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Articles: Marketing

Digital signage has existed on campuses in some form for decades. Originally, it was standard television sets embedded in the wall with a slow crawl of text showing campus news. Now, high-quality flatscreens display live TV, text, and information tickers all at the same time.

For-profit colleges have been under congressional scrutiny because they appear to be underperforming in enrollment, academic quality, and college loan repayment. I lead a company at the forefront of marketing traditional colleges, and our team believes that—regardless of the outcome of these investigations—traditional colleges and universities can learn some powerful lessons from the meteoric rise of their for-profit brethren. Here are seven of those lessons.

We delved into the topic of admissions office budgets with a plan to feature the diminishing resources available to college admissions offices and how that situation has impacted enrollment efforts. But as it turns out, admissions counselors are also concentrating on the limited resources of their institutions as a whole, and, concurrently, the financial challenges faced by prospective and current students and parents.

We have written before about the importance of considering your institution's market position relative to competitors when planning future price increases. When sticker price position is higher than "prestige" position (based on publicly available measures like test scores, U.S. News rank, and selectivity) institutions often see declining demand.

In 1999, the North Dakota University System coordinated a roundtable discussion inviting its board of directors, K-12 administrators, employers, and others to address their expectations of the university.

"It was a landmark event in North Dakota's higher ed history," explains Michel Hillman, vice chancellor of academic and student affairs at NDUS in Bismarck, which has 11 campuses. "What was recommended was a consistent set of accountability measures."

Bill Tyson has been advising colleges and universities on getting media attention for more than 30 years through his firm Morrison & Tyson Communications. Now he's taken some of that knowledge and put it into Pitch Perfect: Communicating with Traditional and Social Media for Scholars, Researchers, and Academic Leaders (Stylus Publishing, 2010), a how-to guide for thoughtful communications planning that can increase the likelihood of national media coverage.

College graduates are used to hearing from their alma maters with requests about donations and to cheer on the school athletic teams. But lately, alumni from a growing number of institutions are hearing the sounds of alumni offices retooling themselves to offer an unprecedented array of services and programs.

It seems like a geological age ago when admissions officers considered themselves educators first and foremost, with a penchant for interacting on a personal basis with adolescents, their parents, and professional counselors in the high schools.

It took one determined program director, two tries, three years, and much collective brainpower—but at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, today's interior architecture program students can earn a bachelor degree in three years rather than four.

It's hard to believe that it's been 10 years since brand marketing first swept higher education. During that time we have seen countless colleges and universities launch and develop brand strategies. And based on the number of RFPs in play, it appears that the interest in brand marketing will likely not diminish any time soon.

As we look forward to that next decade of brand marketing, I thought it might be useful to look back to see what lessons we have learned.

In 2006, Northeastern University enrolled students from 42 countries, representing 4 percent of the freshman class. By 2009, the university had increased those numbers to 61 countries and 11 percent, along the way adding 932 new high schools sending students to Boston.

To be or not to be? A college on the East Coast uses "The Place to Be!" as its tagline. And why not? Everyone has to be somewhere. But unless the school wishes to target modern-day Hamlets who haven't decided whether to be or not, it has zero impact.

Another popular tagline is "Start Here, Go Anywhere." It's too popular, in fact. Dozens of schools use that same slogan or a close derivation. When an institution's tagline is so generic as to be interchangeable among schools, it's a sure sign that coherent strategy has "gone elsewhere."

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