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Higher Ed Live is excited to welcome our accomplished, new host Joe Sallustio, chief operating officer and executive vice president at Claremont Lincoln University, to Admissions Live.

 

 

Joe Sallustio joins Amy Jorgensen and Andy Fuller as co-hosts on Admissions Live.

Joe Sallustio is the Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President at Claremont Lincoln University. Claremont Lincoln University teaches Socially Conscious Education to students through the innovative Claremont Core curriculum. In this position, Joe oversees all areas of university operations including business administration, enrollment management, marketing, student affairs, information technology, human resources, financial aid, and more. Joe’s role is to ensure that CLU is at the forefront of innovative graduate education in the 21st century by being disruptive, innovative, and disciplined.

Joe has led nationally accredited for-profit, regionally accredited for-profit, and regionally accredited non-profit institutions giving a range of knowledge necessary to be successful within higher education. He is also the Vice President of Membership and Board Member for the Association for the Advancement of College Admissions Profession (AACAP), a non-profit organization dedicated to ethical enrollment practices.

Joe is completing his Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership at North Central University. He also holds an M.S. in Organizational Leadership from Regis University and a B.S. in Speech Communications from the State University of New York at Oneonta.

“Joe is an innovative and experienced leader — he’s achieved impressive enrollment results for the institutions he’s served. We’re grateful to have him on board. Joe is, in fact, the first Higher Ed Live host with extensive experience with both nonprofit and for-profit educational institutions. I look forward to seeing how his unique background will encourage viewers to think outside the box and tackle challenges differently.” — Mallory Willsea, executive producer, Higher Ed Live

Get to know Joe

What are you most excited about for this new role?

I’m excited to bring together guests who may not have crossed paths before to discuss today’s most pressing issues within higher education. It is the range of perspective that will make this network fun to listen to.

When you have 30 minutes free, how do you pass the time?

I work on my dissertation!

Who is one person that influenced your career?

Dick Shepard, the former CEO and President of Heritage College. Dick was the one that really taught me the school business by giving me opportunity and mentorship that helped shape me into the leader I am today.

What is your life motto?

I’ve got two, borrowed from another one of my mentors:

  • “Failing to plan, is planning to fail.”
  • “It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.”

Viewers may recognize Joe from his recent episode on Admissions Live, Is The Student a Consumer? True, False, or Somewhere Between.

Admissions Live discusses recruitment trends, yield strategies, and hot topics for college admission professionals and partnering high school counselors.

Never miss a broadcast by Joe — sign up for the Higher Ed Live newsletter.

Please give a warm welcome to Joe, and follow him on Twitter, @JoeSallustio.

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This blog post is written by Laura Montgomery is the Director of Academic Program Marketing at The New School in New York City.

If you’re on the hunt for some quick-and-easy tips and definitive marketing best practices, there are tons of articles for you out there — but this isn’t one of them. Instead, I’d like to take a short, existential detour to reconsider what we should ultimately use as primary measures of success for paid media campaigns in higher education marketing. In particular, I’m speaking to those direct response, lead generation campaigns designed to support institutional and/or program-specific enrollment objectives. These might be your undergraduate search campaigns, pay-per-click (PPC) ads for graduate and certificate programs, or any other efforts whose key performance indicator (KPI) is the “request for information” (RFI) — aka the inquiry-form submission, or lead.

When measuring the success of these kinds of enrollment-driven campaigns, a common best-practice recommendation is to have all paid clicks drive to a dedicated campaign landing page or microsite. Design your landing page to get visitors to complete one singular action: fill out our form. Whether promising a program brochure, a personalized email from an admissions officer, or some other digital carrot, what we’re looking to get in exchange is a name, an email address, and ideally a few other bits of personal information to efficiently feed our hungry enrollment funnels.

This strategy is apparent the moment you click on a digital ad from the institutions investing substantial budgets to support ambitious enrollment goals, like online schools, part-time MBAs, for-profit universities, and even my own institution. Post-click, audiences encounter clean, concise pages that prominently feature a short RFI form above the fold, bolstered by brief marketing copy, attractive statistics, and one or two photos with smiling faces (whose gazes are often subtly directed toward the large, brightly colored form-submission button).

But while the RFI and associated email address is a convenient currency with which agencies and advertisers can evaluate a campaign’s return-on-investment, is “requesting information” really the action that prospective students want to take? And is that the action we should want them to take?

