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Are University Business Officers Throwing in the Towel?

A recent survey of college and university business officers conducted by Inside Higher Ed, revealed an alarming trend in Higher Education:

“40 percent of respondents from all sectors said the business model of private four-year institutions that do not have significant endowments is unsustainable and must change, the highest for any sector. Further, college administrators say that small institutions do not have the type of overhead where significant savings can be found.  At the same time, Moody’s Investors Service and Standard and Poor’s both recently released reports on how families, while still valuing higher education, are being more discriminating about how they spend their money. That trend could be bad for expensive but not elite private colleges.”

(“Mission-Driven, Market-Smart,” Inside Higher Ed, August 15, 2012)

Unfortunately, this survey concludes that university business officers are attempting to increase revenue through tuition increases and non-traditional markets, yet every college that I have worked with has increased their revenue by increasing their enrollment numbers. Rather than abandoning their target markets, these schools increased revenue simply by strengthening their marketing and recruiting practices.

It seems to me that the issue isn’t that the market is drying up or that people aren’t willing to pay for quality private education–the real issue is one of supply and demand. The competition for prospective students is fiercer than ever. As marketing and recruiting practices mature, online and hybrid models change the educational landscape, and new pricing models alter revenue streams, schools must adapt to accommodate these changes.

To survive, colleges and universities must implement educational programs that meet market demands coupled with effective marketing, competitive pricing strategies, and efficient recruiting practices. The days of “build it and they will come” are no longer a reality. For smaller private colleges and universities, shifting their focus to non-traditional markets and increased tuition (in an economy that is predisposed to resist price increases) is to surrender their core business to the competition.

Through our Comprehensive Assessment package, we have worked with several colleges to determine how they can compete better and increase their enrollment in a highly competitive market. Every institution we have worked with has increased enrollment and is on track to be a leader in their market. Before you shift away from your core business, ask yourself, “Are we throwing in the towel too early?” With MMC’s help, you can reenergize your recruiting practices.

If you would like more information about our Comprehensive Enrollment and Marketing Assessment service, contact us at 720-233-3227.