In today’s economy with both greater demand for education and skyrocketing tuition rates coupled with a decline in fiscal support, students are wise to question and understand what they are getting for their investment of time and money. This is making today’s admissions environment more competitive than ever as all schools are being asked to scrutinize spending due to limited fiscal resources.
Tuition rates have inclined upwards of 20 to even 30 percent at some institutions, and unfortunately with the decline in many endowments for private institutions and lagging tax supported funding at state schools, the increased tuition burden has shifted onto the shoulders of college students.
Additionally, as of 2008, universities are also now being required to complete a more robust version of the IRS 990 Tax form that provides greater transparency into various institutional expenditures, including presidential compensation. Many academics find the concept of viewing higher education in business terms difficult because their lifelong calling to help educate students is perceived as a philanthropic endeavor, not one to make money. While historically speaking this is true, the current competitive admissions environment requires us to reformulate how philanthropic endeavors might benefit from a business framework.
Colleges and universities need to adopt new strategic recruiting practices to win students and drive increased enrollment. They need to understand and implement processes focused on comprehensive targeting and planning, messaging and brand activation, systematic inquiry and management, and at the end of the day, student retention.
In some aspects, students have become consumers, and while education may not be a commodity per se, utilizing some financial acumen on the part of students in deciding where to attend college isn’t all bad. Schools are dealing with a new kind of student consumer, and the success of their recruitment and retention practices are dependent on strategic thinking and innovation.