Webinar – Building Student Profiles: 3 Steps to Meeting The Demands Of Today’s Students

I’ve been presenting on the topic of student profiles at several education industry events, including the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) 2010 Annual Conference, as well as the New York Association of Proprietary Colleges (APC) Annual Conference. The audiences have shown quite a bit of interest in the topic, as has the trade press. It occurred to me that a number of our blog readers may be interested in the topic, therefore, I’m hosting a webinar next week.

The purpose of the webinar is to help schools embrace the power of student profiles in order to drive increased recruitment and retention. “The Increasing Power of the Student Consumer: Building Student Profiles to Meet The Demands Of Today’s Students” will be held on Thursday, September 23, 2010 from 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Colleges are continually evaluating efforts to: recruit the types of students who will be most successful in a program, quickly launch new programs, and tailor offerings and delivery modes. How can colleges successfully meet these challenges in order to attract and retain students in an increasingly consumer-driven market?

I’ll share three critical ways that colleges can best leverage information to meet the demands of today’s students:

1) Deliver education where and when students want it.
2) Monitor student inflection points.
3) Report on student activity from prospect to placement in order to support decisions.

Attendees will gain insight into the process of not only building student profiles, but also effectively using them. Profiles help schools better understand students so you can target the right students for the right programs, as well as support them throughout the education process, making sure that someone who is likely to succeed actually does.

To register for the free event, click here. Feel free to download the corresponding whitepaper and eBook as well.

Student Profiles: Part I

Student profiles continue to come up in my daily conversations with college administrators. There seems to be such a huge opportunity here – it is just a matter of a school wrapping its arms around the data they have and embracing the concept of student profiles as a powerful tool to better understand and support their students.

Student profiles enable your college to better determine the programs, delivery models and educational structure that will attract and retain students. Today, I’d like to address student profiles from a college prospecting and marketing perspective.

Colleges and universities are in a sea of noise – in order to increase student enrollment, they need to find a way to stand out in the crowd, and also make sure they are targeting
the right students for the right programs.

Traditionally, colleges and universities address student recruitment by increasing marketing efforts – utilizing additional marketing channels, allocating additional budget for traditional and social media, and more. However, additional outreach doesn’t always equate to more leads. Rather, colleges need to know more about the students they are targeting.

When building successful student profiles, you should look at the available demographic, behavioristic/psychographic, and educational information on a student prospect. You then need to assign a risk factor to each characteristic. For example, a prospect with established career goals would most likely pose a “low” risk, yet that same prospect could be transitional and not stay in one place for long periods of time, posing a “high” risk. You’ll want to establish an average overall risk level based on a comprehensive list of his or her characteristics.

Next, you should assign a complete profile to a student prospect and determine whether to actively pursue that person as a prospective student, and if so, develop action plans as necessary. For example, if a prospect has an overall risk factor rating of “high” due to the fact that he or she is a single parent who is working part time, your action plan can address child care.

Student profiles help colleges better target students who will likely succeed in your programs. But they serve another purpose beyond getting students in the door. Student profiles can drive retention too, so you can make sure that someone who is likely to succeed actually does. I plan to talk about student profiles from a retention perspective in my next blog…so stay tuned.

In the meantime, feel free to check out my eBook, “How to Make Informed Decisions Based on Successful Student Profiles: Seven Steps to Increase Recruitment and Retention.”

I will also be hosting a webinar to discuss Student Profiles in depth on September 23rd. If you are interested, you can click here to register.

For-Profit Colleges: Sound Taxpayer Investment or Wasteful Spending?

In Senator Harkin’s opening remarks during the recent congressional hearings on higher education, he stated, “We have a responsibility to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely, and that for-profit colleges are serving students, not just shareholders.” As the CEO of TopSchool and previously serving as the president of eCollege, I understand the need to serve shareholders. However, I couldn’t agree more that the ultimate goal of those of us in education is to serve the student.