Marketing studies indicate that millennials and Gen Z value their data privacy and are skeptical towards advertising. For years now, enrollment management professionals have tracked an increase in “stealth applicants” who share no information with an institution until they click the “apply” button. Also consider that the intellectual characteristics most higher ed marketers seek out among prospective students — critical thinking, independent learning, autonomous decision-making — align directly with the behaviors of stealth applicants. Add to this the fact that many of the “conversion-optimized” best practices adhered to by the institutions cited above are based on private-sector B2B and SaaS product-sales pipelines — a very different customer experience from the complex, emotional, and financially impactful journey a degree-seeking student will navigate.

All of this begs the question: instead of funneling prospects into the carefully sequenced and controlled inquiry-to-application conversion plans, shouldn’t colleges and universities be doing more to facilitate prospects’ self-directed exploration and utilize other non-linear forms of communication?

The obvious first step would be to offer up one or more additional “call to action” options on a campaign landing page. For example, below the RFI form on those campaign landing pages, there might be a second button labelled “read more about faculty,” or “check admissions requirements,” or other options that empower the stealth prospect to explore, not just “convert.”

For those who are willing to take a step away from the RFI being the KPI of paid media campaigns: prepare to lay some new groundwork to recalibrate stakeholder expectations and redefine KPI and ROI frameworks. For example, rather than inquiry conversion rates and cost per inquiry alone, it will be necessary to give greater weight and credence to measurements like time on site, page views, scroll depth, and clicks on secondary CTA links. Making this shift will also call for more creative tactics to supplement first-touch prospecting campaigns, especially via retargeting efforts to reach online audiences based on their prior website behaviors rather than via their email address.

Of course, this kind of approach is not without its risks. It’s harder to communicate with a prospective student when you don’t know who they are or how to reach them directly via email. And admissions and enrollment teams will have a tough time planning a class without a good sense of the prospect pipeline. But although encouraging behaviors beyond the RFI may cause short-term campaign ROI metrics to dip, there’s a good chance that long-term engagement and enrollment effects will compensate.

Are you struggling with the same balance between proving campaign-investment ROI versus creating the best possible user experience for prospective students? Drop a comment below or message me on Twitter: @researchfan.

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Higher Ed Live is excited to welcome our bold, new host Andrew Cassel, social media content strategist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, on Marketing Live.

 

 

Andrew Cassel joins Christen Gowan, Kin Sejpal, and Rob Zinkan as co-host on Marketing Live.

Andrew Cassel has been creating and curating social media content for the University of Alaska Fairbanks since 2011. As part of University Relations, he works with leadership, schools, colleges, and departments across the University to develop engaging organic and paid social media campaigns.

Cassel presents regularly about social media content best practices around Alaska and the USA, including Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce, Alaska Democrats, Perseverance Theatre, Transportation Communicators webinar series, American Geophysical Union, HigherEd Experts, Higher Ed Content conferences, the eduWeb Digital Summit, and HighEdWeb.

Cassel was awarded a best-in-track Red Stapler at the 2017 HighEdWeb annual conference and is a five-time winner of Aurora Awards of Excellence from the Public Relations Society of America – Alaska including the 2018 Grand Award of Excellence.

“The moment I met Andrew at HighEdWeb 2017, I knew he was someone with big ideas and ambition to execute them. He’s the perfect embodiment of the intelligence and creativity levels that we have working in higher education, and I look forward to each time I am afforded the chance to hear him speak.” — Bianca Tomlin, content producer, Higher Ed Live

Get to Know Andrew

Why did you decide to pursue this hosting opportunity with Higher Ed Live?

This was a chance to talk to smart people doing amazing things. It’s very easy to fall into the higher ed routine of first day-tradition days-commencement and never look outside what we do to keep the cycle going to get new students in and celebrate successful alums. The stories we tell on our channels are the stories about how our coworkers are striving to make the world a better place. This was the opportunity to spend time thinking and talking about how and why! we do this job.

What do you bring to the Higher Ed Live network?

I love stories. I love using the content I create and curate to add to the story of how higher education is helping humankind understand the world we live in. I love challenging myself and others to think about how “marketing” and “PR” can be about more than recruiting students and issuing press releases. We have a vast array of tools at our disposal that can SHOW how we’re making the world a better place rather than just TELLING people we are.

Coolest pinch yourself moment in your life?

Standing on the deck of a research vessel in the middle of the North Pacific about to do a Facebook Live. Only the support of my family and co-workers could have made that moment possible.

