College admissions departments use psychology – and dollars – to lure enrollees.

Posted on April 20, 2018


In 2004, when I first became involved in the business of higher education – I had been an entrepreneur for the previous thirty years – I was a bit shocked to learn that colleges discounted their tuition for a large percentage of students. But college admissions executives only used the word “discount” when talking among themselves; when speaking to the public they substituted “scholarship” for “discount.”
Why do they do this, I wondered? The “why” became obvious after I had been involved in higher education for a while, including six years as CEO of a university. When I passed on what I had learned to friends and relatives they either didn’t believe me or thought I was belittling their childrens’ or grandchildrens’ wonderful achievements in securing scholarships to college. So I said little while being frustrated at what I perceived as closed-mindedness, which was probably better defined as “don’t give me any information, factual or not, that will in any way diminish my pride.” It is all about pride, and college admissions people use it to their advantage.
On Wednesday, April 18, 2018, The Wall Street Journal published an article by Melissa Korn titled Prizes for All: Colleges Use Scholarships to Lure Students (URL below). Seems like Melissa discovered what I had discovered years ago and wrote about it in a prominent publication (not Fake News). Here, in her words, is the essence of the article:
Hundreds of colleges and universities are using academic scholarships and other merit-based financial aid to gain an edge in a battle for students. The scholarships make students feel wanted and let families think they’re getting a good deal, like a shopper who buys an expensive sweater on sale.
Ms. Korn goes on to describe how tuition discount rates for full-time new students at private colleges averaged 49% in 2017. I can imagine all the moms and dads who crowed about the huge scholarships their sons and daughters were awarded last year. There’s no harm in feeling good, and I guess it’s a bit like all the kids in kindergarten coming home with a gold star. Everyone’s happy – the kid, the parents, and in this case, especially the college.
The wide availability of discounts – call them scholarships if it makes you feel better – and the lack of awareness of their availability, is one of the reasons my organization created This new website allows prospective college students of all ages to state what they want in a school and what they’d like in the way of scholarships, grants or financial aid. Then schools who are looking for that type of students offered admission as well as tuition discounts (0ops. I mean scholarships).

Melissa Kern’s article can be found at

Are adult students the answer to increasing your enrollment?

Posted on March 19, 2018

Yes, they probably are, according to a March 12, 2018 article in The EvoLLLution newsletter by Walter Pearson, Dean of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies, Loyola University. The heading on an illustration in the article reads:

While demographic shifts spell a tough road ahead for institutions and divisions focused squarely on traditional-age learners, those that serve adult students have a brighter future in store.

What does this mean for institutions (like yours?) that seek either an increase in enrollment or more adult students? It means a couple things, especially that your institution promote – or develop – online programs that appeal to a growing segment of college students, particularly adults. Easier said than done, you say? Maybe. But there are proven approaches you can use.

And where can you find these proven approaches? Aim small, for starters, by encouraging a shift in your marketing message to appeal to those ages 24-35 who started college but have not yet earned a degree. This should be your primary target market, not those who have never attended college. For more details I encourage that you read Walter Pearson’s fine article at and then look for inexpensive qualified leads at .  Easy, inexpensive…and smart.

The best prospective enrollees are yours for the taking

Posted on March 5, 2018

It’s frustrating to pay forty dollars for a supposedly good lead and, when you call them, have them say, “How did you get my name?” or “I’m not interested in enrolling in college.” According to industry statistics, this happens over ninety percent of the time. Makes you want to rely on the leads you develop yourselves, doesn’t it?

Having dealt with the same frustrations while heading a small university for six years I decided to try and improve this situation for all the colleges and universities, many like the one I led, trying hard to either maintain or increase enrollment.  And after a false start, my team finally came up with something that drastically improved the situation.

We started with the assumptions that institutions trying to recruit students of all ages would want the following: access to prospective students who fit specific profiles; the ability to access these profiles easily online and with no buying requirement; the ability to select none, one, or multiple files; files having detailed information on the prospective student; and finally, a low-cost with no contract or minimums.

When we queried multiple marketing, enrollment and recruiting experts to verify our assumptions – remember, we wore those same hats ourselves – we picked up a few additional “it would be nice to have” things. So we added additional features, one of which was what I’ll call “trust.”  In this case, trust means we will invoice for purchases an institution chooses to make. No contracts required prior to an admissions department acquiring leads. No credit cards and no money up front. Buy what you need when you need it.

Beta testing began; the usual issues were identified and fixed.  Pilot programs were next. More tweaks were needed (of course). Now we’re in the final phase, which adds weighting to each file based on an institution’s specific enrollee profile. This means that if an “ideal” profile, as determined by each institution, contains ten qualities (i.e., age, military, program choice, time to start, etc.) and a prospect’s file indicates eight of the qualities are present, the weighting will be greater than if the file only contained three qualities. The result is that only the files with higher weighting will be shown to the institution on the website.

The platform itself,, can be easily accessed online. Any enrollment team can, without cost or obligation, create a profile of their best prospective enrollee. And without buying anything, can see how many profiles in the database match their ideal profile. But keep in mind the weighting feature is still being tweaked and will not be fully functional until about the middle of April 2018.

I believe this new approach to finding the best prospective enrollees for each institution’s programs will soon play a major role in assisting enrollment teams in meeting their goals of quality and quantity. And I invite you and your enrollment team members to keep an eye on over the next few months.