Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter… October 2022

October…FAFSA season is here, along with all the traditional fall recruitment activities for college bound high school students. May marketing success be with you all.

Notable Twitter Quote: “When groups meet to brainstorm, good ideas are lost. People bite their tongues due to conformity pressure, noise, and ego threat. A better approach is brainwriting: generate ideas separately, then meet to assess and refine.” Adam Grant, organizational psychologist at The Wharton School.

Tagline Reports: Taglines for some universities mentioned in the newsletter are included. Found those on either a Google search result or on a home page. If you don’t see a tagline after a name, it is because that school does not use one.
Increase your website recruitment strength. Keep potential students smiling after their first visit with rapid completion of the tasks that brought them to your site. Gerry McGovern’s Top Task webinar series continues on October 5. Register for “Top Tasks Overview.”

  • How to identify what matters most–the Top Tasks
  • How to measure the performance of the Top Tasks
  • How to create a classification / navigation based on Top Tasks

Join 903 higher education professionals on the members-only Top Tasks: Higher Education Website Content group at LinkedIn. Check the latest post: “Top Task Student Recruitment Emphasis” with links to two university home pages that put academic program links in priority position. Join us 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 October marketing news and notes.
Cartoon of the Month: “5 Stages of Returning to the Office”

You don’t have to look far to see how the remote vs. “in office” issue is playing out in higher education marketing. Especially as many higher education marketing agencies are promoting “remote” availability in their recruitment efforts.

To see where you fit in the cycle of deciding whether or not to return to office work from “denial” to “acceptance,” see “5 Stages of Returning to the Office.”
Students List Purchases: Is regulation in the future?

List purchases of college-bound high school students from ACT, College Board and others have been a staple of higher education direct marketing since the 1970s. Now, as the test optional movement expands, change is coming. Fewer low-income and minority students will be taking these tests.

The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) has issued report predicting that list acquisition will shift away from ACT and College board to agencies that will restrict list purchases to schools that also purchase long-term subscriptions and consulting services. College access for low-income, first-generation students will suffer, the authors believe, as new list sources include fewer of these students.

Thus, this recommendation: “Because student lists are an important mechanism for college access, policymakers should investigate how the emerging for-profit business model affects students and universities.”

Download the 28-page report at “Student List Policy, Problems, regulation, and a solution.”
Google Content Update: New criteria started in August

Google ranks websites based in part on what it believes is “good” content. While Google is never as explicit as we might like, there are guidelines to follow that will help boost every site.

Continuing and most important: “Focus on people-first content.” AKA, the top tasks that people visiting your website want to complete.

Jim Yu at the Content Marketing Institute updates on:

  • “5 dos to create helpful content”
  • “7 don’t to ensure that Google sees your content as helpful”

The details are at “More Helpful Content dos and don’ts for New Google Update.”

Also go direct to Google for “What creators should know about Google’s helpful content Update”.
Recruiting Out-of-State Students: A public university review

Public flag-ship universities have increased recruitment of out-of-state students paying substantially higher tuitions. In the words of one public university chancellor: “Colleges and universities are fundamentally in the business of enrolling students for tuition dollars.”

The result has been major change in the number and percent of in-state students enrolling at the most selective public universities and an increase in student debt levels, despite enticing merit scholarships.

University of Alabama (“Where Legends are Made”) is a prime example in a Slate magazine report summarizing the changes. The in-state to out-state ratio at Alabama changed from 75-25 in 2002 to 34-66 in 2018.

Clemson University (“Let’s Begin”), Purdue University (“Indiana’s Land Grant University”), University of Michigan, and University of Oregon are among the schools mentioned in the review.

For more, see “One of Higher Ed’s Worst-Kept Secrets Is Out. It’s Even Grimmer Than We Knew.”
College Rankings: Highly Rejective Colleges

Here’s a listing based on 3 criteria:

  • “Must reject more than 70% of applicants”
  • “Must keep enrollment low.”
  • “Must privilege wealth.”

The top 5 schools: Colorado College, Washington University in St. Louis, Colgate University (“Leading Liberal Arts Education”), Washington and Lee University (“Incredible Opportunity for those with Incredible Potential”), and Middlebury College. Closing out the list of 63: University of California, Los Angeles.

Scan the list including data for rejections, median family income, application and enrollment change, and Pell Grants awarded at “Highly Rejective Colleges.”
Marketing Tensions: Who decides marketing priorities in higher education?

Here’s a still-relevant 2017 article by Joel Anderson, vice president for marketing and strategy at Waybetter Marketing, re how many higher education marketers differ from enrollment staff in how to best spend a marketing budget.

Anderson believes that a successful enrollment marketing plan begins with a well-crafted purchase of direct marketing lists of potential students, the TICAS report above notwithstanding. (He also notes that many schools waste money on overly large lists but that’s another story.)

Many higher education marketers, on the other hand, are eager to mimic marketing priorities at firms outside higher education and don’t have sufficient understanding of the multi-year recruitment cycle:

  • “It’s easier, sexier, and more fun to talk about branding and social media campaigns than it is to do the nitty gritty enrollment marketing stuff. You get told you need to rebrand or overhaul your website or refresh your logo or beef up your social presence.”
  • Recruitment results suffer as money is spent chasing “likes, followers, and views… metrics that, at the end of the day, don’t have much at all to do with the number of deposited students….”

Yes, that’s controversial. Visit “A college education is not a pair of shoes. So, stop marketing like it.”
Micro-Credentials: How viable for higher education?

Is your school thinking about starting or expanding short-term non-degree programs?
Consider the reasons that Seth Odell at Kanahoma agency believes these programs are not a viable source of increased net revenue for many colleges and universities, especially smaller ones.

Seth builds his case around the marketing costs of promoting and recruiting students to smaller programs that don’t generate revenue comparable to degree programs. More at “Are Non-Degrees a Non-Starter?”
Research Study: Mental Health of Social Media Professionals in Higher Education

If you manage a social media program for a college or university, consider taking part in a research study by Allison Kuenzi, director of social media at University of North Carolina Charlotte (“Shape What’s Next”) as part of her graduate program at UNC Chapel Hill (“Preparing Global Leaders”).

Check the possible risks and benefits and decide if you want to take the 10-minute survey at the Research Information Sheet.
Most Popular in September Newsletter: 2022 Washington Monthly College Rankings

Washington Monthly isn’t shy about why it is better than US News at ranking colleges:

  • US News “relies on crude and easily manipulated measures of wealth exclusivity, and prestige.”
  • WM, on the other hand, relies on the “contribution to the public good in three broad categories; social mobility, research, and providing opportunities for public service.”

Schools are ranked in 4 categories: National Universities, Liberal Arts Colleges, Master’s Universities, and Bachelor’s Colleges. Top 2022 schools in each category: Stanford University, Harvey Mudd College, Evergreen State College (“Your Way to the World”), and California State University Maritime Academy.

Check the rankings at “Washington Monthly’s 2022 College Guide and Rankings.”
Be a marketing champion on your campus.

Bob Johnson, Ph.D.

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