For-profit colleges have a huge opportunity to move education forward, and at a great value to taxpayers. They have already made great strides in driving access, innovation and a trained workforce.

ACCESS:
For-profit colleges make education possibilities a reality for the underserved, non-traditional student population. The Department of Education states that the Student Aid Objective is “to ensure that low and middle income students have the same access as high income students do.”

The for-profit education industry delivers an attractive alternative to students who are lower income, minority, older and/or more financially independent. Roughly 76% of for-profit college students are financially independent compared to 50% at public schools, and 45% of for-profit college dependent students come from families in the lowest income quartile compared to 24% at public and 22% at private non-profits.1 These for-profit college students are not choosing between paying their own way or getting federal financial aid – rather they are choosing between not getting educated and federal financial aid.

In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Education, the average Estimated Family Contribution for a student attending a four-year, non-profit school is almost $17,000, which is 123% greater than the $7,500 average for a student attending a four-year, for-profit school. Ironically, this is almost exactly the same ratio of the federal aid required by a student attending a for-profit school compared to a non-profit school.

INNOVATION:
For-profit colleges sit on the forefront of innovation when it comes to flexible delivery and schedules, giving more students the chance to succeed.

When you consider that 60% of for-profit college enrollments occur on a rolling basis, 2 meaning frequent intervals during the year, flexibility is key. For-profit colleges invest significantly in meeting the complex needs of their non-traditional students through online education, night and weekend offerings, and smaller suburban/satellite campuses. This consistent drive to satisfy their students has resulted in 65% of for-profit college students attaining a degree within six years after enrollment, slightly higher than students attending four-year, non-profit schools.3

SKILLED WORKFORCE:
For-profit colleges also focus on aligning their programs with the fields and jobs that are most in demand. According to Imagine America Foundation, for-profit colleges currently enroll more students (44%) in high demand fields than do public (18%) and private, not-for-profit (13%) institutions.2 In fact, 17 of the 20 fastest-growing occupations are in the key focus areas of for-profit schools, including the healthcare and computer/data processing industries, with an estimated 1.8 million jobs being created in these fields through 2016.2 These are positions that graduates of for-profit colleges can fill.

Not only are for-profit colleges training students, but they are getting them placed in the workforce. Consider the percentage of students who are employed within six months of graduation – in 2009, DeVry University reported a 90% placement rate for these students, while larger universities such as UCLA and Johns Hopkins reported only a 45% rate.4 And overall, 76% of for-profit college students who completed an award in 2005 were employed directly following graduation.2

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR TAXPAYERS?
Before we jump into the numbers, I think it important to point out that both for-profit and non-profit models work effectively. For-profit institutions are similar to state systems of higher education in that graduates of both models step out into a demanding job market after earning such degrees as an Associate’s in Accounting, a Bachelor’s in Finance or Computer Engineering Technology, a Master’s in Business Administration or Education – and the list goes on and on.

That said, what do taxpayers invest in students at for-profit schools? And to round out the equation, what is the taxpayer investment to support students at non-profit schools as well?

For-profits
Let’s start on the for-profit side. I analyzed four large, publicly traded for-profit institutions – DeVry, ITT, Strayer and Corinthian Colleges. Using the data available in their most recent annual reports, I wanted to determine the taxpayer investment required to educate one student for one year. I calculated a “net taxpayer investment” by taking the annual Title IV revenue received for all four schools, in this case $3.5 billion, and subtracting the annual taxes provisioned by the institutions, in this case $377 million. As noted in the table below, this number, divided by the student population served, which was around 313,000, resulted in the net cost to taxpayers of roughly $10,000 to educate a student for one year at one of these for-profit schools.

Non-Profits
Keeping that equation in mind, let’s take a look at the non-profit side. In addition to federal financial aid, students enrolled in public, non-profit institutions reap the benefits of state funding for education. You’ll notice that no federal taxes are provisioned for these non-profits as they don’t pay them.

