Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

December 2008 Archives

In a market sensitive response to present and impending economic constraints, two colleges have already announced that they will not increase tuition in 2009.

  • Merrimack College trustees voted December 9 to hold tuition steady while also increasing financial aid by $1 million... and they're receiving good press coverage. Read the official announcement at http://tinyurl.com/8ukzwk and the example of good press.
  • Benedictine University moved even earlier when trustees approved a similar freeze on October 16. The announcement is at http://tinyurl.com/7jej32

Of course, this is not the step that most schools want to take. For now, the standard response is that "we're studying the situation and we'll announce something next year."

What other schools do may well depend on their real or perceived strength in the market place and the action of others in their peer group. But expect pressure to rise for more tuition freezes. Or, as one respondent to President Michael Roth's October blog entry at Wesleyan University wrote, "Since so many students and families are struggling in these difficult times, I would hope that there will at a minimum be a freeze in tuition, or even consideration to a decrease for next year."  

Private colleges and universities have benefitted from the easy availability of credit, especially home equity loans, these past few years. They've been able to raise tuition above inflation rates, while average family incomes have not risen relative to inflation and many have declined. That's over now. Done. Gone.

Will Merrimack and Benedictine be early adopters or just isolated examples? We'll know the answer to that between now and March 1. And it just may well depend on what admissions people are reporting to their presidents between now and then as the student recruitment cycle unfolds.

 

Way back in the 1990s, we advertised regularly on radio for "adult" students for evening and weekend programs. The result was constant phone calls from media reps promoting "reach"... the ability to have a seemingly infinite number of people in an urban area hear our ads at an insignificant per-person cost.

The trouble with "reach," of course, is that reaching people who have no special interest in what's being advertising doesn't make much sense. Much better to pay more money for the initial contacts if the result is more inquiries that convert to more enrollments. "Reach preachers" never wanted to talk much about conversions. Not their responsibilty.

That's why Steve Rubel's article today in AdAge  ("How Digital Media Will Deliver Tangible Results) struck a special note. Steve is writing about "reach devaluation" in the digital age. Here's what he says:

"Although advertisers increasingly are exploring other metrics, i.e. engagement and reputation, reach still rules -- at least for now. Unfortunately, reach is slowly losing its value as media consumption increasingly moves deeper into the digital realm.

"Where in the analog age we might be loyal to a given media brand, today's consumers are far more agnostic. We're more likely to dip into an array of online sources including traditional news sites, blogs and social networks -- and often via search or social networks.

"All of this diminishes the entire concept of reach. After all, if a site claims that it reaches millions but they're all just drive-bys, do such figures truly matter? In the years ahead, advertisers will rethink reach and not pay nearly as much for it as they did when they bought media based on a rate base and/or circulation. This will create tremendous disruption for media companies as they have to shift to new ways to prove their value."

Traditional agency media people no doubt agree with Rubel that the devaluation of reach is "unfortunate." But it isn't. In the digital era, online advertising and our analytics software gives us the ability to track and measure results in a way that only direct marketers welcomed in the 1990s and earlier. And that, especially in a time of diminishing advertising resources, is only a good thing.

 

The news came first on the radio driving to Marshall last night on my trip back from CASE V in Chicago... ironic perhaps that I'd just that morning done a "Writing Right for the Web" workshop that holds up direct marketing and journalism as two precursors of an effective web writing style.

The Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News (two parts of the same corporate conglomerate) will end most home delivery of the newspapers next year, citing increased costs for fuel, ink, and news print. And, no doubt, continued shrinking of the advertising income.

Just a symbol of the economy in Michigan? Hardly. The news report quoted a high level person whose name escapes me now that it was time to get heads out of the sand and take a major step in recognition of the changing ways that people get news.

Then came an email from David Anger, editor of the Free Press, to home subscribers, citing two major reasons for the change:

  • "First, the newspaper industry must completely transform its way of doing business in order to survive. With generations of readers and advertisers using digital media more and more, we simply cannot continue to bear the cost of delivering the ink-on-paper newspaper every day.

    "Second, we need to invest in new ways to deliver information digitally, whether on our Web site or on the mobile devices so many people carry now. The changes we're announcing will enable us to do that. We need to move even more rapidly into the digital age."

And so the transformation of how we get our information continues, away from print and toward the online world. These newspapers may be leading the way on the home delivery front, but others certainly will follow.

