Behind-The-Scenes Symptoms of Change in Higher Education Marketing

On her blog, group member Susan Hallenback shares excerpts of an email she received from a New England-area university seeking an enrollment management leader. The email includes the following . . .

This VP of Marketing and Enrollment Management will have overall responsibility for the college’s activities in student acquisition, enrollment, and retention. He or she will be asked to play a particularly important role in bringing the best operational and recruitment practices from the for-profit sector, especially on-line recruitment with real-time data driven strategies, call center support, and a strong sales orientation.

As Ms. Hallenback notes, the emphasis on ‘sales’ at a non-profit institution is unusual. But what is most interesting, of course, is the direct request for skills typical of the for-profit higher education sector.  I view this as a symptom of a larger trend toward more sophisticated (and, yes, aggresive) management practices in higher education. There is an awakening, of sorts, in higher education; a recognition that higher education is (and has long been) a business.

Posted in: Business Models

2 thoughts on “Behind-The-Scenes Symptoms of Change in Higher Education Marketing Leave a comment

  1. The concept that students are customers is yes, a new one in higher education. Historically, the institution has believed that students should feel privileged to attend. While that should continue to be true, they must also adjust to the reality of the day.

    That day indeed lends itself to calling students customers. Upon reflection, is there a more apt description?

    Consider that the ‘purchase’ of higher education is perhaps unequaled in the importance it has on a student. The decision will affect the quality of their degree, and play a major role in charting their entire adult lives.

    Additionally, this purchase is a significant one that in many cases will take many years to finance. Unlike an iPhone, this acquisition takes place sigh-unseen and with absolutely no guarantees.

    From our perspective, a purchase that affects your entire adult life, costs tens of thousands of dollars, is bought without much ‘testing’ and offers no guarantees is perhaps the ideal definition of a customer.


  2. I am seeing this trend as well where not-for-profit schools are looking to increase enrollment in online undergradutate/graduate degree programs and thus, seeking online lead generation professionals typically found in the for-profit education space.

    I think that this trend will continue into campus-based programs as well for not-for-profit schools as the cost per acquisition in direct marketing approaches (ie. sending college brochures to every student with a 1200 SAT or higher) far exceeds that of online leads via organic search.

    I’ve created in the hopes that the aforementioned will indeed happen. In essence, students provide reviews for colleges and prospective students “shop” schools until they find one they’d like to “request more information” from. Potentially, I could sell qualified leads to not-for-profit colleges.


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