Friday Five: Takeaways from @insidehighered’s admissions officers survey

Inside Higher Ed’s 2017 survey of admissions officers is now available

Earlier this week, Inside Higher Ed released its 2017 Survey of College and University Admissions Directors in the U.S. (available for download), and according to the headline from IHE‘s own analysis of the survey results, admissions officers face “pressure all around” to meet enrollment goals, recruit the right mix of students and bring in the money to pay the institution’s bills. Only 34 percent of admissions officers surveyed reported that they met their institution’s enrollment targets. That’s down from 37 percent a year ago and 42 percent two years ago. Continue reading “Friday Five: Takeaways from @insidehighered’s admissions officers survey”

Friday Five: What digital-savvy students want (and don’t want)

When it comes to influencing the college choices of prospective  students, social media is at the bottom of the list, while a school's website carries the most influence.
When it comes to influencing the college choices of prospective students, social media is at the bottom of the list, while a school’s website carries the most influence.

This bar chart should tell you everything you need to know about the influence of social media on today’s college students. It comes from a recent report by G/O Digital called “The Digital Search for Education.” Social media may be popular among the college crowd, but when it comes to influencing their decisions to apply to a certain college or university, social scores low. An institution’s website, though, holds the most sway over a prospective student.

Continue reading “Friday Five: What digital-savvy students want (and don’t want)”

Friday Five: Teens and tech

The latest research from the Pew Research Center ought to be of interest to admissions and enrollment management marketers, or anyone who markets to the always-on teenage demographic.

Here are five important findings about U.S. teens from that research on Teens, Social Media & Technology: Continue reading “Friday Five: Teens and tech”

Embracing the C-word in higher education

Comedian George Carlin made waves in the early ’70s with his “seven dirty words” monologue. He would probably chuckle at higher ed’s dirty words.

Back in the heyday of the hippie era, counterculture comedian George Carlin created a stir with his anti-establishment monologue about the seven dirty words that weren’t allowed on television. (Four decades later, as The Atlantic pointed out in 2012, society is still struggling with the role of government on restricting language.)

More recently, Brian Wm. Niles, founder of TargetX, has identified some dirty words that make many of us in higher education nervous. Niles spoke recently at ACT’s annual Enrollment Planners Conference and shared the “five dirty words” that admissions officers — and others in higher education — should embrace.

Topping that list, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s coverage, is the C-word.


“Many people who work at colleges dislike the word, preferring to call students ‘students’,” writes Eric Hoover of The Chronicle. “But as more Americans question the value of higher education, Mr. Niles said, institutions must think more like businesses, with customers to please, customer-service to enhance: ‘It gives you a sense that you have a responsibility to them.’ Colleges exist to serve students, he insisted, and not the reverse.”

Cussing and fussing about ‘customer’

Why do college and university personnel find it so difficult to think of students (and other groups, such as employers of our students) as customers? There’s something unsavory about instilling our academic world with the language of corporations.

The subject came up in a recent conversation with a faculty member, who expressed the thought that today’s students feel a greater sense of entitlement, and that thinking of them as customers adds to that sense. (The customer is always right, so we must give the customer what he or she wants, which is a passing grade, if not an A, at all times.)

The comments on the Chronicle post point out that there is a difference between college students and consumers of other goods and services. This response from John Nezlek, a psychology professor at William and Mary, probably summarizes the thoughts of many faculty:

Students’ needs, values, and opinions certainly need to be taken into account as institutes of higher education decide what to do; however, students attend institutes of higher education to be taught, to be led, they are not patrons in a restaurant. They are not to be served anything. They are clients in a collaborative relationship with the faculty. We work together.

At Missouri S&T, we have embraced the word customer, at least at the leadership level and among many staff members. Yet, some faculty I speak to still bristle at the term. Just as they bristle at words like “marketing.” Our university’s strategic plan even goes so far as to identity six “customer groups,” and on our strategic plan website, the introductory letter from Chancellor Cheryl B. Schrader (@SandTChancellor) uses the term when she talks about “providing a top return on investment to our key customers.” (Return on investment — or ROI — is another candidate for Niles’ list of bad words and phrases, and it, too, came up during the ACT meeting.)

