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?


Preparing for the Career College Association Convention

It’s that time of the year again – the CCA convention is just around the corner where hundreds of career colleges and the companies that support their operations will meet and collaborate on the markets trends, challenges and opportunities we all face.

The convention is a great opportunity to for all of us at TopSchool to engage with schools at every level. From the users of our system talking to our product team about specific ways to manage and report on data, to career college CEOs who want to talk about the direction of their programs, we look forward to discussing new ways we can help them deliver a better student experience.

We’ve got several things lined up that will keep attendees both in the know right now and thinking about what lies ahead:

Participate in our roundtable discussions:
We are hosting “How To Make Informed Decisions Based On Successful Student Profiles,” where participants will learn how to better leverage data to provide a complete picture of each student so they can determine when, where and how students can be most successful. Our first session is already full, so please visit our registration site soon if you would like to participate.

Leverage our white paper:
Improving the Student Experience to Increase Career College Revenue shares insight into the ways career colleges can more efficiently and effectively access, manage and report on information in order to deliver an improved student experience and drive increased revenue growth.

See us on the floor:
We will be located in booth #504/506 on the exhibit floor – please stop by! See you in Vegas!

Building Successful Student Profiles

I recently presented at the Distance Education and Training Council Annual Conference, and there was quite a bit of talk about student profiles.  So, I ask you this…

1)     How important are student profiles in helping schools meet learner demands? 

2)     And if you believe these profiles can contribute to both student and institutional success, how do you even go about building them?

I believe there are both a tremendous need and an exciting opportunity to better understand your students.  How are they changing?  How can you create models that meet their needs?  And how can you communicate with them based on their needs? 

I happen to be one that believes student profiles are of absolute importance when it comes to providing your students a unique and productive experience.  And the most effective profiles are those that include information from across the student lifecycle.  Schools that not only build, but more importantly use these student profiles will be able to 1) recruit the right kinds of students, 2) quickly launch new programs, and 3) tailor offerings and delivery modes. 

Student profiles can encompass demographic, behavioral and psychological information.  For example, how old is the average student, how ready are they to enroll, what risk factors to they have, what programs are they most interested in, and what are their career goals?

I propose three steps that will help you gather the necessary data in order to build your successful student profiles:

  • Report on student activity from prospect to placement
  • Monitor student inflection points
  • Deliver education where and when students want it

Student profiles can be critical in analyzing where, when and how students can be most successful at your school.  By building a complete picture of each unique student, your school can best meet a particular student’s needs and the student can maximize the education experience.

Insights from the CAPPS Conference

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the CAPPS (California Association of Private Post Secondary Schools) Conference in Los Angeles this week.  This year the conference had a record number of attendees for various reasons.  One of the primary reasons was that many of the Private Post Secondary schools were looking for answers on how the recently passed California Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009 would affect them.  A summary of this bill and details of the act can be found at the following link:

Of the many interesting sessions being conducted at the conference I was able to sit in on the Internet Leads Panel discussion.  This discussion offered best practices from experts on ways to create more effective internet lead acquisition strategies and how to best convert those leads.  The session included guidance from Fred Carini, an industry veteran and  well regarded Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Milan Institute which operates 16 schools in four states, Craig O’Neil who is VP of Product Management of one of the nation’s largest wholesale lead generators and TopSchool’s very own Justin McMorrow, SVP of Sales and Marketing.

The panelists discussed how the use of Internet leads providers and aggregators can be an extremely effective mechanism for increasing starts.  For some higher education institutions,  over 70% of starts can be attributed to internet leads.  In summary, the key takeaways from the session from the three different perspectives were as follows:

  • From the School’s Perspective
    • Make sure Admissions Staff are trained and have the right tools to follow up with Internet leads
    • Share all of the lead information success/failure rates frequently with your lead providers to give them insight into which leads are converting and which ones are not
    • Immediacy – Admissions staff must follow up with leads quickly and effectively, especially given the nature of how internet leads are generated
  • Lead Provider’s Perspective
    • Schools must understand the different channels of internet leads, such as:
      • Web searches, email campaigns, social networking, call center, banner ads, hosted affiliate websites and institutional website
    • Schools must clearly understand how each of these different channels behave and have realistic expectations on how lead performance varies based on channel
    • Importance of providing transparency to the school by providing metrics to the schools on campaign, lead source and channel
  • Educating the schools on the inherent issues associated with working with internet leads
    • Web Amnesia – when students forgot that they submitted an inquiry form or opted in
    • Duplicate Lead information
    • Offered Incentives (ipods, electronics, etc) which create interest, for the  wrong product/brand
    • Shared Marketing data – the case where a student opts in to receive marketing information for multiple sectors not just higher education
    • Promise of Scholarships or Financial Assistance – another form of incentivizing prospective students which is very deceiving but does happen
  • From the Student Lifecycle Management System Perspective
    • Speed to first touch is important (Immediacy)
    • Ensure lead distribution rules are mapped effectively during business and off hours to ensure complete coverage
    • Establish business processes to support technology and ensure proper training and understanding around that process

The feedback from other attendees was very positive and the session overall was very informative.  Everyone appreciated the opportunity to gain insights from three different perspectives of working with internet leads – not just from the school’s vantage point.

 It is clear that the challenges of working with internet leads are multi-faceted and can be extremely complicated but employing the key strategies mentioned above can be effective in increasing the conversion of these leads.

 What measures have you employed to help increase lead effectiveness at your institution when working with internet leads?  How do you track internet leads that actually heard about your brand via word of mouth, t.v., radio or billboard ads?