Welcome to our first edition of “CEO Keys.” I’m excited about the chance to talk to you directly about some of the most prevalent topics in the industry.
Over the past three to four years, challenges with enrollment growth have only increased. As a result, we have seen new marketing campaigns, new programs, new online offerings … all with some success, but most without game-changing results.
I’ve spoken to many schools, and everyone wants to know one major thing: How can we grow enrollments in a more competitive environment? The easy answers would be to focus on what you do well, target the right students and develop a brand message that sets you apart from your competitors. All this is true, but ultimately, we are missing the point. Let me give you some facts:
- According to Eduventures, the No. 1 reason students choose a school is career preparation
- A recent Brookings report stated 86% of students say getting a better job was important in their reason to enroll
- 11% of employers in a recent Gallup survey said college graduates had the skills and competencies their business needs
With facts like these, why are outcomes not the first part of the conversation? Yes, we speak about career-focused training and being industry-driven, but how do we bring these efforts to life? To truly address outcomes, we need to focus on bridging the translation gap between students and employers. Students spend two to five years in college and walk away with a degree and series of bullet points on a résumé to show for it. We have moved technology so far in so many areas, but for some reason, the traditional résumé is still dominant.
Here are some ideas for improvement:
- Find ways to help students document and articulate experiences to employers. There are a number of technology solutions such as Seelio (seelio.com) that can help with this process.
- Start helping students during their freshman year with career preparation. Good habits need to start early in college, and we want to remind them that they are working towards a better life, in turn helping them stay motivated towards graduation.
- Help students participate in and capture related activities outside of the classroom. Employers want well-rounded candidates, both academically and experientially.
- Showcase student work to prospective students. Student testimonials are good, but sharing real work from real students positively impacts both retention and enrollment.
- Enhance your career services office by evolving towards a digital environment. I’m still amazed by how many offices are still very paper- and résumé-driven.
- Get your key employers on board with digital portfolio reviews and informing students’ professional development process. Once they review students this way and see great outcomes, others will follow.
AND finally, when you are done … truly differentiate your programs by showcasing student outcomes.
The point to all of this is we need to move from saying we are career-focused to actually bringing this evidence to life online. My belief is that while we will always need marketing to make our schools stand out, those that put a real focus on a digital identity for their students will move ahead of the pack. Just think what your marketing could look like if you captured the real examples of success and learning through students’ eyes and showcased it! The enrollment challenge could become so much easier.