For college and university marketing, the change highlights the ongoing shift away from newspaper advertising and toward organic search optimization and online advertising.

I've read the Free Press since arriving in Michigan in 1973. Always, right after the front page headline, the comics were the first attraction. But that's changed within the last few years, as the size of most strips was reduced to tiny print matching shrinkage of the page size of the paper itself.

Life will go on. Major news headlines will appear each morning as the laptop comes to life. And there's Yahoo2Go on the smartphone for headlines anytime, anywhere when the connection works.

The Free Press editor's message to subscribers is 
here. 

No, the Boston Globe didn't use the "viewbook" word in the opening paragraph of a 14 December article, "Point, click, match" at http://tinyurl.com/6qj6br

But it was clear that the reference in the opening paragraph to "glossy brochures" having the impact of "so much junk mail" was meant to dramatize the increasing shift away from reliance on printed materials as a source of information in the college selection process.

Many people are still hesitant to recognize the extent of the shift away from traditional recruitment materials. If that were not the case, my mailbox wouldn't be nearly as full as it was throughout the recent summer and fall recruitment months.

The article highlights the plethora of websites that exist now to replicate a social media environment. Students get "real" info about colleges, while colleges can either advertise on the sites or buy the names of participating students for direct contact in a new "search" variation.

Eduventures provided one of the most telling stats in the article, that 40 percent of college-bound students used Google or another search engine to start the college search process. Expect that number to grow.

As college fairs and "glossy brochures" fade into memories, the role of the campus visit will remain critical for many people. Critical questions still revolve around "fit" with the right college. Despite the continuing increase in "stealth" applicants, Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube won't replace the value of a live visit before a final decision is made. But people will come to those visits primed with more real information than ever before. Overly programmed student tour guides will have about as much impact as junk mail. 

Have you been to your RateMyProfessors listings lately?

 



Early this afternoon I had the pleasure of participating in an Eduventures panel discussion on "Recruiting in a Digital Age: The Evolving Nature of Search."

My 15-minute section was on the role of Web Analytics. It was an interesting exercise to select from a 75-minute presentation the key slides to work with today.

At the end came a question from the Eduventures audience that I'd not thought of before... "How often should web analytics reports be reviewed?"

Review Web Analytics Weekly

The answer: Weekly, or about as often as most deans and directors of admissions review inquiry stats. Why once a week?

In today's digital age, potential students search for the right college online in the now proverbial "stealth" fashion that hides identity for a long time, often until the point of application. In that context, tracking the number of new visitors to selected web pages is an important supplement to the weekly counting of new inquiries.

Key Steps to Key Data

  • Make sure the analytics program is set to filter out internal use of the site, so that your tracking reports are only based on new visitors.
  • Get stats to identify the admissions section pages most frequently visited by new visitors in the past 6 months and select the highest for weekly tracking. (Do a google search for your own school and note the 6 alternate entry points that you'll see there. Future students and parents will have a choice of bypassing your main "home" page and going directly to "admissions" or "prospective students" or "academic programs.")
  • Be sure to check the pages for your most popular academic programs. Many students with strong interest in a particular program will head direct for your section on architeture or engineering before (maybe) doubling back to admissions.
  • Ideally, you can access the analytics reports from within the admissions office. If you're not sure, check to see if that's possible. If it isn't, then ask IT for reports on just the 2 to 5 most important pages on the site. That's enough to serve the purpose: is interest in my college or university increasing or decreasing over what it was a year ago?
  • Start saving the results. After the first year, you'll be able to review new web visits in the recruitment cycle so that you know if interest is increasing or decreasing.
  • In addition to the number of new visitors, ask for the "bounce rate" as well. That's the term Google Analytics uses to tell you what percent of visitors leave a given page without moving on to another. If your bounce rate for new visitors on key admissions pages is over 50 percent, you have a problem. You probably need to rework that page after at least informal usability testing to help identify the problems.

That's it for now. More later on the value of web analytics and how they can help measure success in student recruitment. 

Starting a new Customer Carewords program for the University of Hertfordshire that will focus on improving the Intranet site for faculty and staff today made me think about how relatively few colleges and universities make a clear distinction between an intranet and a site designed for the external world.

That failure really does restrict online marketing progress. Often as I review websites in the guise of a new student exploring a site for the first time, for instance, I find myself stumbling into financial aid and student housing and activities pages that were obviously planned for people already at the school.

