Quality students: all educators want them, yet they’re facing ever-intensifying competition to recruit them. More and more, institutional marketers are realising they have to step up their promotional efforts to make their schools stand out to students and capture their interest. Some of the best marketers are dreaming up innovative deals, approaches and promotions that jibe both with the image the institution wants to achieve and the features or criteria that matter to students.
One great example is The University of New Haven’s business school, which has offered incoming students free tuition (worth US$120,000) if they have the next great entrepreneurial idea; less dramatically, other contest prizes include iPads and US$250 gift cards to the university’s bookstore. The next great entrepreneurial idea covers a range of important bases:
- It’s big
- It’s eye-catching
- It’s appealing
- It reinforces the university’s focus (business school) and shows that the institution values innovation and entrepreneurialism
This is but one of the case studies covered in a must-read article in Genius Recruiter called “Innovative Recruitment Tools in Higher Ed.”
Some universities are going beyond marketing promotions to reach out to students with enticing features. For example, The Ithaca Journal reports that a growing number of universities – faced with the problem of students enroled far beyond an expected four-year timeline (and associated drops in graduation rates) – are promising students a four-year roadmap in exchange for certain conditions the students must meet. For example, The University at Buffalo has a Finish in Four initiative beginning this autumn:
“Interested incoming freshmen will sign a pledge promising to keep in touch with an adviser, choose a major early on and put academics over outside work. For its part, the university will promise a four-year course guide, help get students a seat in the classes they need and let them know if they’re falling short along the way.”
Finish in Four-type initiatives call out to students’ desire to finish degrees in a timely manner. Other universities are playing to their budgetary constraints. KVIA, an affiliate of the US television network ABC, reports that Texas A&M University San Antonio has just announced a new programme that offers students a Bachelor of Applied Arts & Sciences with an emphasis on Information Technology for US$9,672. It begins at the high school level, where students take dual credit courses for two years. They then go on to complete one year at any of the participating Alamo Colleges, and finish the fourth year at TAMUSA.
It is clear that universities are facing a “buyer’s market.” The ones that recognise this and respond nimbly – by leveraging their strengths, tailoring their marketing, and, perhaps most importantly, experimenting with new approaches – are those that will stand the best chance at attracting the students they want.