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Financial Aid or Financial Planning? - Monday Musings
The study conducted last summer by Longmire and Company entitled Your Value Proposition: How prospective students and parents perceive value and select colleges contained one particular question that caught my attention. Over 80% of respondents said they would find it appealing, “If a college were to offer an annual service to help you estimate and manage all educational and personal expenses associated with attending college during your time there.” It brought to mind that over the last few years it seemed a growing number of financial aid offices were changing their names to replace “financial aid” with “financial planning.” Had these offices made substantive changes to respond to the perception that studies like this confirm…Read more

Regional Recruiters: Are they worth it? - Monday Musings
[Note: we occasionally ask friends and colleagues to act as guest bloggers. This post is provided by Patricia Maben, Executive Vice President for the Enrollment Management Division at RuffaloCODY.] I had a wonderful meeting with one of my favorite universities earlier in the year. It was a meaningful discussion on how to open up new markets when primary markets are in the hot bed of shrinking demographics. Opening up new markets is the most easily understood objective, but the most misunderstood investment. With yields in new markets at incredibly low rates compared to primary markets, the “silver bullet” solution has been to hire a regional recruiter. Makes sense, right? But, if not done well, the placement of a regional recruiter will…Read more

Price is only an issue when educational debt is greater than earnings potential. - Monday Musings
At the Council of Independent Colleges Presidents Institute in early January, S&K's Jim Scannell and Bob Sevier (Sr. VP, Strategy - Stamats) heard a number of presidents mention a need for a greater understanding of not only their ability to set their price, but also the factors that should be considered when setting their price. In response, Bob and Jim decided to write a series of short blog posts on tuition pricing and related topics. Their goal - “to provide a bit more clarity on key issues related to pricing, so college and university leaders can have more confidence as they set their pricing strategy.” This series of observations is appearing here as well on the Stamats website: www.stamats.com. Price is only an issue when educational…Read more

Evaluate the Marketability of Your Academic Programs - Monday Musings
At the Council of Independent Colleges Presidents Institute in early January, S&K's Jim Scannell and Bob Sevier (Sr. VP, Strategy - Stamats) heard a number of presidents mention a need for a greater understanding of not only their ability to set their price, but also the factors that should be considered when setting their price. In response, Bob and Jim decided to write a series of short blog posts on tuition pricing and related topics. Their goal - “to provide a bit more clarity on key issues related to pricing, so college and university leaders can have more confidence as they set their pricing strategy.” This series of observations is appearing here as well on the Stamats website: www.stamats.com. Evaluate the Marketability of Your…Read more

Saying “Here’s How” rather than “You Can’t” - Monday Musings
I wanted to call our blog readership’s attention to an article that was in a recent NASFAA newsletter because I thought it was particularly helpful at this time of year when financial aid offices (and admissions recruiters) are having conversations with families about aid packages. The article was titled 5 Steps to Take When Students Appear at Risk of Over-Borrowing and was written by several aid officers. Here is the link to the article: http://www.nasfaa.org/Main/Voices/articles/5_Steps_To_Take_When_Students_Appear_At_Risk_Of_Overborrowing.aspx In a nutshell, the article suggests ways that professionals can talk to incoming (or current) students realistically about the financial implications of enrollment decisions without making decisions…Read more

Value Drivers in the College-Choice Process - Monday Musings
At the Council of Independent Colleges Presidents Institute in early January, S&K's Jim Scannell and Bob Sevier (Sr. VP, Strategy - Stamats) heard a number of presidents mention a need for a greater understanding of not only their ability to set their price, but also the factors that should be considered when setting their price. In response, Bob and Jim decided to write a series of short blog posts on tuition pricing and related topics. Their goal - “to provide a bit more clarity on key issues related to pricing, so college and university leaders can have more confidence as they set their pricing strategy.” These observations will appear here over the next several weeks, as well on the Stamats website: www.stamats.com. Value Drivers…Read more

The Value of a Differentiated Curriculum - Monday Musings
At the Council of Independent Colleges Presidents Institute in early January, S&K's Jim Scannell and Bob Sevier (Sr. VP, Strategy - Stamats) heard a number of presidents mention a need for a greater understanding of not only their ability to set their price, but also the factors that should be considered when setting their price. In response, Bob and Jim decided to write a series of short blog posts on tuition pricing and related topics. Their goal - “to provide a bit more clarity on key issues related to pricing, so college and university leaders can have more confidence as they set their pricing strategy.” These observations will appear here over the next several weeks, as well on the Stamats website: www.stamats.com. The Value of…Read more

