The following is a contribution from BEST’s founder Bob Barker. Bob has been in non-traditional higher education for nearly 30 years.
Musings from a Veteran of Non-traditional Higher Education
In the not too distant future I will have been actively involved in the higher education space for about 30 years. Over those years, the number one challenge for the institutions that I have worked with has been competing for student enrollment growth. College Presidents, Enrollment Directors, and investors in the education space have all have placed a significant amount of emphasis on online education as the space where this growth will occur. The majority of folks in higher education assume that online enrollment is the proverbial “Holy Grail” for enrollment growth and financial success. Both for-profit and non-profit educational entities are relying on online programs to ensure that they remain competitive and relevant. The following are some thoughts on how higher education leaders can improve their admissions performance for online and campus based programs.
If you are a college president or enrollment leader the key to optimizing your student acquisition processes is to know and understand each and every step required for success. The best way to develop this understanding is to actually go through the admissions process at your college anonymously. This is a telling experience because it allows you to see firsthand the various steps involved from the perspective of your candidate students. You would be surprised to learn how little the leadership at many institutions know about the actual steps involved in their own admissions process. To my knowledge, there are no reports that capture and accurately depict the frustrations and service failures that many candidate students encounter as they attempt to achieve their educational goals. We have a saying at Barker Education “Course work at a college should be challenging, doing business with the college should never be a challenge”.
Once you have a fair understanding of the enrollment experience, it is as equally as important to understand the myriad of finance options availed to your students. This is a bit more of a challenge, however, working with one of your finance leaders you should be able to get a fairly accurate view of your what your students experience as they set up financing for their education.
Once you have taken the steps to enroll in your own school, I would highly encourage you to audit a few classes. Although we all feel that what we do as administrators is important, the reality is that the classroom (regardless of learning modality) is where the magic happens.
Finally, once you have completed these tasks, I recommend that you to evaluate your top competitors as a candidate student as well. As a former director of training for new enrollment representatives at a large for-profit college, I used to have all of my trainees interview with competitor college representatives so that they could develop a firm understanding of what is available to students in the marketplace.
The process of evaluating your admissions operations from the perspective of a student should be very revealing. I personally have worked with dozens of schools and this is a task that I complete at the beginning of every engagement. If a school is struggling to meet its admissions goals, it is usually because of the fact that there are too many barriers to entry in the admissions process. Identifying and fixing these bottlenecks can be transformational to the overall success of your non-traditional or online degree programs.
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1 Comment for this entry
Floyd Prince-BennNovember 10th, 2011 on 8:59 pm
This analysis is on-point. As a educator and education consumer I find the “frustration factor” in higher education to be at astronomical levels. Most employees who work in these departments do not seem to understand that students are customers. Nor do they seem to care the universities spend millions each year for outreach activities to recruit students from diverse backgrounds, only to have those students defeated within the first year of their higher education career. Too often colleges succumb to what is most expedient in dealing with the mirage of bureaucratic expectations, instead of focusing on intuitive user-friendly enrollment and retention policies. Barker Education may be well-served to conduct formal research in this area.