America is facing a challenging time. With a weakened economy and limited resources, businesses — regardless of size and industry — need to ensure they are maintaining a positive cash flow. And higher educational institutions are not immune.
The global war on terror has had a direct or indirect impact on countless servicemen and women and their families. Thousands of our finest soldiers have made very significant sacrifices in their service to our country.
Rugged four-hour practices, aggressive recruiting, fierce competition, and the non-stop pursuit of national championships are what you would expect to find on the campuses of college basketball and football powerhouses. But those same elements are in full view at the considerably smaller University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and University of Texas at Dallas, where the world-class chess teams are generating national attention, giving new meaning to sports scholarships, and offering novel ways to recruit high-caliber students.
While academic marketers now can reach prospects through a wider array of channels, the structure of discourse and the content communicated hasn't changed as much. And change might yield deeper connections and better results.
When I applied to colleges 40 years ago, I wrote letters to six schools and received a view book from each with a friendly cover letter, an invitation to visit the campus, an application, and a pointer to an alum or two who would be glad to sit down with me and discuss my future.
The worldwide demand for higher education and lifelong learning has never been greater. Colleges and universities around the globe need to scale up their offerings to cater to a mass influx of students, for whom a degree is their passport to the 21st-century workforce. Yet, they must do this in an environment where funding is often constrained and costs continue to spiral upward.
You may have heard that the most popular show in the world during the 1990s was the bathing-beauty vehicle "Baywatch," but the current leader may come as a surprise. One study of ratings put "CSI: Miami" ahead of all other shows on the planet, beating telenovelas in Spanish and other shows that are more popular in the United States. Perhaps "CSI: Miami" does the best job of meeting an international demand for sunshine, suspense, and escapism (with a dash of bathing beauties). For whatever reason, it directs a lot of attention to our hometown, or at least Hollywood's depiction of it.
The process of leading higher learning institutions is not for the faint-hearted. Leaders are called upon to navigate the competing and sometimes hidden agendas of multiple taskmasters and the communities their institutions call home. A new challenge that is showing up on the agenda of administrators in higher education is cyber-bullying among students, faculty, staff, and community members.
E-mail is dead, long live Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. Social networking sites are all the rage, and we should just go ahead and discard any of the old working models ... or so the prognosticators of teen communication culture would have us believe. While it is true that the trends are pointing away from "traditional" methods of reaching prospective students, it doesn't mean that your educational institution should completely forsake the old reliables: direct mail and e-mail.
A leading environmentalist who happens to be our former vice president, Al Gore, said, "Holding a 'feel-good' investment may appeal to the heart, but it's of no real use if it doesn't produce a healthy financial return." The investment behavior of university and college endowments appears to confirm Gore's comments. Over the past five years, market-rate, mission-based investments made by all nonprofit organizations, including educational institutions' endowments, trusts and foundations, have grown three times faster than the below-market segment.