My last post presented a series of myths about the higher education marketplace. This post continues and completes that conversation.

  1. Myth: It is important to be unique
    • Reality: Being unique or distinctive is not enough. Neither is having a raft of distinctive competencies. Instead, you must be compelling. In other words, what is it about you that students and donors find indispensable?
  2. Myth: Being good is good enough
    • Reality: Being good is good enough. In fact, most colleges are very good. But being good at something that prospective students find compelling is, well, great. Think blue oceans. (Blue Ocean Strategy: Kim and Mauborgne.) Think “onliest” (Zag: Neumeier).
  3. Myth: Because we are a private, we can charge more for our online programs
    • Reality: In most cases, online students choose a school based on two factors: cost and convenience. Privates that insist on pricing their programs above those of their public school competitors because they believe their programs are of higher quality will meet significant marketplace resistance.
  4. Myth: To improve retention, all we have to do is fix academic advising
    • Reality: Advising is a big part of the retention equation, but a bigger part is a correct match between the institution and the student. Many admissions offices are under enormous pressure to just get the class, and there is sometimes less attention being paid to the idea of student fit. Even as overall enrollments go up (especially when factoring in adult and part-time students), the percentage of students who complete a degree continues to go down.
  5. Myth: People in the U.S. generally consider college to be a good investment
    • Reality: An investment is measured by the relationship between initial cost and return. And while it is clear that people with a college degree have significantly greater earnings than do people without a college degree, it is less clear if more expensive colleges offer better employment prospects and earning potential than less expensive schools. All things considered, students who enter the job market with less debt, or who paid less in tuition, will have a significantly different perspective on whether or not college was a good investment than students who paid more or who have greater debt.
  6. Myth: The college admission team is responsible for enrolling the class
    • Reality: Actually, it takes a village to enroll the class. In most cases, the decision to attend rests on a small set of variables including the visit experience, the major, fit, and net cost after aid. Even the most talented admissions team in the country won’t be successful if your academic programs are not in demand, if you cost too much, or if the campus doesn’t show well.
  7. Myth: Better marketing will build enrollment 
    • Reality: Marketing does not create demand. Rather it builds awareness of the programs you have in place. In-demand programs build enrollment, not marketing.
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