Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter… November 2008

December greetings to everyone as the snows fall early in southern Michigan. Two things rank high in higher education marketing news these days: concern over the impact of the economy and plans to take better advantage of the boom in online education. You’ll find items on both of those areas in today’s newsletter, as well as the “regular” advertising and marketing selections.

On November 3 I started a Twitter site at for brief notes and links to higher education marketing topics from the email that I read every day. Take a few seconds to scan what’s there now and decide if you want to follow along.

After a hiatus, my “college and university marketing” blog is back online with a new URL at If you had an RSS feed for the old version, please create a new one for this edition. Your favorite categories continue, with two or three new editions. After two weeks on Twitter, it is a pleasure to write regular sentences and paragraphs again.

The eduWeb 2009 conference is offering a special registration discount for people who can commit by the end of December to the July event. Details are at

And now here are your marketing news and notes for November.
“Real” College Experiences at Communiversity

College-bound students have another social networking center to get “real” information on what life is like at colleges and universities. Communiversity registers people in one of four categories: alumni, current students, prospective students, and visitors.

The site connects people with content at YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook and gives a prominent boost to Twitter as well. People are encouraged to tell us about life on their campuses. Check to see what’s online for your school on the “A to Z” alphabet bar at the bottom right of the page.

A quick review shows the usual range of YouTube videos from the idiotic to the sublime. A privacy statement implies that those who register will receive offers of interest to them. We’ll see what comes along after my registration as a future student.

Public and Private Colleges and Financial Aid Awards

Financial aid awards remain a definite part of an overall marketing plan, especially at private colleges. That’s the obvious conclusion from a new NACAC survey summarized in an Inside Higher Education report.

Something to watch over the next few months is the possible growth in “gapping” awards if demand for aid indeed outstrips the supply. Despite the increases in early decision applicants recently reported, prudent colleges will plan for a reduction in loan availability and therefore a possible need to spread their own grants and scholarships more thinly than in the past. It will be an interesting time between now and May 1.

Details of public and private practices are at
4 Private College Presidents Talk Money

How realistic are the statements of college presidents about the impact of the current economy on future enrollments and college and university budgets?

Decide after you watch 4 college presidents in a Chronicle of Higher Education video interview at
“College Cost Central” from NAICU

Especially if you’re in the private sector, stay connected with events and opinions on the economy and the future of higher education at NAICU’s College Cost Central website page.

The basic message hasn’t changed: people should not exclude private colleges without first exploring real vs. sticker costs. A somewhat unreal note: an October 29 NAICU statement stresses that the average tuition increase this year of 5.9% was “only” a real increase of 0.3% when adjusted for inflation. That might be true, but it isn’t significant for families whose incomes did not increase at all.

Monitor the ongoing reports at
Impatient Illinois Trustees Boost Online Learning

When Joseph White first became president at University of Illinois not long ago, he planned to start on online education division that would enroll 9,000 students and create $10 million in new revenue for the university. Resistance by faculty at some university locations, including the flagship campus, kept that from happening. Today, 150 students are enrolled in 5 degree programs.

And so the trustees have just voted to seek independent accreditation for an online learning program, while first expanding courses under the accreditation umbrella of University of Illinois-Chicago. From a marketing perspective, that makes great good sense as the demand for online learning explodes. Details of the continuing adventure are at
And Minnesota Expands Online Learning Initiatives

Colleges and universities in Minnesota are being encouraged to expand online learning opportunities. What’s the goal? By 2015, Minnesota students will earn 25 percent of their college credits in online courses.

To get early traction, the governor is proposing a $150 scholarship bonus for scholarship-level high school students who complete at least one online course before graduating. The proposal would require all Minnesota high school students to complete an online course by 2013.

Read more about the incentives at

2008 NSSE Results from 722 Schools

Results for the National Survey of Student Engagement are available now in a 52-page PDF at

For the 2008 survey, 722 colleges and universities participated. One key finding should boost the academic credibility of online learning: “Students taking most of their classes online report more deep approaches to learning in their classes, relative to classroom based learners. Furthermore, a larger share of online learners reported very often participating in intellectually challenging course activities.”

The report includes the names of the school participating. Survey results can help craft accurate, realistic marketing messages. If your NSSE results are not public information on your campus, be sure to ask about them.
Top 10 International B-Schools

Business Week is out with a 2008 list of the top 10 international business schools. Queen’s University in Canada again leads the list, and two other Canadian programs are also included.

See the detailed results on an interactive chart at
New Product Reviews for Colleges and Universities

College and university product reviews are starting to appear on the Yelp site, under the “Education” heading. The Washington, D.C. “Education” listing starts with a cooking class at Sur La Table but also includes reviews for Georgetown University. If you sort by sub-categories, you can get right to “Colleges and Universities.”

Yelp is promising “Real People. Real Reviews” at based on city searches across the country. In Boston, for instance, MIT has 42 reviews, followed by Boston University while Boston University has 31 and Emerson College with 14 comments.
Google Answers Search Optimization Questions

People at Google, including Matt Cutts, answered a variety of search-related questions during a recent interview reported at WebProNews.

If you have a deep interest in some of the more esoteric aspects of search optimization, you’ll enjoy reading the results at

Back in the real world, continuing paying close attention to your page title tags, primary headings, links, and the way you write your content. And always remember this key point: if you have content that interests almost nobody, it is unlikely that it will interest search engines either.
Twitter as Marketing Tool

Since starting my Twitter count just a few weeks ago, I’ve noticed a growing number of colleges and universities using this to update interested people from current students, faculty, and staff to alumni and friends on what’s happening on campus. Right now, a very small percent of Internet users are also Twitter users. And there’s a real gap between serious information and the personal “this is the flavor of coffee I had today” tweets.

If you are wondering whether or not to add Twitter to your marketing communications mix, read Website Magazine’s article, “Twittering with Consumers,” that lists 4 key points about effective Twitter contacts. Perhaps the most important: be prompt in responding to anyone who asks a question in response to one of your tweets. Twitter is a rapid-fire medium and if you can’t assign someone to post and monitor every day, then it is best not to start.

Email Metrics for Successful Marketing

Email marketing is still effective. And while overall open rates have decreased in the past year, the open rate for “Education/Training” email has increased.

Other general reports of interest: Sunday and Monday are good days to send email; shorter subject lines lead to higher open rates; personalization in the subject line decreases open rates but personalization in the main text increases click-through numbers; one-third of all email is opened in the first two hours after receipt.

You’ll find much more information than this in a new 35-page report, “Email Marketing Metrics.”

Read an overview of the report at and follow a link in the second paragraph to download the no-cost, no registration document.
2008 Sloan Report on Online Education Trends

If you are seriously planning on online education marketing initiative, then your “don’t miss” reading includes the 28-page 2008 report from Babson College and the Sloan Consortium at
Faculty Incentives for Online Learning

For an overview of approaches to create greater faculty participation in online learning initiatives, see the Inside Higher Education review at
Advertising on Social Networking Sites

What do people think about ads on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace?

Ted McConnell is described as Procter & Gamble’s “digital guru” and he’s not an advocate of running ads on Facebook no matter how accurately marketers can target the ads. That, he believes, violates the reason people participate in Facebook in the first place and therefore isn’t a good marketing strategy.

He does believe there is a marketing role for social networking sites. McConnell’s thoughts on how to make that work are at
That’s All for Now

Be a marketing champion on your campus.

Bob Johnson, Ph.D. (
President and Senior Consultant
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

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