The same is true for many (most!) academic program sites with content that clearly was not designed for potential students, particularly potential undergraduate students not versed in the language used by those who hold a Ph.D. in a particular discipline. Too many of those folk are beloved of mission statements that only the initiated could possibly appreciate.

Establishing an Intranet designated for the use of faculty and staff and another for currrent students might bring much greater clarity to planning web content. Marketers would be free, indeed compelled, to pay attention to presentation of content designed for potential students. And the risk that those students would get lost in information of no value to them early in the college selection process would decrease greatly.

The result would be the ability to implement the results of marketing oriented Customer Carewords research free of the restraints imposed by having to be all things to all audiences. The marketing strength of college and university websites would soar. 

Back in web medieval times, chat rooms and message boards were considered cutting edge communication tools. Do they still have a role to play in this era of extraordinary interest in social networking sites?

Let's consider one example of a message board at University at Buffalo. The "Ask Admissions" message board is alive and well and serves an important marketing research role. What questions are asked? How often do people view them?

A quick visit today shows responses to 13 topics so far in December. And of those topics (is this a surprise?) by far the highest interest area was "Tuition, Room, and Board" at 170 views. For comparision, the next highest view count was 76 for "Check the status of your application."

Does the use rate tell us that message boards still have a role to play in online communications? My gut tells me they do. Visit, scan the topics and the view counts, and make your decisions.

As financial constraints grow at colleges and universities everywhere, I expect more schools to focus on incremental benefits for their websites that don't require the large expenditures the come with significant re-design efforts.

Right at the top of those increments should be a continuing focus on improving the style and presentation of copy on website pages. Without at least one position dedicated to that effort, progress isn't going to be rapid.

Here's a new description sent by Kimberly Slover, director of communications at Colby-Sawyer, to ad to the collection already available under this topic at the blog. Use them to craft something similar that fits best with your needs.

Writer/Editor

This position, which reports to the Director of Communications, will support the college's efforts to communicate with key constituencies through compelling narrative writing and dynamic web and electronic communications.

Duties and Responsibilities

  Serve as editor and writer for the college's online magazine, Colby-Sawyer Currents.

  Provide editorial support and direct assistance to a large network of campus Web editors.  

  Work collaboratively with Enrollment and College Relations, Information Resources and external consultants to ensure that the college's Web site conforms to usability, editorial and identity standards.

  Work collaboratively with the Director of Communications to establish web strategies and priorities for site development based on the college's marketing goals.  

  Collaborate with college offices and departments to create and enhance  departmental web pages.

  Supervise, train, and serve as editor for a staff of student writers of varying skills levels. 

  Share responsibility for researching, writing, and disseminating news releases and other communications.  

  Contribute news and feature articles to the college's magazine.  

  Work with the Director of Communications to maintain cooperative relationships with local, regional and national media.

Qualifications 

  Bachelor's degree in English, liberal arts, journalism or related field with strong writing and editing skills .

  Significant experience as a writer and editor with strong feature and news writing skills and excellent editing and proofreading skills.

  Experience with web content management systems and PhotoShop preferred.

  Basic understanding of cgi scripts in web forms, ability to utilize templates to manage site-wide design.

  Experience in an academic, marketing, public relations or media environment.

  Demonstrable professional interpersonal and presentation skills for frequent contact with college constituencies and media.

  Strong planning and organizational skills. Ability to juggle multiple projects and meet publication deadlines.

  Ability to maintain confidentiality of all proprietary and confidential information.

  Physical requirements do not extend beyond administrative office functions in a fast-paced environment.

  Will include extended periods of keyboarding at a computer monitor.

  Limited regional travel may be required to accomplish some assignments.

As 2008 comes to a close, it is time to revisit ancient verities. And this night, that means a visit to the latest (2007) rendition of Jakob Nielsen's major problems that plague websites. In the midst of the craving for social networking sites, it isn't a bad idea for everybody to step back and ask themselves how their "official" college and university websites rank against Nielsen's list.

If your website doesn't rate well against most of these criteria, then it isn't playing a strong role in your marketing efforts. Remember... most potential new students will first contact you at your website.