When you have 30 minutes free, how do you pass the time?

I will no doubt spend all 30 of those minutes figuring out the best way to spend the time and then it will be over. #overthinker

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you in higher ed?

The time I was reading the names at the Commencement ceremony during the same ceremony where I was receiving a degree. Had to read the name a few names before mine, hop up, cross the stage, jog back over and pick up reading the names again.

Viewers may recognize Andrew from his recent episodes on Marketing Live and Special Edition Live: What Is Our Product?, and GIF-ing the Light Fantastic: Making and Measuring Animated GIFs.

Marketing Live focuses on communications, brand and brand strategy, digital, content, and social media strategy in higher education.

Never miss a broadcast by Andrew — sign up for the Higher Ed Live newsletter.

Please give a warm welcome to Andrew, and follow him on Twitter, @andrewbcassel.

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Higher Ed Live by Higher Ed Live - 1M ago

Stereotypes about traditional faculty members are ripe for a Saturday Night Live parody — we only work two days a week, we have a sense of entitlement, we have too much say on institutional policy and procedure, our bosses cater to us, etc. For some faculty these stereotypes may accurately describe their higher ed existence but, for better or for worse, a new faculty demographic is changing the system.

Even more damning than traditional faculty stereotypes, millennials, those born between 1982-1996, have a reputation for being lazy, entitled, and high maintenance. But, take heart, millennial faculty can be extremely important advocates and resources for those in higher ed marketing, admissions, or student affairs.

Millennial Faculty Differences

The year 2013, or even more generally the 2010-2015 window, represents the first wave of millennial faculty. It is too soon to dissect the long-term influence of millennial faculty on higher ed institutional culture, but we do know that millennial faculty members typically present a new way of thinking compared to past generations. The new wave of millennial faculty requires intense planning regarding institutional technology use, faculty recruitment and development, as well as collaborative work and decision making. New faculty job descriptions now emphasize collaboration and clearer directives in terms of roles and responsibilities, as well as institutional policies. This new faculty generation may help create an environment where innovation and campus culture develop through pillars of teamwork and communication. With that said, large-scale institutional staff offices, like admissions, marketing and communication, and student affairs would do well to develop early partnerships with younger faculty members.

Developing Faculty Partnerships

The three tips below are not representative solely of engaging millennial faculty, however, because of their passion for… (mental health, holistic teaching, social justice, etc.)…millennial faculty may be more receptive to partnerships that transcend traditional campus silos. In order to engage millennial faculty across campus, following these three approaches.

1) Be Strategic

Millennial faculty, like most employees, do not want their time wasted and they desire institutional efficiency. When you solicit millennial faculty partnerships, make sure you are paying special attention to how you meet with them, how often, and what you expect to cover at traditional face-to-face meetings. At the same time, consider implementing efficient tech platforms to offset face-to-face meetings.

2) Be Authentic

Millennial faculty trust competent leadership, but they want to know why certain decisions have been, or will be made. With that said, share “why” (or “why not”) when you can. Even if they disagree, millennial faculty like to hear that you’ve thought about the decision.

3) Be Innovative

It is well-documented that millennials may not like the status-quo, especially enacting the status quo because that is just how it has always been (Smith & Turner, 2017). Thinking outside the box and showing an interest in creative solutions will speak volumes to millennial faculty. Don’t feel like you have to say yes to everything but, at the same time, feel free to say yes when you can. If you are going to fail, fail well. But, at the very least, try.

Moving Forward

I have no doubt that some student affairs institutional staff may feel frustration when interacting with faculty. As a whole, higher ed still has work to do to get everyone, staff and faculty, on the same page about how to best serve students. The three ideas above may help you develop relationships with new faculty members that create decade-long partnerships.

References

Smith, C. & Turner, S. (2017). The millennial majority is transforming your culture. Retrieved from https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/about-deloitte/us-millennial-majority-will-transform-your-culture.pdf

Dr. Michael G. Strawser is an assistant professor in the Nicholson School of Communication and Media at the University of Central Florida. He researches instructional and organizational communication as well as generational differences in both education and corporate contexts. Michael is also the owner/lead consultant of Legacy Communication Training and Consulting, L.L.C. (www.legacyctc.com).

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This blog post is written by Katie Ross, Education Director of Liberal Studies at Full Sail University.

