Collegiate Learning Assessment… a new marketing opportunity?

St. John Fisher College… Collegiate Learning Assessment test leads to the Wall Street Journal front page

How does a “small liberal arts school near Rochester, N.Y.” that’s ranked #151 among national universities by U.S. News and World Report make it to the front page of the Wall Street Journal? 
When I opened the August 26 WSJ on a flight to Denver this week the “Colleges Set To Offer Exit Tests” story caught my attention right away. Turns out 200 schools (neither the print nor the online article has a list) will offer the test to graduating seniors next year as a way to demonstrate their abilities to skeptical employers who don’t put much trust in a GPA level. Grade inflation and all that.
You can read the story online under the “Are Your Ready for the Post-College SAT?” 
The lead quote for why this exit test is a good thing comes from David Pate, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences: “The students will be able to use it to go out and market themselves.” 
A New Tool to Compare Colleges and Universities
My most immediate thought: imagine some students taking this test at St. John Fisher and scoring higher than students who take the test at one or more of the top 10 highest ranked national universities. Or for that matter, one of the top 50 schools. That just might be an employment opportunity equalizer.
What we have is the emergence of a new comparison tool if enough schools adopt the exam. If institutional results of a test like this becomes widespread the test will inevitably become another way for potential students (and parents) to measure one school against another. And that’s not a bad thing if the comparisons are between schools with similar entering student profiles. (For an evaluation of CLA methodology and accuracy, see “The Collegiate Learning Assessment: Facts and Fantasies“)
In the market place we need ways that people looking for the school that’s best for them can evaluate the array of possibilities, from offerings to costs to outcomes. The Collegiate Learning Assessment is one more way to do that. 
  • According to the CLA website the test “measures critical thinking, problem solving, scientific and quantitative reasoning, writing, and the ability to critique and make arguments.” 
  • One use for the results: “Graduating seniors can also use their verified scores to provide potential employers with evidence of their work readiness skills.”

USA Today Adds to CLA Visibility

USA Today gave additional exposure later in the week in a story entitled “Post-college exam seeks to determine employability.”
This story names more schools that will use the test with graduating seniors:
  • University of Texas system
  • Flagler University
  • Stonehill College
  • Marshall University
That’s an interesting mix of institutional types. Check a map with pins for schools who have used an earlier version of this exam in the past for internal assessment purposes. In the future, how many of these schools will use the exam specifically for seniors? And how many will release overall results for public comparison? 
CLA: A Valid Part of the College Selection Mix
If collective results like this for various schools were public, they would inevitably become a new part of the marketing of higher education. And that’s not a bad thing. Let future students (and their parents) decide how much weight to give to the results. But give them the opportunity to add the results to their decision-making mix.
That’s all for now.
Subscribe to “Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter” for monthly marketing news and notes and weekly Link of the Week selections.
Join 6,300+ people and follow me on Twitter
Conferences in November
  • November 5-7, Aarhus, Denmark: J.Bloye Web & Intranet Conference, “Writing Right for the Web” tutorial and “A Need for Speed: Responsive Design in a Mobile World.” Check the entire program here.
  • November 10-13, Boston: AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education. Pre-conference tutorial on “Digital Marketing Strategy: Building Brand Strength and Enrollment.” Visit the Symposium website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *