Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter… February 2020

February greetings…

Make a note this month to check how many “How did you hear about us?” options you have on your inquiry form. Not long ago I opened an inquiry form with 73 choices. That’s nuts. Here’s hoping this unreliable data isn’t used for anything serious. Just drop it from your form. (Same school had date of birth choices back to 1900.)

Join 800+ higher education professionals on the Top Tasks: Higher Education Website Content group at LinkedIn. Review how Top Task strategies improve the website experience at University of Missouri, University of Sheffield, University of Nebraska-Omaha, and Glasgow University. Request membership at

Improving the marketing power of your website? Believe in “continuous quality improvement”? Find out what potential students like/dislike about your site before you make changed. Feedback in 5 days on 13 quality points with Gerry McGovern’s unique Customer Centric Index (CCI) survey approach.

Follow along with 7,300 people who get my daily marketing updates on Twitter at

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And now, your February marketing news and notes.
Cartoon of the Month: Something Wicked Coming? “Smart Devices and 5G”

What can we expect from impending 5G Internet capabilities? Will 5G help or hinder successful marketing contacts with potential students?

Start your marketing team’s discussion with Tom Fishburne’s “Smart Devices and 5G.”
Student Recruitment: What do 349+ students think of direct marketing fishing expeditions?

What do high school students think about the agency-inspired mass market campaigns that bloom after each ACT/PreACT or SAT/PSAT test date?

One point comes through clearly: too many schools continue to violate a core direct marketing principle: only contact people with profiles similar to the people you already enroll. Go far beyond that and you’re wasting money. And, as these comments show, hurting your brand image.

A comment that gets it right: “The emails are almost identical but come from different colleges so I’m guessing there’s one marketing company they all use to spam people with college board accounts.”

See for yourself when you scan 349+ comments on Reddit inspired by “You’re a top candidate to receive Lewis University’s free guide… “
Freshman Migration: Or, how are in-state enrollment patterns changing?

As the numbers of college-bound freshmen shrink in various regions, an understandable marketing shift for many schools is an attempt to increase out-of-state students. How successful has that been?

Jon Boeckenstedt provides answers in his Higher Ed Data Stories series. Now you can easily check any individual college that interests you. Start with “One university, two years.” Then pick a school from the alpha list, pick a date to start (as far back as 1986) and you’ll see how many students came from how many different states between your start year and 2018.

Check your competitors when you visit “Freshmen Migration Since the Dawn of Time, or At Least 1986.
Purdue University Global: 4 years of budget spend, including marketing

Purdue University Global, formed a few years ago with the acquisition of Kaplan’s online programs, seeks an online education status akin to Western Governors University, University of Arizona, and Southern New Hampshire University. How is that going so far?

Phil Hill has done yeoman work to discover fiscal data between FY17 and FY19 and a projection for the FY20 budget year.

  • Net revenue declined from $441m to $372m, projected to increase to $388m.
  • Marketing expense rose from $102m to $132m, projected to decrease to $125m.

Phil’s conclusion: “I do not believe that Purdue Global has yet proven itself to be viable in the long term. It is running on IOUs and foregone payments to its OPM partner, Kaplan Higher Education. And it will be very difficult to get to the point of true profitability and financial viability as long as Purdue Global has to continue spending more than $4,400 per enrolled student just on marketing expense.”

More details from Phil at “Purdue Global Budget: More than $132m spent on marketing last year.”.
Transfer Student Competition: SNHU bets on price in Pennsylvania

Higher education has been reluctant to compete for students based on price differential. That’s been one of the proverbial “Four Ps” of marketing missing from most college and university campaigns.

Price competition will grow in the online world. Southern New Hampshire University, a giant online provider (130,000 students), has signed a transfer student agreement with Pennsylvania community colleges. Price per credit is $288. Penn State Global Campus charges about $576 per credit.

SNHU can draw on a $139m marketing budget to make sure students know about the opportunity.

Inside Higher Ed reports that SNHU is seeking similar agreements in other states. More details here.
Voice Search: 75 stats and trends for early adopters

Time will tell if voice search becomes an important marketing technology in 2020 as many are predicting.

Meantime, you can become a campus expert re relevant stats after you review “75 Voice Search Technology Statistics and Trends.”

You’ll learn, for instance, that Google Home answers 81 percent of questions correctly, while Siri is far behind at 52 percent. And much more. Maybe too much. But you can scan the article quickly for what’s of most interest.
Value of an Undergrad College Degree: Not as much as in years past

A new exploration of the value of a college degree compared to “high school only” focuses on net worth rather than annual income. The conclusion in a 34-page research report:

  • “Among families with heads born in the 1980s, the college wealth premium weakens to the point of statistical insignificance with the single exception of White bachelor’s degree families, for which it remains positive but much smaller than that enjoyed by previous cohorts.”

The report itself is complex. For most people, it is best to start with a Washington Post summary (“Is college still worth it? Read this study.”) that includes a link to the full study. Those who want to go direct to the report itself, that’s at “Is College Still Worth It? The New Calculus of Falling Returns.”
Conversion Rate Optimization: A free Google course

How many potential students do you lose every year because your mobile site takes more than 3 seconds to download?

Google reports that 53 percent of people will leave a mobile site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. That’s a conversion killer, for sure. Maybe not for Harvard and a few others. But deadly for most schools.

Google has a 14-step free online course that’s a fine way to check various marketing elements of your mobile website, including #2, “Mobile Speed.” See how you might best improve your online marketing success as you scan the covered topics on “The CRO Course: Win on Mobile.”
College Applicants: Advice from “admissions staffers from across the U.S.”

U.S. News decided to run an article with the headline: “Avoid These Big College Application Mistakes.” The result was an odd mixture of items that some admissions people reported drove them nuts.

My favorite was from Mike Perry, director of undergraduate admissions at Florida Institute of Technology. He’s upset that some applicants don’t answer optional parts of the form. Which leads, of course, to the question of why if you truly need that info it isn’t required. (If you want something but a law says you can’t require it, don’t complain if people follow the law.)

Others are concerned that applications don’t arrive until 48 hours or less before the deadline, leading them to question a student’s level of interest. If that’s the case and you’ll mark down admissibility of an application received just before deadline, honesty suggests you include that in the instructions.

Sort the good advice from the not-so-good at  “Avoid These Big College Application Mistakes.”
Most Popular Topic in January Newsletter: Higher Education Top 10 & Not So Top 10 Lists

Robert Kelchen at Seton Hall University published the 7th annual top 10 lists for 2019 higher education events. To balance things out, he soon after published a list of “not top 10” events.

Start with “The 2019 Higher Education Top Ten List” and move along to “The 2019 ‘Not Top Ten’ List in Higher Education.” Or do the reverse. Your choice.
Be a marketing champion on your campus.

Bob Johnson, Ph.D.

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