Emerging technology is often defined as a form of technology that exists, is slowly adapting into our everyday lives, or is on the cusp of development and will be moving into our environments within the next 5-7 years. We often think of emerging technology as drones delivering packages or robots taking over our jobs. When in fact, emerging technology is the use of 3D printers, artificial intelligence (AI), and something as simple as home automation. Within the education environment, emerging technology connects to the use of big data, artificial intelligence, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality tools to enhance the student experience.

Imagine a world where a student’s schedule was automatically developed based on needed courses for graduation or pairing learning patterns with compatible teachers to place students in appropriate courses with the use of AI. Big Data Made Simple found that these types of big data systems already exist at many schools and are being used to provide specific scholarships, track attendance, and enhance the curriculum. Georgia State University reported an increase in retention rates after implementing a data analytics system. While emerging technology might seem scary or unfamiliar to those in education, the power behind these tools and devices are already showing promising results.

According to Gartner, the expected number of VR and AR applications is 60 percent by 2021 with an estimated 15 million educational users expected by 2025. With VR named the next futuristic technology, educators and administrators are seeking information on how to leverage this form of technology to enhance learning and content delivery (Lee, Sergueeva, Catangui, & Kandaurova, 2017). As emerging technology slowly moves into the education section, understanding the level of knowledge teachers, curriculum designers, and leaders have about the technology plays an important role in the implementation of the tools in the learning setting (Chang, Zhang, & Jin, 2016; Kim & Ke, 2016). For example, one can be amazing at designing a curriculum; however, if they do not understand how to design a virtual learning environment, or utilize AI to support students, how will faculty and staff be able to leverage the technology to enhance the college experience?

Shelton (2018) conducted an ecological study to understand better how faculty members at a university think about technology. In a qualitative study, faculty were evaluated to understand how the use of technology outside of the classroom impacted how they viewed and used technology in higher education. The faculty reported feeling pressure to keep up with technology, and anxiety over losing control over course materials. Conversely, faculty responded that they saved money by introducing tools into their classroom, for example, using the learning management system to host documents instead of printing papers or facilitating video conferencing instead of traveling to campus.

As the knowledge gap between technology users and non-users continues to shrink through the exposure of various devices and other interactions with advanced technology, leaders and decision-makers should create opportunities to expose faculty and staff to the various positive impacts technology can have. The environment connected to emerging technology should foster excitement and discussion. Faculty members who have implemented technology within their curriculum highlight the roles department managers, colleagues, and students have played in their adoption of technology (Shelton, 2018).

Three tips to increase the perception of technology:

  1. Help those that might be fearful of technology or have not experienced it, take the opportunity to create a conversation about the possibilities of a particular piece of technology. For example, use a few minutes before each department meeting to brainstorm ways that AI can increase student support.
  1. Make a few calls around campus to schedule a tour of the 3D printer lab or another area of campus that is pushing the boundaries in education.
  1. Schedule a team field trip to play with emerging technology at a local science center or museum that utilizes devices to heighten the guest experience.

Ultimately, we should all be working together to increase technological awareness in education to enhance its advancement and ensure education is meeting the needs of current and future learners.

Sources:

Chang, Q-X., Zhang, H-A., & Jin, X-X. (2016). Application of virtual reality technology in distance learning. International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, 11(11), 76-79. doi:10.3991/ijet.v11i11.6257

Kim, H., & Ke, F. (2016). OpenSim-supported virtual learning environment: Transformative content representation, facilitation, and learning activities. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 54(2), 147-172.

Lee, S., Sergueeva, K., Catangui, M., & Kandaurova, M. (2017). Assessing google cardboard virtual reality as a content delivery system in business classrooms. Journal of Education for Business, 4(92), 153-160. doi: 10.1080/08832323.2017.1308308

Shelton, C. (2018). An ecological model for university faculty members’ thinking about technology. Journal of Computing in Higher Education. 30(2). doi:10.1007/s12528-018-9168-2

Katie Ross is a passionate educator who brings over ten years of experience to her role in higher education. From her years in education to her current doctoral work, she has a sound understanding of how to create a cohesive student experience through technology and cross-collaboration efforts.

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Higher Ed Live by Higher Ed Live - 1M ago

During our lifetimes, we will likely see high-stakes standardized testing go extinct — definitely in the American higher education ecosystem, and perhaps in K-12, too. The problems with such tests are well documented: race, class, and first-language bias in test questions; inflexibility regarding students’ learning styles; and significant advantages given to students who can afford to pay for test preparation — just to name a few. These problems threaten validity of tests, meaning they may not be measuring what they purport to be measuring as accurately as many assume. Poor validity in college entrance placement can have a disastrous effect on the persistence, debt, and long-term success of those who dream of a college degree.

