Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter… March 2021

March… and Spring is almost upon us. And vaccines. A new hope for health by summer. Just got my 2nd shot. Or, as they say in the U.K., “jab.”

“Your website is the most critical website for your prospective students.” That reality was reinforced at the recently completed Carnegie Dartlett online Connection conference. For many (most?) potential students the website is where a college or university makes a first impression. Where you first win against competitors. Or lose.

If you haven’t surveyed potential students in your database to find out what they think about their website experience, you can do that at no cost with Gerry McGovern’s CCI survey. What’s that? Start with “How it works.” Everyone’s favorite question: “If you could change one thing about our website, what would you change and why?” About 50 percent of the people who answer the survey will answer that optional open-ended question.

Gerry McGovern will review tips and techniques for improving your website with Top Task research in a March 24 60-minute session. Gerry promises time so you can “ask any questions you have in relation to the Top Tasks method.” Register at “Top Tasks Questions and Answers.”

Join 866+ higher education professionals on the members-only Top Tasks: Higher Education Website Content group at LinkedIn. Request membership at

eduWeb is offering an online “Spring Innovation Showcase 2021” on March 16-17. Find more on schedule and registration here. I have two passes for the first two people who send me their name and email. I’ll forward to eduWeb and you’ll receive a code to waive the registration fee.

Follow along with 7,200+ people for my daily marketing updates on Twitter.

Forward this newsletter to a friend. Only email required here to subscribe for a personal copy.

And now, your news and notes for March.
Cartoon of the Month: “Clones, Bones, Stones, and Drones”

If marketers ruled your campus how might they organize academic departments?

Tom Gauld gives us an example in “when marketing chooses where to put research groups.”
College Choice: Top 10 Factors for Undergrads

New Carnegie Dartlett research drives home the importance of cost-related content on your website. The top factor: “Scholarships and aid.” The 3rd factor: “Net cost.” How soon can students find that info on your site? Can they find “net cost” at all?

The 10th factor was “Student/faculty diversity.” See the remaining 7 pieces of the puzzle in “Factors for Choosing a College. Top Ten.”
Financial Aid Award Transparency: The Muhlenberg Example

Long-time readers will know that I’ve praised the unusual frankness that Muhlenberg College takes to the public about how it builds financial aid packages. The essence: the more the college wants you to enroll, the fewer loans you’ll see in your package. It admits to “preferential packaging.”

Muhlenberg is far from the only school that does this. It’s just more honest. Parents, I’ve been told, love the honesty. The message has been on the website for close to 20 years.

See “The Real Deal on Financial Aid.”
5 “Dirty Little Secrets” in Higher Education

Steven Mintz at UT Austin writes about 5 “dirty little secrets” that higher education doesn’t admit to itself.

I can’t tell you each secret here but one that struck me as relevant to marketing endeavors: “Many institutions’ appeal lies not in education but elsewhere.” Think, for instance, DIV III athletes looking for a place to continue playing their favorite high school sport.

Mintz also includes 9 other secrets, some known to academics but not recognized by media and some that are “secrets only to journalists and affluent parents.”

See how many secrets you’d agree to share with the world after reading “Higher Ed’s Dirty Little Secrets.”
Digital Transformation: The “New Normal” in 2025 and Beyond

The Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imaging the Internet Center received 915 responses from “innovators, developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists” asking them what how they thought technology would impact life after COVID in 2025 and the years after.

Some (39%) were optimistic that life would be better for most people. More (49%) felt that life would the worse after the pandemic. The rest (14%) expected little change.

If you have a hint of a futurist in you, plan to read the report. Start with the find summary from Pew: “Experts Say the ‘New Normal” in 2025 Will Be Far More Tech Driven.” If that whets the proverbial appetite for more, download the 195-page report from Elon University where you’ll see a long list of respondents who agreed to public disclosure.
Brand Differentiation: The High Point University Example

If you want to attract students with parents capable and willing to pay high tuition and campus living rates, one way is to get a favorable review in Town & Country magazine as an “elite” school. But you have to give them something to write about to show how your school differs from most others.

Here’s what the T&C wrote about the efforts of Nido Qubein, president since 2005: “There was no obvious way to make its education, opportunities for kinship, or credentials stand out. So Qubein came up with a fourth way: raising the lived experience of the average undergraduate to a level that surpasses that of nearly any other school in the country.”

Since 2005, enrollment has about tripled from a 1,500 level. Net revenue in 2010 was a nearly $6 million deficit. Net revenue in 2018 was just over $28 million. Pell Grant enrollment was 12 percent. Discount rate was just over 35 percent.

Details on creating that campus experience at “Elite Universities are in an Amenities Arms Race.”
Facebook Ads: 3 Steps to Reduce Wasteful Spending

Andrea Vahl at Social Media Examiner offers us 3 steps to check to make sure that investments in Facebook advertising are spent as wisely as possible. A bonus point: the same principles will apply to Google ads and any other type of online advertising.

My favorite was Andrea’s recommendation to consider dropping any ad campaign that does not result in at least a 1 percent click through rate. She favors that over CPM (cost per 1,000 impressions) and CPC (cost per link click.) She tells you were to find that data.

More for a better ad campaign at “How to Reduce Wasteful Facebook Ad Spending.”
Student Recruitment in 2021: A Twitter Essay from Jon Boeckenstedt

Here’s student recruitment reality this year according to Jon: “when I say none of us in EM know what in the hell to expect, or how to estimate what we can expect, I’m not exaggerating.”

Legend has it that when the British surrendered to the Americans and French at the Siege of Yorktown in 1781 their band played “The World Turned Upside Down.” That’s what this easy-to-read Twitter essay brought to mind as I was first reading it.

See how well Jon has captured reality on your campus this year. Start here and follow through.
Teens and Tech: 3 Myths Debunked

The Nielsen Norman Group shares results of UX testing with teens 13 to 17 in a 2.3-minute video. Are teens up-to-date with new technology? Do they know what Augmented Reality is?

At the end are 3 points re web design advice from teens. Maybe the most important for higher education websites: don’t make things complicated and use clear instructions. Think about that the next time you visit a financial aid page.

More on the research at “3 Myths About Teens and Tech.”
Most Popular in February Newsletter: Tuition Discount Rates & Net Revenue

Jon Boeckenstedt takes a detailed look at what’s been happening with tuition discount rates with data from 2010, 2014, and 2018.

Jon has again presented complex data in a masterful way. From a marketing perspective what you may find most useful is the data for individual schools so that you can learn what’s been happening at your primary competitors. Enter the name of an individual college and you’ll see application levels, admission rates, and yield to enrollment along with “Key Financial Aid Ratios” and “Key Financial Aid Numbers.”

Improve your wisdom for discount discussions on your campus at “Private College & University Tuition Discount Rates, 2010, 2014, and 2018.”

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