Since I reside in Colorado, I’ve used publicly available information about our own higher education system. According to the Colorado Department of Higher Education, in the Fall Term 2009, the state enrolled just over 240,000 students in its 28 two-year and four-year institutions. During that same year, the Department was allocated almost $2.8 billion in state funds and received over $1.2 billion in federal student financial aid. The table below shows that the net cost to taxpayers to educate a student in the Colorado Department of Higher Education in 2009 was almost $17,000, which is 66% greater than at the for-profit institutions.

Federal Loans
Of course, if we are looking at a net investment to taxpayers, we need to remember that much of the federal subsidies for higher education come in the form of loans. For a variety of reasons, students default on their loans. According to an analysis by the Chronicle of Higher Education, the 15 year loan default rate for for-profit students enrolled in four-year programs is 30%, as compared to 15.1% for non-profit students.5

Using the example from the Colorado Department of Higher Education, when you account for the percentage of education subsidies that are loans (compared to grants or state appropriations) and the difference in default rates, the adjusted taxpayer investment per student at a for-profit school is roughly $4,100, compared to $13,200 at a non-profit school, driving the State of Colorado non-profit education to a 224% premium over for-profits.

THE VALUE TO STUDENTS AND TAXPAYERS ALIKE:
Both for-profit and non-profit institutions play valuable roles in our country’s need to educate the masses. All aspects of our society benefit the more educated we become. The fact is that we need both choices to effectively serve our country’s diverse population.

We can’t deny that the high growth, for-profit college industry should be held accountable for its recent issues, including the misguided information given to students by admissions representatives, higher default rates and so on. However, we also can’t ignore the tremendous value these schools provide to students. I believe the overall value to taxpayers is well worth the growing pains.

The critical factor in both the for-profit and non-profit models should always be the students. Students need accurate and credible information to make an educated choice in determining their path. At the same time, schools need to use data to better understand the type of student who is a good fit for their program and the ways in which they can ensure the success of that student.

In my career in the education market, I’ve learned the importance of data in providing a quality educational experience, both in the way education is delivered and the way it is managed. This principle guides everything we do at TopSchool, as we have built a next generation student information system – and that is exactly what the leaders of both for-profit and non-profit schools like about our model.  The majority of the data and information that Senator Harkin and others want to provide to prospective students can be accessed through a system like ours. We believe the key is making it accessible and available to the right audiences.  In addition to the many uses for prospective students, access to data can also guide college and university leaders to better understand their students and drive stronger learning outcomes, student satisfaction and retention.

Regardless if the school fits the for-profit or non-profit model, those schools that rely on data to make decisions that benefit their students will deliver a tremendous value not only to their students, but also a high return to us as taxpayers, to our workforce, and to the future of our country.

TAXPAYER INVESTMENT IN HIGHER EDUCATION:

Taxpayer Investment in Higher Education

Sources:

1U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, “National Postsecondary Student Aid Study 2003-2004 (NPSAS: 2004).”
2Imagine America Foundation, “Economic Impact of America’s Career Colleges (2007).”
3U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, “1995-96 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study, Second Follow-up (BPS: 96/01).”
4Daniel Hamburger, DeVry University, “The Vital Role of the Private Sector Higher Education,” 2010, (data originally pulled from institutional websites, May 2009).
5 The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Government Vastly Undercounts Defaults” July 11, 2010.

Career College Technology Discussions at PAPSA

Last week, I spent a few days in Pennsylvania and have returned to Denver energized for things to come. Along the way, I was stuck behind a number of major traffic accidents and was re-routed extensively. It gave me an opportunity to see much of the PA country side and was worth the detour.

A colleague and I had a great meeting with a business college in the region. They have significant growth plans and are looking to utilize a student management system to increase operational efficiencies. We all look forward to further discussions with them.

I was honored to be invited to speak at the Pennsylvania Association of Private School Administrators Annual Conference.  I welcomed the opportunity to discuss the power of Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions to the attendees. SaaS solutions are flexible, low maintenance and can help schools focus on recruitment, retention and placement, rather than IT. It was great to see schools embrace the concept of SaaS.