An increasing number of community colleges and four-year universities (even some elite institutions) have begun moving away from standardized testing for entrance or placement purposes in recent years, which is admirable. Complete College America is also doing wonderful research and advocacy in this area. But there is much more that we need to do to ensure more equitable access and long-term student success. Better assessment practice can also avoid over-remediation, i.e., tossing too many students into what some have called higher education’s black hole.

The testing flaws laid out above are compounded by the growing population of adult learners across the American higher education landscape. Complete College America estimates that over 40 percent of all U.S. college and university students are 25 years or older. As more adult learners enter college, we need to ask these questions: How many of our incoming adult students are ready to take their college’s entrance placement tests? Are we turning away students who could be successful due to imprecise assessments?

Rasmussen College has long been an institution with a majority adult enrollment. Today, more than 70 percent of our students are 25 years or older. Many of our incoming students have not dissected a sentence for parts of speech, or worked with fractions or variables in years, sometimes decades. Many cannot afford to spend their limited dollars on test preparation. In 2012, Rasmussen College had a remediation rate, defined as new students needing at least one sub-college-level math or English course, of 32 percent. Today, our remediation rate is 4 percent and student success is strong.

This is the story of how we got there.

Brushing Up: Free and Mandatory Test Preparation

In 2012, Rasmussen decided to retire the entrance placement assessment we had been using for years. After a failed pilot with another external assessment, a cross-functional team comprised of faculty and representatives from developmental education and assessment departments created a new assessment that we call “Rasmussen Ready.”

Rasmussen Ready measures English reading comprehension, writing, and mathematics, just as our old assessment did; however, the platform requires students to engage with online brush-up content prior to accessing the test. This brush-up content serves to:

  • Wipe away cobwebs that have accumulated since the learner last worked with variables, sentence structure and other essential math and English topics — many of which we cover in middle and high school.
  • Build confidence in the learner before the high-stakes test begins.
  • Bridge the gap between students who can afford formal test preparation and those who cannot.
  • Increase validity of the assessment by testing what students can or cannot demonstrate, as opposed to their readiness to take a test cold.
No More Remediation Double Jeopardy

Also in 2012, Rasmussen College examined its remediation policy with a critical eye. Was our policy conducive to long-term student success? Or was it yet another barrier toward successful completion of a high-quality and affordable degree? Through this analysis, we found that we required students to take the entrance placement assessment even when they had demonstrated math and/or English proficiency through other assessments. Our solution was to diversify assessment. Instead of requiring everyone to take our entrance placement test, we would allow into college-level courses:

  • Any learners who have achieved at least a “C” grade in college-level math or English at another accredited institution before enrolling at Rasmussen
  • Any learners who have passed programmatic entrance tests, such as TEAS, which also include math and English proficiency
Accelerate Remediation Courses and Co-Requisite Scheduling

For any learners who did require remediation, we accelerated the courses, scheduled them alongside introductory college-level courses in their first term, and winnowed our remedial course offerings down to one course each for mathematics and integrated reading/writing. Condensing the courses from 11 weeks to six weeks while not reducing activity hours or rigor did cause consternation among some faculty and staff who rightfully asked, “Why are we accelerating the pace of learning for our most at-risk students in their first term?” The answer, based on the literature, is that acceleration makes particularly good sense for remediation courses because they feature content the learners have seen before, i.e., in middle and high school. It is typically familiar content and therefore most remediation learners are not tabula rasa, but rather in need of relearning or brush-up.

The Human Element

Given the accelerated pace of the remediation courses, and the fact that the majority of our remediation seats are online, we made a deliberate effort to increase the “human element” in our courses. This includes:

  • Multiple synchronous live classrooms per week can help faculty and students work through problems, collaborate, prepare for projects and consider application of learning.
  • Implementation of Ginsberg and Wlodkowski’s (1995) motivational framework for culturally responsive teaching into our remediation courses. The framework, when appropriately embedded into online course design, can foster a sense of inclusion, a favorable disposition toward learning; enhance meaning of content; and create an understanding that students are learning something valuable.
Results

As a result of these reforms, Rasmussen College’s remediation rate fell from 32 percent in 2012 to 4 percent in 2016 and has held steady in single digits ever since. Most importantly, the long-term success of our student population is increasing. In addition to term-by-term retention and graduation rates, Rasmussen College uses a “One Year Success” (OYS) metric to measure whether students are still enrolled in the college 366 days after initial matriculation. Our OYS data show students who test into remediation and pass their first course are just as likely to remain enrolled in the college as students who need no remediation at all. And retention/OYS rates at the College have achieved historic highs.

