the press lately about the questionable enrollment practices among for-profits and ask yourself where our profession is heading. Sobering isn’t it?
Families are facing rapidly escalating college costs, are reaching across all funding sources to meet additional college costs, and are very worried about future tuition increases, according to a report just released by Sallie Mae and Gallup. After interviewing over 1,600 undergraduates and parents of undergraduates, the Sallie Mae and Gallup study uncovered some very sobering findings:
Nearly half (49%) [of parents surveyed] are extremely worried this year that schools will increase tuition compared to less than one-third of parents two years ago.
One-third of parents are extremely worried that their income will decrease due to job loss, up from 23 percent last year.
Only 10 percent of parents were extremely worried two years ago that their child wouldn’t be able to find a job, but that has risen to 27 percent this year.
More families reported eliminating schools during the college selection process based on cost after receiving their financial aid packages (40% this year compared to 36% last year and 34% two years ago).
63 percent of families report eliminating colleges because of financial considerations at some point in the application process, compared to 56 percent in 2009 and 58 percent in 2008.
I just read an article in the Chronicle that presented a provocative idea: putting enrollment professionals in charge of recruitment and career services. This out-the-box idea seems brilliant and somewhat obvious at the same time, right? But that’s exactly what University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School did. Instead of just focusing on the next class of new recruits, admissions folks are now gaining a direct understanding and appreciation for the “back end” of students’ academic experiences. One footnote: University of Pennsylvania implemented this expanded role with their MBA program. But why stop there? Let’s really throw caution to the wind and consider who this idea could be put into action at more traditional, undergraduate liberal arts institutions. And think about another great benefit: enrollment folks will finally have access to outcomes-based data that have shown—time and time again—to be extremely influential in the college decision process.
Helicopter parents–we know they are out there, hovering over students, ready to swoop in and offer their support and guidance whenever needed. The challenge for many schools is what to do with these well-intended but often exhausting parents. I just read an article that discussed a great way to engage today’s parents as students are making the transition to college: refocus new student orientation so that parents’ needs are addressed in an open and honest way. How do parents get comfortable with letting their student make decisions on his/her own? How do parents deal with student homesickness? And what about parents who are now empty nesters–how do they deal with that? Schools have developed creative ways to address these questions during new student orientation:
- At Northern Michigan University in Marquette the school plays actual recordings during parent orientation of upperclassmen recreating desperate calls they made home.
- At Stonehill College in Massachusetts parents are invited to attend a lecture on “letting go.”
- And at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, parents are invited to read “The Odyssey” then attend a lecture and discuss similar issues to what their student will experience in a freshman humanities course.
I bet these “repurposed orientation programs” will not only help parents redefine their relationship with their student (from helicopter parent to parent of young adult), they may also increase new student retention. Think about it: if parents are comfortable with their student’s college environment they will be more likely to encourage them to “stick it out and graduate.” Makes sense, right? And why wait until orientation to start this important dialogue with parents. Colleges should expand the conversations they are having with parents during the admissions process by including specific examples of how their school will help make the transition to college a positive experience–for both students and parents.
With continued economic uncertainty, colleges that are truly innovative find a way to work with the challenges they are facing. That’s exactly what Albion did–a liberal arts college (with a seemingly high sticker price) in an area plagued with skyrocketing unemployment. This spring, the College instituted the “Albion Advantage,” a guarantee that they will help their graduates who struggle to fulfill their career goals by finding them internships or by offering them a free semester of noncredit study. On top of that, the College also beefed up its career services and is offering career support to students much earlier in their Albion career. I love ingenuity in “tough times” and, in my opinion, Albion found a way to make an unattractive situation look a lot better. How’s that for making a challenge work for you?
- Identify metrics that reveal how you’re performing, then track them against the same or a similar period in the prior two years.
- Benchmark annually on sticker price, discount rate, and prestige indicators with top competitors.
- Help admissions recruiters make the case for affordability, value, and career outcomes.
- Make sure financial aid counselors can talk comfortably and accurately about financing/payment plan options as well as financial aid programs.
- Keep admissions and financial aid staffs on the same page by using net tuition revenue goals as the common denominator.
- Use an analytical, not anecdotal, approach to adjusting aid policies.
- Be as transparent as possible about awarding policies.
- Watch out for policies that stack merit awards on entitlements, need-based aid, talent-based aid, etc.Make sure renewal policies are not negatively impacting retention.
- Be transfer friendly.