Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter… October 2021

October… With fall enrollment well underway we pay special attention in this newsletter to recent surveys on what’s most important to high school students and graduate students as they search for schools to attend. No surprise: in both cases, cost is more important than you’d know by visiting most college and university websites. If you don’t want to fall prey to “sticker shock” actual costs paid by students needs higher visibility.

If you missed it in the September newsletter be sure to visit the most popular entry that month: comments on Reddit by students themselves on what’s most important to them in a college search.

Create a strong(er) marketing website with maximum attention to what potential students want to do on your website. Keep them smiling on their first visit with rapid task completion. Gerry McGovern’s Top Task webinar series continues on October 20. Register at “Top Tasks Questions and Answers.”

Join 879 higher education professionals on the members-only Top Tasks: Higher Education Website Content group at LinkedIn. Check my post reviewing 2001 E-Expectations Survey results for key top task insights. Request membership at

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 marketing news and notes for October.
Cartoon of the Month: “Marketing in the Metaverse”

“’I believe the shift we’re seeing to the metaverse, is going to be one of the largest shifts we’ve seen in a long time … we are where we were in social media 17, 18 years ago…’ says one marketing professional.”

If you like early looks into what’s possible in future marketing communications, be sure to visit “Marketing in the Metaverse.”
College Rankings: Explore the Wall Street Journal 2022 results

If the US News rankings aren’t quite enough, turn attention to the rankings report from the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education.

You won’t find surprises in the “top 10” list but note that at first glance you can also see that the “average net price” for each school is less than $30,000 and 4 are less than $20,000.

Best marketing feature of the site: use the up-front filters to quickly compare your school with your competitors, including the “average net price” for each. You can also search by location, areas of study, and public or private service.

Start at “Explore the Full WSJ/THE 2022 College Rankings List.”
High School Student Recruitment: Price sensitivity, public v. private, location and more

The 6th annual Niche survey of high school seniors headed for college received nearly 20,000 responses from student who had selected a college by spring 2021. Results are worth reviewing.

  • You’ll find, for instance, that 73 percent reported eliminating schools based on the published sticker price. That’s another powerful reason to make “average net price” prominent on a website so that first-time visitors are not driven away by a more prominent sticker price. The 2021 percent is much higher than the mid-50 percent range reported on the 2016 to 2019 surveys.
  • “Family” and “friends” and “current students” were important selection factors but note that “College websites were more impactful than any individual.”

More details when you download (without having to register!) the 30-page PDF at “2021 Niche Senior Survey.”
Graduate Student Recruitment: 2021 survey from RNL

You’ll find expected and not-so-expected results when your review the 2021 graduate student recruitment survey for RNL (Ruffalo Noel Levitz). A few of the findings:

  • Interest in types of programs splits nearly evenly between master’s degrees and certificate and similar shorter programs.
  • Business remains the most popular area, with a strong increase in health areas.
  • Leaning about cost is the top task for website visitors.
  • Interest in short-term courses is much stronger than traditional semester courses.
  • Students interested in online programs start their searches on search engines.
  • Facebook and LinkedIn are the most important social media sites.
  • Inquiry response should be “within hours or minutes.”

The complete report is worth your time at “2021 Graduate Student Recruitment Report.”
College Admissions: Freshmen migration, 1986 to 2000

Where do students go when they leave your state to attend college? Where do students come from when they enter your state from elsewhere?

To answer those questions, we have another entry in the “Higher Ed Data Stories” series from Jon Boeckenstedt. In 2020 the highest importers were California (7,783) and New York (5,564) while the fewest out-of-state freshmen entered Kansas (260) and Louisiana (203). Compare that with 2000 and you’ll see significant change over the last 20 years.

More to sort and savor at “Freshmen Migration, 1986 to 2000.”
Social Media Marketing: 10 changes to review

Our friends at TerminalFour are listing 10 changes at a variety of social media sites and some will interest higher education marketers.

Social media changes at Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, TikTok, and YouTube are included.

To check what might impact your social media marketing visit “The social media network changes and new features that could influence your strategies.”
Strategic Plans: Marketing mentioned in 52 of 108 studied

Someplace it is written, perhaps in accreditation guidelines, that every college must have a strategic plan. Some presidential contracts must stipulate those new presidents must create new strategic plans.

The RHB (Richard Harrison Bailey) agency studied 108 strategic plans from public and private colleges and universities throughout the U.S. to see what was contained within them. Of the 108, RHB felt that just 16 made a meaningful contribution to the forward progress of the institution.

Re marketing: 52 plans mentioned marketing and communications. “Enrollment marketing” (24) had a slight lead over “Institutional branding” (22) while “marketing research” was mentioned in 6 of the plans. By comparison 63 of the plans mention “advancement or fund-raising.”

More on the plans, with 8 top points from the useful 16, in “What Makes a Strategic Plan ‘Strategic?’”
Online Competition Expanding: “Brandman University Becomes Umass Global”

The coveted path to online program success as measured by high enrollment has featured public university acquisitions of for-profit entities. Now the University of Massachusetts has boosted its aspirations with an unusually engineered combination with Brandman University.

Since 2017 Umass has plotted a way to join the large universities in enlarging online enrollment and gaining revenues. Umass seems to be focusing initial expectations on the New England area where name recognition is stronger than the in the rest of the country. Current enrollment “each year” reported on the Umass Global website is 13,000.

Umass will pay no up-front money for the new arrangement. Anyone interested in what’s happening in the online world should explore the unusual acquisition details starting with the Inside Higher Education article at “Brandman University Becomes Umass Global.”
Job Opening: Social Media Digital Analyst

Campus Sonar is hiring and has provided on Twitter a very detailed posting of the work required and the skill set and interests of the type of person who can best fill this position. Yes, you can work “remote” as long as you live in the U.S. Applications are due by October 20.

Read the details from Amber Sandall, the hiring manager.
Most Popular in September Newsletter: How high schools seniors pick a college to attend

Balance the formal research of E-Expectations and similar surveys. Read how high school seniors describe their “ideal” college in their own words per Reddit comments.

Visit Reddit for a collection that varies from “any school that gives me money” to detailed reviews of available academic programs and other features at Northeastern, Cornell, Cal Tech, Johns Hopkins, NYU, Davidson, Columbia, Chicago, Georgia Tech and others. (Thanks to Steve App at Campus Sonar for continuing to showcase Reddit.)

Visit “Seniors, what is your dream school and why?”
Be a marketing champion on your campus.

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