At Rasmussen College, a comprehensive evaluation of our remediation experience led to a mixture of solutions that have resulted in long-term success for our students, most of whom are adult learners: free and mandatory test preparation, smarter policy, acceleration, and greater faculty presence.

Institutional missions vary. The solutions that worked for Rasmussen College may work for other institutions and they may not. But remediation’s status quo will not be viable for long. As the population of adult learners continues to grow across nearly all higher learning institutions in the United States, it is incumbent upon college and university leadership to review and rethink their entrance placement policies and remediation experiences. The commitment at Rasmussen College is to solving the problem of over-remediation beyond our own walls. We are in this as partners with other colleges and universities who wish to turn the black hole of remediation into a valid pathway to ensure we prepare all learners, especially adults, to graduate and flourish in the world and workplace.


This blog post is written by Trenda Boyum-Breen and Brooks Doherty, President and Assistant VP of Academic Innovation at Rasmussen College.

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College costs are high — this is not news. Even with advance planning, it is likely to be one of the largest financial decisions families make in their lives. Student loan debt is high too; currently $1.5 trillion is outstanding. The average cost of tuition and fees can range from about $10,000 to upwards of $36,000. And that number nearly doubles when adding living expenses!

At Edmit, we work with families to help them make smart financial decisions about college. And we find that too many families do not feel empowered in the process, and have trouble making sense of everything.

We’ve been observing and tracking how institutions can address these issues effectively. Based on our experiences, here are five of the most important things colleges can do to promote better decisions for students. Not only can these help educate students and families on the cost of going to a particular college, but they are investments that colleges can make to demonstrate just how much they truly care about their students’ financial well-being.

1. Help students clearly understand their cost of attendance (and simplify your pricing)

When a university paints a realistic picture of what it costs to go there, it allows students to plan accordingly. It’s often very difficult, even for an expert, to find the total cost of attending a given institution (seriously). If I can’t, how can we expect it of the average student or parent?

Usually colleges and universities will provide a page listing tuition and fees. While this is a good start, the pricing is often very complex — requiring a visitor to know how many credits or credit hours they will enroll in, or even what courses they’ll take. Enumerating every required fee is helpful — but colleges should do the math for the student so that they don’t have to take out a calculator. And it is necessary to clearly state and estimate all of the other costs the student might incur – from housing to meal plans, health insurance, parking, or other living expenses.

Schools are required to offer net price calculators and to keep them up to date. Too often they are buried and not user-friendly.

2. Create easy-to-understand financial aid letters

Not all financial aid letters are created equal. Too many are difficult to understand and interpret. A 2018 New America report, Decoding the Cost of College, showed that “more than one-third did not include any cost information with which to contextualize the financial aid offered.” This basically means that families are able to see what the ‘award’ is, but not the full cost. Nearly half (40%) did not calculate what students would actually need to pay after aid and scholarships — leaving much open to interpretation. Further, New America found significant issues with misleading language and jargon across the letters it reviewed. We sign on to all of New America’s recommendations, which were recently echoed and extended by Federal Student Aid in its guidelines for financial aid offers.

3. Be transparent about student loans

There is often confusion about the different types of student loans and the actual, true costs involved in taking out a student loan. In the New America report mentioned above, there was not only confusing terminology and jargon (some of which did not even include the word “loan”), but 15% of the financial aid award letters they reviewed including misleading information about Parent PLUS loans — including them in the “award” in order to make the package appear much more generous.

Loans are not technically awards because you need to pay them back. Students should commit to a school with a clear understanding of how much they will be borrowing, and what that will mean on the other side — and colleges should support education on this topic throughout a student’s enrollment. Here are two great examples of getting ahead of any misunderstandings: Baylor University holds sessions about loan repayment for its students, and Iowa State University offers a variety of educational opportunities, sessions, and sometimes even contests through the boldly-branded “No Fear Finance” from the loan education office.

4. Establish a well-rounded financial literacy program

Financial literacy is not only important, but it is a necessary component of adulthood. A well-rounded financial literacy program should include many different ways for students to access the valuable information.

