Moody’s Downgrades Higher Ed’s Outlook and Other Bad News

Posted on December 18, 2017

 

The financial experts at Moody’s don’t think many positive things are in store for higher education over the next year or so. Is this a surprise? I think not, especially when taken alongside the news that the numbers of high school graduates are dwindling, professors are chafing at salary freezes, states are not increasing funding to universities, and the unemployment rate is shrinking, the latter depleting the ranks of potential college enrollees.

But to paraphrase Bugs Bunny, that’s not all, folks! Far too many private colleges want to believe it’s 1955 and their liberal arts programs are in great demand. They’re not. Further, conversations I’ve had with numerous smaller, lesser known schools indicate they are reluctant to add online programs and broaden their appeal to adult – nontraditional – students. Take the blinders off, folks, or you’ll fall off that cliff that you’re steadily approaching.

If that’s not enough bad news, there’s also the new GOP tax bills. Until we know exactly what the final bill will contain we all sleep uneasily. Maybe the party of President Trump will view the higher education establishment in a positive way. And maybe Betsy DeVos will be the best Secretary of Education in a hundred years. Time will tell, of course, but until then higher ed administrators, instructors, and trustees will continue to lose sleep over the current uncertainty. As well they should.

Limit charitable deductions. Tax endowments. Institute gainful employment measures.

Posted on December 5, 2017

The House and the Senate tax bills have the higher education establishment all in a-tither. Corporations, though, are happy; not so many colleges or their executives making over one million per year. And then there is the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. All this will cause many sleepless nights as those in academia – most of them anyway – hate disruption. What’s an administrator to do? The best advice: complaint to your congressman or congresswoman. Do it now. Be proactive. And hope for the best.

http://ow.ly/yueK30h1X4y

Three not-so-magic cures for colleges with declining enrollment.

Posted on November 28, 2017

Yet another survey of higher education professionals, this time with financial staffers, indicates only half believe their institutions’ business models are sustainable. This Kaufman Hall survey echoes earlier predictions, first from management guru Peter Drucker then from Harvard professor Clayton Christensen, stating that colleges and universities will not survive in their present form, the brand-name schools excepted. Coupled with a dwindling target market – high schoolers – and negative media coverage concerning high costs and poor value (i.e., lack of jobs for graduates), it’s no surprise that many institutions have fallen 30% or so below enrolment targets.

It’s obvious to me, though maybe not to thousands of college administrations and trustees, that there’s a leak in the hull that’s letting in more water every day. It’s also obvious to me that there are three logical steps to take to plug the leak, so schools can regain steerage and resume their journey.

First, determine what you’re good at, what makes you different; your Silver Bullet. Find out by asking your current and former customers (students). Ignore your faculty’s opinion; they have vested interests and they aren’t customers. Use some marketing smarts, preferably from experienced third-party marketers, and position your key differentiator to attract those who want or need that Silver Bullet knowledge and credential. Above all, stop trying to be everything to everyone. No one is good at it.

Second, realize it’s 2017, not 1960, and add online courses and programs. Start with your Silver Bullet program. This will likely be the best investment – and smartest decision – you’ve made in decades.

Third, change the way you recruit potential enrollees. Buying names from the College Board is passé. If you don’t believe me take a hard look at your conversion rates. Use reputable lead generation organizations to target only the prospective student who meets your own specific criteria. Buying general interest leads (i.e., “I may be interested in college”) is a bad investment. Only buy leads that meet specific criteria. Now here’s where I plug my company: College Lead Exchange (coming soon) is the best example, I believe, of creating specific criteria that ensure the leads you invest in are for the type of people you want. To see how this works, go to www.CollegeLeadExchange.com and go through the no-cost-or-obligation process.

One more thing. Realize you’re running an organization whose product is education, and don’t restrict access to the 18-23 age group, or to specific religious denominations or sexes. Open your eyes to adult learners. They want knowledge and credentials, not sports teams, Greek life and climbing walls. And they’re likely to pick and choose what they will buy while paying sticker price. And that’s good.

Do We Need To Rethink What College Means?

Posted on November 27, 2017

“There are two ways to look at America’s college-for-all movement. On the one hand, it represents a rare policy success: Today, 90 percent of high school graduates enrol in college within eight years of graduating from high school, up from 45 percent in 1960. On the other hand, it serves as a cautionary tale about the unintended consequences of even the best-intentioned policy initiatives: Many of these students leave college before finishing a degree or credential—only 15 percent of community college students earn a bachelor’s degree within six years of enrollment—to an unfriendly job market, already saddled with crippling student debt.”

http://ow.ly/QRvN30gQnBZ

7 Reasons Admissions Reps at Small Colleges Hate Their Job

Posted on October 16, 2017

Perhaps the most pressure-filled job at a smaller, lesser-known college or university is that of admissions representative. It is up to these hard workers to ensure that enrollment goals are met so the institution can pay its bills…and in many cases, survive.  But there are challenges each semester or, for some, rolling cohorts, and they constitute reasons to hate the job.

  1. The marketing department, if there is one, doesn’t bring me enough good leads.
  2. A minority of the leads I’m given answer – or return – my calls or email.
  3. Prospective enrollees think our tuition is too high.
  4. People thinking about enrolling are afraid to take on debt.
  5. Too many applicants I bring in are rejected by my boss.
  6. Administrators blame me for not attaining unrealistic enrollment goals.
  7. My school is afraid to try new things; they’ve been doing the same thing for years and it’s not working anymore.

High turnover by admissions reps is an accepted fact in higher education and many of these seven reasons are the reason why. Can their situation be improved?  Maybe, especially by some of the new things now available to colleges and universities that need to recruit more students. Perhaps the most radical is what some are calling “match.com for colleges and students.”  It’s a free online platform where those thinking about enrolling in college register with their preferences and colleges looking for those type students invite the registrants to enrol.  The site for schools is CollegeLeadExchange.com and the site for students is WhatsBestforMe.com. Both sites are being introduced in September 2017.