Aligning Price & Prestige - Monday Musings
At the Council of Independent Colleges Presidents Institute in early January, S&K's Jim Scannell and Bob Sevier (Sr. VP, Strategy - Stamats) heard a number of presidents mention a need for a greater understanding of not only their ability to set their price, but also the factors that should be considered when setting their price. In response, Bob and Jim decided to write a series of short blog posts on tuition pricing and related topics. Their goal - “to provide a bit more clarity on key issues related to pricing, so college and university leaders can have more confidence as they set their pricing strategy.” These observations will appear here over the next several weeks, as well on the Stamats website: www.stamats.com. Aligning Price…Read more

Determining Your Value Proposition - Monday Musings
At the Council of Independent Colleges Presidents Institute in early January, S&K's Jim Scannell and Bob Sevier (Sr. VP, Strategy - Stamats) heard a number of presidents mention a need for a greater understanding of not only their ability to set their price, but also the factors that should be considered when setting their price. In response, Bob and Jim decided to write a series of short blog posts on tuition pricing and related topics. Their goal - “to provide a bit more clarity on key issues related to pricing, so college and university leaders can have more confidence as they set their pricing strategy.” These observations will appear here over the next several weeks, as well on the Stamats website: www.stamats.com. Determining…Read more

“If you build it...” - Monday Musings
[Note: This post is provided by Mike Williams, President of the Austen Group, which recently became part of RuffaloCODY. The Austen Group provides institutional research and analysis to private colleges and universities in the areas of curriculum and cost, inquiry to enrollment modeling, and retention.] The story of the National Labor College (Inside Higher Ed, November 14, 2013) is a sad and unfortunate one. The closing of any college, regardless of size, diminishes the diversity of American higher education. The current, and presumably last, president of National Labor, Paula Peinovich, offers a heartfelt warning to her presidential peers: “Don’t build fancy buildings without a business model that works. Don’t build a lot of buildings.…Read more

It’s Not Just About the Money (But It Will Be If You Let It), Part 2 - Monday Musings
[Note: This week’s post is the conclusion to Kathy Kurz’ entry from last week, talking about how to make the case for your institution’s value proposition.] In addition to knowing yourself and knowing your graduates: Third, know your competition. How do they talk about their programs? Can you provide compelling evidence that the attributes of your programs that are distinctive compared to your competition add value for your graduates? Previous S&K posts have highlighted the importance of collecting data from the National Student Clearinghouse on where admits who did not enroll at your institution ultimately matriculated.Use this information to determine if there are specific academic majors where you “lose” to a particular institution…Read more

It’s Not Just About the Money (But It Will Be If You Let It), Part I - Monday Musings
We’ve talked in recent posts about the role of sticker price in family decisions about where to apply for admission. We’ve also talked about the wave of appeals that schools tend to experience in the spring and we provided some thoughts on how to respond. We’ve commented on the reasons behind increasing discount rates at private institutions across the country and the growth in aid being offered by public institutions. But in the midst of all this angst about the cost of education, families' growing concerns about debt, and cut throat competition based on net price, we want to take a step back and remind everyone that there are many factors besides price that play into a student’s college choice decision, and it would behoove colleges…Read more

Two Ugly Words & One Bright Future - Monday Musings
[Note: This post is provided by Mike Williams, President of the Austen Group, which recently became part of RuffaloCODY. The Austen Group provides institutional research and analysis to private colleges and universities in the areas of curriculum and cost, inquiry to enrollment modeling, and retention.] It is more important than ever that colleges and universities understand the business metrics underlying the academic programs they offer. One needs to understand the external demand for a school’s programs—nursing compared to psychology compared to philosophy—as measured by the number of prospective students who express an interest in each major, and the internal demand—the number of graduates in each major. Then, of course, the cost…Read more

Confessions of a New Old Road Warrior, Part 2 - Monday Musings
[Note: This week’s post is the conclusion to Michael Beseda’s entry which appeared last week.] So, there I was, schlepping a travel case and a somewhat recalcitrant middle-aged body around I-80, 580, 680, 880 and every other 80. On the advice of Jim Sumner, now Dean Emeritus at Willamette, I had interviewed nearly 50 faculty members, staff, alums, former admission deans, and just plain interesting people, asking them what they thought defined the University and its students. Given the lack of concrete clarity in the market research I had reviewed, I was surprised to hear a remarkably consistent account of Willamette’s character in these conversations: The first university in the west was blessed with a campus across the street from the…Read more