Students are busy and always on the go. Taking into consideration a typical college student’s lifestyle, a great financial literacy program incorporates online learning workshops, tools, and videos. An example is the University of Central Florida’s Centsible Knights Financial Literacy initiative. They offer a large number of learning opportunities catered to busy college students, addressing many topic areas and providing multiple avenues of education and learning.

It is also helpful to connect these initiatives to social media in an effort to make them even more accessible to students. Emory University does a wonderful job linking their financial literacy initiative to a corresponding Facebook page. Boston University connects with students on its Smart Money 101 Twitter page.

5. Support peer-led financial literacy organizations

Peer-led financial literacy-based organizations are another best practice worth including here. Many students will listen more closely to suggestions and advice from others who have been in the same situation. This is especially true for college-aged individuals, as they begin to form their own identities and enter into adulthood. They strive for independence and are much more likely to connect with a peer offering tips about financial wellness than a professor lecturing them. Lehigh University, UMass Amherst, and the University of Georgia all have great examples of well-run peer-led organizations. In addition to hosting public pages with links to information and resources, they offer peer-led counseling about financial education topics.

Better informed, better borrowers, better student outcomes

Creating more transparency and educational initiatives for students will lead to better outcomes for students and families – and, we believe, for colleges. We see firsthand the frustration and confusion that families face when facing this information, and it contributes to the anxiety about (and in the more extreme cases, distrust of) higher education. What aligns best with the university mission is to invest in initiatives that promote financial wellness at all stages of the enrollment pipeline – from prospect to applicant to accepted student and, eventually, successful graduate.

Sabrina Manville is co-founder of Edmit, which helps families make smarter financial decisions about college. She was previously an AVP at Southern New Hampshire University and has worked with leading higher education institutions throughout her career to better serve students and their missions. Her prior experience includes work with ed-tech companies, Pearson, and Ithaka.

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Last year, Johns Hopkins closed its eight-year Rising to the Challenge campaign. Although the campaign exceeded its goals, raising $6.01 billion, we in development communications wondered how our strategies contributed to that effort. Although we created our campaign website, case statements, and social media accounts before our team began a robust measurement effort, the late-campaign metrics we could pull were underwhelming. We asked ourselves the natural question: What can we do better?

I spoke with development communications colleagues at several institutions to find some new ideas. These people were generous in sharing how they’re working to better serve their donors and their fundraising staffs. Here are three lessons I learned from these conversations — and how we’re starting to adopt those lessons in Hopkins development communications.

1. Think of your workforce as a user or customer group.

Our gift officers are consumers of our content just like our donors — but too often, we overlook them when we ask, “What is the audience for this content?”

One development communications team I spoke with keeps in close contact with their fundraisers and use those conversations to inform their content strategy. For example: This team learned that gift officers often struggled to find stories and videos related to their donors’ specific philanthropic interests, despite there being a ton of content produced across the institution. So the development communications team created an internal platform that collects content from the institution’s central communications office, as well as school and division websites. They include the links in separate posts sorted by keyword for easy searching, and most posts offer suggested messages a gift officer can copy, paste, and personalize to send to a donor.

2. Be proactive, not reactive, with editorial planning.

Years of readership surveys tell us audiences just don’t like donor stories and boilerplate news about gifts — so why do we keep giving this content to them?

Some teams I spoke with focus on developing content that follows one overarching theme for an entire year, while others cycle through different themes for set periods of time, like seasons. The goal is to tell the best stories they can relate to their fundraising priorities regardless of whether a donor or a gift is featured. This may sound counterintuitive, but here’s why: Instead of focusing on gifts already made, this content promotes a compelling argument for why this institution is the best place to invest if a donor cares about a particular issue — whether it’s combating climate change, stemming the opioid epidemic, or understanding threats presented by artificial intelligence.

3. Help your schools and divisions help you.

How many social media accounts dedicated to fundraising do you follow (not including your own institution)?

Likely not many. But your schools and divisions have thousands and thousands of followers. We, as development communicators, can help satisfy their need for content to share. When planning its current campaign communications strategy, one team I spoke with reached out to its schools to find out which of the campaign’s priorities applied directly to them. Then, the team created original and curated third-party content that focused on people in each school whose work related to those themes. The team packaged links to the content in easily accessible “toolkits” alongside suggested social copy and other resources, and the toolkits were then shared with the schools. The goal: To have the schools post organically on their own platforms content that directs back to the institution’s giving site.

