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Recruiting students is a numbers game

Yesterday, I wrote about recruiting students away from for-profit colleges. Clearly, students who consider for-profit colleges don’t understand the finer points of college costs. These institutions seek out low-income students simply to tap into federal Title IV funds. Title IV funds include Direct Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan, Direct Graduate PLUS Loan, Direct PLUS Loan, Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG), Federal Perkins Loan, and TEACH grants. Some Title IV funds don’t require repayment – like Pell Grants.

For-profit colleges frame these Title IV funds as “scholarships,” however most “scholarships” are loans that students must repay. Students who complete degree programs often find themselves unprepared for employment. Students who don’t complete degree programs find that their credits don’t transfer to other schools. They also end up mired in significant student loan debt, which they cannot repay.

Recruiting students means providing them with real information

If prospective students need an understanding of the costs and benefits of college, that’s the approach that WCC should take to recruiting students. WCC should frame every degree and certificate program in terms of how much each program will cost the student, and how much they can expect to earn after graduation. The analysis should also include data on a student’s employability with a given degree. Further, WCC should identify all transferable credits in each degree program.

Giving students the tools they need to understand their return-on-investment up-front is the best way to market academic programs. If WCC expects a student to spend $7,500 on a degree program, then the student should understand how much that degree will deliver. They deserve to have tools that help them gauge how employable they are in the local market. And where other WCC graduates with the same degree are working. Providing information like how many program graduates are actually working in their fields can help sell classroom seats.

Performing that kind of analysis on degree programs would also create the basis for a continuous improvement process. WCC shouldn’t offer programs that don’t deliver a demonstrably higher earning potential to its graduates. Educated consumers need to know how specific degree programs translate to employment and compensation in the local market.

If WCC wants to excel at recruiting students, educating the consumer works on two strategic levels. First, it helps students understand what they will get from a WCC degree. Second, it also provides a way to compare WCC to other possibilities. In other words, it teaches students how to evaluate their education options using reasonable bases – costs, employability and earning potential.

Recruiting students requires more effort than constructing lazy advertising campaigns. Students need to know what they’re buying.

Photo Credit:, via Flickr