Embrace the profane?

So, what will come of the term customer in higher education? Will it, like Carlin’s seven dirty words, still be the subject of angst 40 years from now? Will we still wince when we hear it used as a synonym for student?

I don’t think Niles is trying to be higher ed’s version of George Carlin. But perhaps if he makes fun of the dirty words you can’t say in academia enough, we’ll begin to laugh at ourselves a bit more, and at how much we worry about certain terms. As The Atlantic‘s Timothy Bella writes about Carlin’s shtick:

To George Carlin, the routine’s driving force and message weren’t in the ideas behind the seven words, but rather the words themselves. For the first time, someone was doing a convincing enough job of cajoling an audience into thinking that these words weren’t really so tasteless after all.

In the 42 years that have passed since Carlin’s famous rant, the media landscape has changed radically with the rise of cable TV, live-streaming and satellite radio, and the fragmentation of audiences into smaller and smaller niches. In step with those changes, the use of profanity on television has increased dramatically. All of those seven dirty words actually can be said on television, at the right time, on the right channel (usually cable) and in front of the right audience.

Perhaps, as the media landscape and the higher education landscape continues to morph over time, we will grow more accustomed to the coarse business language that is invading our academic lexicon, and customer will be as common in the language of higher education as Carlin’s dirty words are on Netflix programs.

But will the word be thought of as a profanity?

Maybe we should let the customers — I mean, the students — decide.

P.S. – For more on Brian Wm. Niles’ take on the use of the word customer in higher education, check this blog post from last summer.

Friday Five: Social media and student recruitment, according to #SocAdm14

This week’s Friday Five comes to you thanks to Mallory Wood of mStoner, who recently shared (via mStoner’s “Intelligence” e-newsletter) some key points from the 2014 Social Admissions Report from Chegg, Zinch and Uversity. In her email, Mallory shares five great data points from the research, all of which support her assertion that admissions marketers should “put your visitors (prospective students) in direct contact with current students, other admitted students, and admission counselors” through your social media channels, rather than trying to mediate the relationship through more traditional PR and marketing approaches like “second-hand stories and student testimonials.”

From the #SocAdm14 report: How often prospective students report using various social media platforms. Instagram and Twitter come out on top. LinkedIn and Snapchat are practically irrelevant.
From the #SocAdm14 report: How often prospective students report using various social media platforms. Use of Instagram exploded between 2012 and 2013.

But it would be too easy to merely repost mStoner’s five points. So I dug into the data to bring you five other interesting takeaways from that report. As for mStoner’s five takeaways, they’re embedded in this post by Michael Stoner, who got a sneak peek at the data prior to release. (He has connections.) But you should also sign up for mStoner’s Intelligence newsletter so you don’t miss out next time. That’s the intelligent thing to do.

Key takeaways: 2014 Social Admissions Report

  1. Prospective students are connecting to your institution on social media. The percentage of students who follow official social media accounts grew by nearly 47 percent between 2012 and 2013 (from 49 percent to 72 percent). That would suggest that your official social media presence is important for student recruitment.
  2. They’re checking you out on mobile, too. Ninety-seven percent of the prospective students surveyed for this report say they’ve looked at a college or university’s website on a smartphone or tablet. (OK, I did re-use one of Mallory’s bullet points. But it was worth repeating.) As the report says, “Mobile is not the future. Mobile is now.”
  3. McKayla Maroney makes a cameo appearance in the report.
    McKayla Maroney makes a cameo appearance in the report.

    But they are not impressed. According to this research, nearly two-thirds of those students who viewed our websites on mobile devices said the experience was “OK” at best or “challenging.”

  4. Ditch the mobile app. Three-quarters of the students said they wouldn’t download an app for a school they were researching. So don’t bother.
  5. They’d rather talk to students and counselors. Nearly three-quarters of students (74 percent) surveyed said it was either important or very important for them to talk to currently enrolled students in social media. Sixty-nine percent said the same about admissions counselors. They don’t care that much about talking to faculty, alumni or administrators.

Want to talk about this research on Twitter? Or see what others are saying about it? Use the hashtag #SocAdm14.