Here are the "Top 10" (yes, he should have used the number 10 in that headline rather than the word) as they appeared in 2007. The list with additional definition and Nielsen's comments is at http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9605.html

    1. Bad search
    2. PDF files for online reading
    3. Not changing the color of visited links
    4. Non-scannable text
    5. Fixed font size
    6. Page titles with low search engine visibility
    7. Anything that looks like an advertisement
    8. Violating design conventions
    9. Opening new browser windows
    10. Not answering users' questions

Over the past year of reviewing college and university websites, here are the 5 mistakes that stand out the most.

  • Search... Subjectively, this seems a bit better than a year or two ago,  but not nearly as strong as it should be. Test your site for terms like "scholarships" and popular academic programs and then decide if you'd be satisified with the results if you were a potential new student making a first visit. More often than not, you'd fail this test.
  • PDF files... It still amazes me how many print versions of alumni magazines and annual reports are placed online as PDF files in the expectation that people will actually read them in that format, switching back and forth in page size so that sometimes a entire photo is visible and sometimes the print is large enough to read. The good news? Online print viewbooks as PDFs are disappearing.  
  • Non-scannable text... Most web page still can't pass the 5-second rule: can a visitor to the page connect with the major content heading and subheads in just a few seconds or do you force people to read a dense block of text to find out what's on the page? Welcome messages, press releases, and academic program descriptions are likely culprits in this area. Every page on your website should have bullet points and subheads that make it easy to scan the content.
  • Fixed font size... Many websites today give people the chance to adjust the font size on the pages. Plan to add this feature soon. Remember the rule: "Don't make people squint" to read your text. Don't guess the right size. Let your visitors adjust.
  • Page titles with low search visibility... Use services like Free Wordtracker Tool at http://freekeywords.wordtracker.com/ before you decide between terms like "graduate degrees" and "masters degrees." When you can, select words and phrases that are most often used to search for web content.

Those are the major elements that stand out from my 2008 website reviews. In 2009, mobile marketing and social networking sites will continue to draw major attention, as they should. But let's not forget to strengthen basic elements at official websites to create the strongest possible first impression when a potential student first comes knocking on the door. 

December greetings to everyone as the snows fall early in southern Michigan. Two things rank high in higher education marketing news these days: concern over the impact of the economy and plans to take better advantage of the boom in online education. You'll find items on both of those areas in today's newsletter, as well as the "regular" advertising and marketing selections.

On November 3 I started a Twitter site at twitter.com/HighEdMarketing for brief notes and links to higher education marketing topics from the email that I read every day. Take a few seconds to scan what's there now and decide if you want to follow along.

After a hiatus, my "college and university marketing" blog is back online with a new URL at www.bobjohnsonblog.com/ If you had an RSS feed for the old version, please create a new one for this edition. Your favorite categories continue, with two or three new editions. After two weeks on Twitter, it is a pleasure to write regular sentences and paragraphs again.

The eduWeb 2009 conference is offering a special registration discount for people who can commit by the end of December to the July event. Details are at tinyurl.com/5kwynm

And now here are your marketing news and notes for November.
_______________________________________
"Real" College Experiences at Communiversity

College-bound students have another social networking center to get "real" information on what life is like at colleges and universities. Communiversity registers people in one of four categories: alumni, current students, prospective students, and visitors.

The site connects people with content at YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook and gives a prominent boost to Twitter as well. People are encouraged to tell us about life on their campuses. Check to see what's online for your school on the "A to Z" alphabet bar at the bottom right of the page.

A quick review shows the usual range of YouTube videos from the idiotic to the sublime. A privacy statement implies that those who register will receive offers of interest to them. We'll see what comes along after my registration as a future student.

Visit www.communiversity.com/
___________________________
Public and Private Colleges and Financial Aid Awards

Financial aid awards remain a definite part of an overall marketing plan, especially at private colleges. That's the obvious conclusion from a new NACAC survey summarized in an Inside Higher Education report.

Something to watch over the next few months is the possible growth in "gapping" awards if demand for aid indeed outstrips the supply. Despite the increases in early decision applicants recently reported, prudent colleges will plan for a reduction in loan availability and therefore a possible need to spread their own grants and scholarships more thinly than in the past. It will be an interesting time between now and May 1.

Details of public and private practices are at www.insidehighered.com/news/2008/11/26/aid
____________________________
4 Private College Presidents Talk Money

How realistic are the statements of college presidents about the impact of the current economy on future enrollments and college and university budgets?