The Net Price Calculator: The Verdict Is In - Monday Musings
We are approaching the second anniversary of the deadline requiring colleges and universities to publish an online tool – a net price calculator (NPC) – that prospective students and families can use to estimate their total cost for attending the institution. Some schools are still trying to decide how useful their NPC is. Previous posts to Monday Musings have suggested comparing your institution’s NPC results to those of your competitors and paying attention to the aptness of your NPC for your target student/parent audience. More recently, schools are discovering the importance of harvesting the results of their NPC to improve their assessment of students’ interest in the institution and their probability of enrollment. Student use…Read more

Financial Aid vs. Marketing: a False Dichotomy - Monday Musings
If you’re an old hand in enrollment, I’m sure you’ve been there – you’ve just finished a presentation to the board of trustees on the latest enrollment results. You’ve presented data on applications, deposits, academic quality, diversity, etc., and led a discussion of progress toward your new student enrollment targets for the fall. As you finish up, you get a question from a supportive, well-meaning alum who’s had a very successful career in business. She’s been on the board for a number of years and maybe she’s recently seen the financial aid budget rise incrementally. So she asks some variation on the question: “Couldn’t we get a better return on our investment by taking some of the money we spend on financial aid and…Read more

Meet the Parents - Monday Musings
What do parents most want to know during their sons’ and daughters’ search for the right college? And how do they want to get the information? There was a time when many parents’ interests boiled down to questions like: “What will my child learn?” “Will they be safe?” “Will they be happy?” But now that concerns about the job market for new college graduates have seemingly overridden all others, the question “Will they be able to get a job?” has risen to the top of the list. So how are colleges doing in providing answers to this question? Here are a few suggestions for responding to this need: Easy-to-find information on institutional costs – tuition, fees, room and board Easy-to-find information on the affordability…Read more

Marketing Your Job & Grad School Placement Rates - Monday Musings
My colleague Don Gray wrote a great blog a few weeks ago about the importance of marketing the value of your institution’s degree. He discussed some of the key metrics necessary in telling the story in a compelling way. Part and parcel to the need for developing those key metrics, among them job/graduate school placement rates and average starting salary by academic programs, is the imperative that the data presented be representative and reliable. Over the years our consulting team has visited hundreds of campuses, and an area where we often find a glaring weakness is with an institution’s survey of a recent graduating class. Here is what we often find: A low response rate to the survey. Unless the response rate is at least 60%, follow…Read more

Marketing the Value of Your Degrees - Monday Musings
By now we’ve all heard stories and read articles on how college costs and subsequently student loans are rising so swiftly they could soon balloon out of control. The distribution of new freshmen may be shifting away from four year institutions toward two year institutions, but even so prospective students are still enrolling in college. These students are trusting the commonly held belief that earning a college degree remains one of the best ways to improve their economic situation. The key for colleges then is to make sure that this trust is well placed. Marketing your institution’s broad selection of amenities e.g., climbing walls, 60 inch plasma TVs, etc., may help convince students they’ll have a good time while in school, but these…Read more

Financial Aid Website Tips - Monday Musings
Whenever we work with a college or university, we spend some time getting to know the institution through its website. As a result, we have seen a lot of financial aid websites, and would like to offer a few “dos and don’ts” based on those reviews. Do make it easy to get to information about your sticker price. Tuition, fees, room, and board costs are one of the things students most want to see when they go to your website—so don’t bury your costs. At the same time, however, consider providing a link on that page to your net price calculator—particularly if your calculator does a good job of providing accurate estimates based not only on need but on other factors considered in your packaging policies. Also, remember to tell them…Read more

Does $1 trillion in student loans mean the sky is falling? - Monday Musings
I am always amused when the press goes viral over a piece of information that is simply one point along a trend line that has been in place for many years. Lately there has been much in the press about the fact that student loan debt has reached $1 trillion. The fact is that student loan debt has been growing at just about the same pace since 2004-05. This trend can be clearly seen in The Atlantic chart of the day for August 18, 2011 here. The growth is a function of the confluence of a number of factors. First, average debt levels of graduates from four-year schools have grown, but it is important to note that, even with that growth, the average debt among seniors graduating in 2010 was $25,250 per the white paper Student Debt and the Class…Read more