Applying the lessons

Some of these ideas influenced the design of our new giving website, which launched late last year. Now, we’re halfway through a comprehensive content strategy research effort that’s emphasizing the feedback of our workforce as much as that of our donors. We’re not sure yet where the results will lead us, but we know one thing: We’re definitely ready to get past the donor story.

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mStoner Presents: Break Up With Your Homepage, Cause I’m Bored: Moving Beyond the Universal Homepage

Learn the tools you’ll need to make your next website redesign, starting with your homepage, distinct and compelling.

Register for this free webinar

Two rows of navigation, a carousel, three news items, three events, three alumni profiles, a social media aggregator, and a fat footer. Look familiar? Ever hear someone say that you could take the logo off your website and it would look like every other institution site out there? If you’re cringing or laughing nervously, this webinar is for you. (Ariana Grande said it best.)
Join mStoner’s co-founder and co-owner, Voltaire Santos Miran, for this free webinar. They’ll arm you with the tools you need to make your next website redesign, starting with your homepage, distinct and compelling.
What You’ll Learn:

  • Why the universal university homepage phenomenon happens.
  • Five strategies for avoiding the “regression to the mean.”
  • The most important research and data to leverage in defending your decisions, educating your stakeholders, and dispelling popular myths about user experience (three-click rule, anyone?).
  • Key steps to take in between redesigns to set yourself up for long-term success.

The Details:

  • When: Wednesday, April 24, at 2:00 p.m. EDT / 11:00 a.m. PDT
  • This webinar will last approximately 45 minutes plus 15 minutes for Q&A.
  • Cost is free; registration is required.

This webinar will be recorded, and each registrant will receive unlimited access to the slide deck and session recording.
Can’t make the live webinar? We still encourage you to sign up to ensure that you receive timely access to the recording and slide deck.

Register for this free webinar

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Reporting can be challenging. Digging up all the data you need can feel overwhelming, not to mention the effort to share your numbers. But is it worth it?

We emphatically say: yes!

1. Use numbers to break down internal silos

With competing priorities, institutional reputations under a microscope, and pressure from leadership, chances are there are multiple teams at your institution that would like to have a say in your marketing and digital efforts. And of course, they all have different ideas of what success looks like.

Good reporting starts with a question and ends with actionable insight. What should we do more? What should we do differently? What do we define as success? When you use data — the hard numbers — to show what’s working and what’s not, you can unify and align your team around shared metrics of success.

Success looks different in each channel. The key is to move stakeholders from the sidelines to engaged partners. They’re more likely to be receptive to optimization, more agile, and more comfortable implementing change. When everyone is speaking the same language, obstacles begin to disappear.

2. Provide frontline marketers with the numbers they need

If the word reporting conjures images of a painstaking process undertaken once a quarter to produce an (ugly) chart for leadership, it’s time to rethink your data.

Good reports quickly become indispensable in the hands of frontline marketers focused on the day-to-day minutiae and clear delivery of your message. In an email, an advertisement, or in 240 characters, data feeds your frontline team’s approach to directly influencing prospect and student behavior. A data-infused culture shapes actions and strategy from the provost’s office, to your institution’s Twitter account.

Greater transparency spurs greater accountability. Directors, managers, and individual contributors looking at the same metrics can see — and own — their role in the larger mission. This is where a data-driven culture begins to form, and when reports become a jumping-off point for a cycle of optimization rather than a post-mortem assessment.

3. Implement practical metrics for today

Start small by asking big questions to understand the prospect journey and what data to use as an indicator of success.

Here are three metrics to get you started:

  1. Website traffic by device

If 75% of your website traffic is mobile, make sure you have optimized content for mobile. Large navigation menus and image-based text are not ideal. Ensure your popular content is readily findable and readable.

  1. Channel Conversions

Which channels bring in the most new applicants? What actions are they taking on your site? Are those actions optimized? Invest in what is most effective for your institution based on the success metrics and ROI of each channel.

  1. Visitor Engagement

Use site behavior as an indicator of what might need some immediate attention. If a page has a high bounce rate, chances are site visitors aren’t finding what they came for. If your engagement metrics are trending in the wrong direction, check out your site navigation and architecture to make it easy for potential students to find your best content.

With a few shifts, pulling data into reports is no longer known as a necessary evil. These metrics can be central to your strategic decisions at every level, equipping your team for success in a digital-first landscape.

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