What's it all mean?

While participating in a charity event last weekend, I had the pleasure of getting to know a handful of new people.  As is often the case in such settings, the conversation turned to what each of us does for a living.  As I tried to concisely describe the work Eyelevel does and the types of clients we work with, the questions and comments started to come rapid fire.  Because our clients are centered in education, everyone has a personal experience and perspective they bring to bear on such a discussion.  What makes many of these types of interactions so interesting is the breadth of those perspectives, not to mention the varying levels of understanding of where American education is today versus even 10 years ago. 

In just one recent week, the Federal Trade Commission held a conference on the business of prospective college student leads, multiple universities announced cuts in programs and faculty, a sizeable number of universities reported missing revenue and/or enrollment targets for the current academic year, and 2U reported its (Street-beating) quarterly earnings.  While the casual observer might take little note of any/all of these items, together they illustrate the changing (changed, really) world of student recruitment, which is one of the areas where Eyelevel is deeply involved in assisting clients.  While college fairs still abound, the reality in most cases is that those efforts and dollars generate a greater return when focused on the digital recruitment world.  Sharing tales of how this world works and the preponderance of third party firms angling to assist colleges in their efforts to compete in a world no longer bound by geography rarely fails to elicit listeners’ comparisons to their (and my) experience of getting a bunch of direct mail from admissions offices and consulting guides like Peterson’s and Fiske’s. 

What is most remarkable to me is how much more interested and willing to listen these chance acquaintances are than some of the leaders of the very institutions that have the most to gain—and lose—from the changing recruiting environment.  The very same top administrators—Presidents, Provosts, VPs of Enrollment, Directors of Online, etc.—whose enrollments are stagnant or declining are about 100 times more likely to point to declining state funding or other external factors than they are to spend ~20 minutes exploring what they could be doing differently to make their institutions more attractive and competitive in this new, increasingly-digital world.  Simply hanging a shingle online, getting back to prospective students in 24-48 hours (or longer), and assuming tomorrow’s online students are about the same as your current students (or worse yet, the students of a decade ago)—these are all surefire ways to be unsuccessful in the growing e-learning space.  Picking up the phone or returning an email to someone interested in helping you navigate this dynamic landscape would be a good place to start improving your odds of avoiding being one of those negative headlines in the near future.