The Plumbers’ Pipes Don’t Always Get Fixed Even By the Plumber : Trials of an Enrollment Guy

This post is my sixth installment in the continuing story about my now 18 year old son. He is a very intelligent (top 10 in his class), high school graduate (rural area of upstate South Carolina) now a college freshman, college student athlete (baseball), social media lover, southern boy who loves to be outside in the woods, water and wild. I am a 40ish year old Dad of two boys, with a wife that still can hold her own even with 3 guys in the house! I have spent most of my working life in higher education enrollment, with a brief hiatus (5 years) into corporate world. Now my life consists of visiting and consulting with colleges and universities across the south. And in between, I get to sit behind the computer screen and try to keep up with what is happening with this younger generation.

Time to check the gauges!

guages

It is that time of the year- putting spring enrollments in the rearview window and focus on the fall class 100%. In the winter, we focus on the numbers to see if we have what it is going to take with factors such as financial aid packages, other school’s offers and summer melt. What can you do now to affect your class? There is so much but you have to pay attention and make changes along the way. Little changes can add up to have big impacts. Today we have to be on target with everything. This blog focuses on low cost enrollment yield. I am going to share 4 ideas that I have seen work on campuses across the country and they could work on yours too.

1. Tie in social media to help: Push out countdown messaging to inform and create urgency. Always have a photo or an image to tie in the message. If it is time to send out your financial aid package, show an image of an assembly line.

2. Engage your campus community:  Get your administration and faculty (Stars) involved in recruitment. Just a call, a personal email and/or a personally written note (they can tell the difference) goes a long way with a prospect—everyone wants to feel wanted. Teach your community, tool them, measure them, and give them feedback. This can be a rifle approach not a shot gun!

3. Go see your students: Plan get together at the local yogurt place for your prospects/applicants, offer incentives to bring their friends that may be interested. This is low cost and creates a great impression. Take pictures, tag, follow, post use this social media opportunity to share your school in that area.

4. Hard Stuff: Engage your recruitment team to get specific. They have to know who is in their funnel, especially the 1st Gen. Leverage every admissions step for students. Visit- give them a reason to come or come back again. Fin Aid- engage parents and students alike- $$ are not unlimited. Residence Halls share countdowns on available beds, same for parking places, even at big schools students love their tickets to games, leverage the distribution. Create these incentives to move them through the process. Make sure to have some fun along the way too. Give things away and show through pictures who the winners, we sometimes forget to do this.

Time for Orientation—Fall is always better.

In my blog posts I have always shared a personal account of my oldest son’s trek to college. Well it has been interesting. I am happy to share that my son is now in the midst of classes at his chosen college here close to home. He is happy and busy with spring semester start up and baseball (his other job). I will tell you measurement and evaluation is key to keeping students and parents satisfied. So many times spring orientation is over looked and not done well. I would encourage you to look at this process, visit other colleges that do it well and measure your college against others. Ask for evaluations from parents and students. If you are doing something that could be better – be prepared. We can always do better. This is a critical and stressful time for both parents and students (even for me) and the student can always bail at orientation or just afterwards. Happy spring semester, May will be here soon!

I Believe In Higher Education… Do You?

Ivory Tower

Recently, I came across a documentary – Ivory Tower. Written and directed by Andrew Rossi, this June 2014 documentary tackles the question: Is college worth the cost? Ivory Tower delves into the over 1 TRILLION dollars in student loan debt our country has amassed as of March 2014.

The Higher Education Act of 1965 launched the Federal Student Aid program with both grant and loan programs. As Ivory Tower reveals, in 1977 a Federal Pell Grant would cover, on average, 116% of a student’s college tuition. In 2014, only 42% is covered by the same grant. The remaining 58% is split between the institution, the state, the student and his or her family. With state funding for tuition assistance in drastic decline, student loans – both federal and private – have picked up the slack.

I have witnessed both the promise of a better future and the economic hardship student loans can facilitate. When I was a financial aid director I would often face a student sitting on the other side of my desk asking to withdraw from college. At the point they hit my office for counseling all they wanted was their ticket punched to leave campus and go home. Yet, when a student drops out of college mid-semester, they are sometimes subject to 100% of the institution’s charges, but only receive a portion of their financial aid prorated by the number of days they attended class. This can leave a student owing the institution upwards of $10,000 for being on campus just a few weeks. This student may never be able to repay the institution, receive their transcripts to transfer and could face default on their student loan which is not forgivable even in bankruptcy.

You might say it’s the student’s decisions that put him in this situation. This may be true. But many times first generation students, in particular, don’t understand the repercussions of their actions until they are facing them.

But what about the student who does graduate? As highlighted by Ivory Tower, average student loan debt is approaching $30,000. This $30,000 often impedes with the ability to buy a car, a home or even start a family.

With this daunting problem brought to light, Ivory Tower looks into alternative models for funding and delivering education. Examples included New York’s Cooper Union’s endowment funded college providing students 100% scholarships. Founder Peter Cooper’s mission statement for the college stated the college should be open with “free education to all.” Financial hardship due to failed hedge fund investments forced the college’s board to reconsider the founder’s mission when they charged tuition for the first time in 2014. Instead of attending college for free, students faced a $20,000 price tag.

Even more drastic is the San Francisco based Theil Fellowship program which provides $100,000 scholarships if students drop out of college to start their own business by “hacking” their education. By hacking one’s education, these entrepreneurs look to follow in the footsteps of drop-outs such as Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. This Theil Fellowship model questions the need for formalized higher education. The documentary warns, though, that these successful college drop-out entrepreneurs are possibly the exception, not the rule.

The technology of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) present another option. Coursework becomes openly available to anyone with an internet connection, yet the solution is imperfect. MOOCs struggle to provide feedback and support to students. Community colleges were applauded for their usage of MOOC content with an in-classroom faculty member to facilitate content understanding.

Though Ivory Tower didn’t provide concrete answers for solving the issue of the student loan crisis, it did throw the doors of this discussion wide open. We as a society must either find a way to better fund education, use technology to improve the platforms for delivering education to lower cost or completely rethink the value of higher education.

I still believe in higher education… do you?

Homework:
Watch the documentary and join the discussion.

Resource:
Rossi, A. (2014) Ivory Tower. United States of America: Participant Media, Paramount Pictures & Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Amanda Randolph Scott, M.A.Ed.
Senior Strategic Enrollment Consultant