Decide after you watch 4 college presidents in a Chronicle of Higher Education video interview at chronicle.com/media/video/v55/i15/economy/?utm_source=at&utm_medium=en
____________________________
"College Cost Central" from NAICU

Especially if you're in the private sector, stay connected with events and opinions on the economy and the future of higher education at NAICU's College Cost Central website page.

The basic message hasn't changed: people should not exclude private colleges without first exploring real vs. sticker costs. A somewhat unreal note: an October 29 NAICU statement stresses that the average tuition increase this year of 5.9% was "only" a real increase of 0.3% when adjusted for inflation. That might be true, but it isn't significant for families whose incomes did not increase at all.

Monitor the ongoing reports at www.naicu.edu/news_room/college-cost-central
_______________________________________
Impatient Illinois Trustees Boost Online Learning

When Joseph White first became president at University of Illinois not long ago, he planned to start on online education division that would enroll 9,000 students and create $10 million in new revenue for the university. Resistance by faculty at some university locations, including the flagship campus, kept that from happening. Today, 150 students are enrolled in 5 degree programs.

And so the trustees have just voted to seek independent accreditation for an online learning program, while first expanding courses under the accreditation umbrella of University of Illinois-Chicago. From a marketing perspective, that makes great good sense as the demand for online learning explodes. Details of the continuing adventure are at tinyurl.com/5qmd5w
_______________________________________
And Minnesota Expands Online Learning Initiatives

Colleges and universities in Minnesota are being encouraged to expand online learning opportunities. What's the goal? By 2015, Minnesota students will earn 25 percent of their college credits in online courses.

To get early traction, the governor is proposing a $150 scholarship bonus for scholarship-level high school students who complete at least one online course before graduating. The proposal would require all Minnesota high school students to complete an online course by 2013.

Read more about the incentives at www.mnscu.edu/media/newsreleases/current/article.php5?id=72
_______________________________________
2008 NSSE Results from 722 Schools

Results for the National Survey of Student Engagement are available now in a 52-page PDF at
nsse.iub.edu/NSSE_2008_Results/

For the 2008 survey, 722 colleges and universities participated. One key finding should boost the academic credibility of online learning: "Students taking most of their classes online report more deep approaches to learning in their classes, relative to classroom based learners. Furthermore, a larger share of online learners reported very often participating in intellectually challenging course activities."

The report includes the names of the school participating. Survey results can help craft accurate, realistic marketing messages. If your NSSE results are not public information on your campus, be sure to ask about them.
_______________________________________
Top 10 International B-Schools

Business Week is out with a 2008 list of the top 10 international business schools. Queen's University in Canada again leads the list, and two other Canadian programs are also included.

See the detailed results on an interactive chart at bwnt.businessweek.com/interactive_reports/mba_intl_2008/index.asp?chan=magazine+channel_in+depth
_______________________________________
New Product Reviews for Colleges and Universities

College and university product reviews are starting to appear on the Yelp site, under the "Education" heading. The Washington, D.C. "Education" listing starts with a cooking class at Sur La Table but also includes reviews for Georgetown University. If you sort by sub-categories, you can get right to "Colleges and Universities."

Yelp is promising "Real People. Real Reviews" at www.yelp.com/dc based on city searches across the country. In Boston, for instance, MIT has 42 reviews, followed by Boston University while Boston University has 31 and Emerson College with 14 comments.
_______________________________________
Google Answers Search Optimization Questions

People at Google, including Matt Cutts, answered a variety of search-related questions during a recent interview reported at WebProNews.

If you have a deep interest in some of the more esoteric aspects of search optimization, you'll enjoy reading the results at
www.webpronews.com/topnews/2008/11/10/google-answers-some-tricky-questions

Back in the real world, continuing paying close attention to your page title tags, primary headings, links, and the way you write your content. And always remember this key point: if you have content that interests almost nobody, it is unlikely that it will interest search engines either.
_______________________________________
Twitter as Marketing Tool

Since starting my Twitter count just a few weeks ago, I've noticed a growing number of colleges and universities using this to update interested people from current students, faculty, and staff to alumni and friends on what's happening on campus. Right now, a very small percent of Internet users are also Twitter users. And there's a real gap between serious information and the personal "this is the flavor of coffee I had today" tweets.