In addition, I was excited about Mike Artim’s presentation, and he didn’t disappoint. Mike is the Executive Director of Cambria-Rowe Business College. Cambria-Rowe has been talking with employers in the region to better understand the skills and competencies they are looking for to fill positions. The school is evolving its program curriculum to adapt to the changing needs of the employers. Mike also discussed how Cambria- Rowe is leveraging technology in the classroom through the use of digital content, iPads and other vehicles.

Thanks to the efforts of the group at PAPSA for an enlightening career college conference, I look forward to participating next year.

I’m always looking for feedback, how is your school leveraging technology to create efficiencies?

TopSchool Raises $8 Million in Growth Capital Series C Funding

By now, you may have heard the good news here at TopSchool. We’ve raised an additional $8 Million in Series C funding. The funding was led by MK Capital, and Karen Buckner, partner and Chief Operating Officer at MK Capital, will be joining our board.

This funding will allow us to continue to advance our products and infrastructure for increased performance of the TopSchool SaaS Student Lifecycle Management system. We also will use the funds to invest in increased account management support.

We are poised for growth and look forward to supporting the growth of our college and university customers.  We recognize a need for an alternative to traditional college student information systems, and our unmatched capabilities are meeting and exceeding this demand in the market.  The Series C funding will be instrumental in enabling us to better serve our clients and embrace this market opportunity.

Colleges can now implement Independent Study with TopSchool System

We’ve been working hard here at TopSchool and are excited about the latest release of our Student Lifecycle Management (SLM) system. We have quite a bit of new functionality included, but I want to highlight one area that I think student-centric institutions will truly appreciate.

INDEPENDENT STUDY AND ENROLLMENT MANAGEMENT:
Our SLM system goes beyond the capabilities of traditional college student information systems, enabling flexible delivery methods. Along these lines, we’ve just released functionality to support Independent Study. This allows student-centric institutions to easily set up course sections to support self-paced education in combination with standard terms, non-standard terms or non-term structures.
When a student is registered for an independent study course section, the system will calculate an expected completion date for the student using predefined rules and calendars set up by the institution. Colleges may also decide to allow individual student extensions, enabling schools to directly address students on a unique one-to-one basis. Institutions with self paced distance learning programs or open entry/open exit courses will be able to manage student registrations based upon completion of course objectives and learning outcomes rather than fixed course schedule dates.

We hope this new feature allows our customers to continue to meet and exceed student expectations. What do you think?

Lead Management for Targeted Marketing in Higher Education

Targeting the right prospective student, getting that student enrolled, and seeing that student through to graduation is the lifeblood of your educational system. However, that initial step might not ever take place with dirty data, meaning data that is incomplete, outdated, or just plain inaccurate.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with numerous educators at the Career College Association annual convention in Las Vegas, and it was amazing to hear how some schools make lead management a priority, and others simply didn’t have the resources to do so.

Schools need to be proactive when it comes to maintaining lead data, and they should be asking themselves the following questions:

    •  Increased operational efficiencies, allowing admissions staff to focus on high quality leads and not data management
    •  Targeted marketing programs resulting in accurate, measurable results
    •  Higher enrollment and retention rates, driving a stronger bottom line
    •  Happy, well placed students
    1.  How fast are prospective students changing contact and biographical information?
    2.  How often should you realistically update prospective student information?
    3.  At what point do you recognize prospective student data as expired, and purge it?
    Data management is  crucial and can determine how your school fares in meeting or exceeding your recruitment and enrollment goals. More efficient lead management hinges upon the quality of your data – data that has been verified as complete, current and accurate.Schools that take steps to more efficiently manage data will be able to attract the right type of student, enroll that student, and see that student through to graduation. They should achieve the following:To read more about lead management and ten tips for keeping up with data so you make sure you are using the highest quality information in your recruitment and enrollment efforts, please download a copy of my white paper, More Effective Lead Management for Targeted Marketing in Higher Education.
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