If you are wondering whether or not to add Twitter to your marketing communications mix, read Website Magazine's article, "Twittering with Consumers," that lists 4 key points about effective Twitter contacts. Perhaps the most important: be prompt in responding to anyone who asks a question in response to one of your tweets. Twitter is a rapid-fire medium and if you can't assign someone to post and monitor every day, then it is best not to start.

Read more at tinyurl.com/64dmas
_______________________________________
Email Metrics for Successful Marketing

Email marketing is still effective. And while overall open rates have decreased in the past year, the open rate for "Education/Training" email has increased.

Other general reports of interest: Sunday and Monday are good days to send email; shorter subject lines lead to higher open rates; personalization in the subject line decreases open rates but personalization in the main text increases click-through numbers; one-third of all email is opened in the first two hours after receipt.

You'll find much more information than this in a new 35-page report, "Email Marketing Metrics."

Read an overview of the report at www.clickz.com/showPage.html?page=3631648 and follow a link in the second paragraph to download the no-cost, no registration document.
_______________________________________
2008 Sloan Report on Online Education Trends

If you are seriously planning on online education marketing initiative, then your "don't miss" reading includes the 28-page 2008 report from Babson College and the Sloan Consortium at www.sloanconsortium.org/publications/survey/pdf/staying_the_course.pdf
_______________________________________
Faculty Incentives for Online Learning

For an overview of approaches to create greater faculty participation in online learning initiatives, see the Inside Higher Education review at www.insidehighered.com/news/2008/11/18/online
_______________________________________
Advertising on Social Networking Sites

What do people think about ads on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace?

Ted McConnell is described as Procter & Gamble's "digital guru" and he's not an advocate of running ads on Facebook no matter how accurately marketers can target the ads. That, he believes, violates the reason people participate in Facebook in the first place and therefore isn't a good marketing strategy.

He does believe there is a marketing role for social networking sites. McConnell's thoughts on how to make that work are at adage.com/digital/article?article_id=132606
____________________________________________
That's All for Now

Be a marketing champion on your campus.

Bob Johnson, Ph.D. (bob@bobjohnsonconsulting.com)
President and Senior Consultant
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC
__________________________________________
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Increase your online marketing success with these 6 services.

• Customer Carewords Research with Gerry McGovern
• Writing Right for the Web On-Campus Workshops
• Marketing Communications Website Review
• Competitive Website Reviews
• Content Copywriting Services
• Usability Analysis

December greetings to everyone as the snows fall early in southern Michigan. Two things rank high in higher education marketing news these days: concern over the impact of the economy and plans to take better advantage of the boom in online education. You'll find items on both of those areas in today's newsletter, as well as the "regular" advertising and marketing selections.

On November 3 I started a Twitter site at twitter.com/HighEdMarketing for brief notes and links to higher education marketing topics from the email that I read every day. Take a few seconds to scan what's there now and decide if you want to follow along.

After a hiatus, my "college and university marketing" blog is back online with a new URL at www.bobjohnsonblog.com/ If you had an RSS feed for the old version, please create a new one for this edition. Your favorite categories continue, with two or three new editions. After two weeks on Twitter, it is a pleasure to write regular sentences and paragraphs again.

The eduWeb 2009 conference is offering a special registration discount for people who can commit by the end of December to the July event. Details are at tinyurl.com/5kwynm

And now here are your marketing news and notes for November.
_______________________________________
"Real" College Experiences at Communiversity

College-bound students have another social networking center to get "real" information on what life is like at colleges and universities. Communiversity registers people in one of four categories: alumni, current students, prospective students, and visitors.

The site connects people with content at YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook and gives a prominent boost to Twitter as well. People are encouraged to tell us about life on their campuses. Check to see what's online for your school on the "A to Z" alphabet bar at the bottom right of the page.

A quick review shows the usual range of YouTube videos from the idiotic to the sublime. A privacy statement implies that those who register will receive offers of interest to them. We'll see what comes along after my registration as a future student.

Visit www.communiversity.com/
___________________________
Public and Private Colleges and Financial Aid Awards

Financial aid awards remain a definite part of an overall marketing plan, especially at private colleges. That's the obvious conclusion from a new NACAC survey summarized in an Inside Higher Education report.

Something to watch over the next few months is the possible growth in "gapping" awards if demand for aid indeed outstrips the supply. Despite the increases in early decision applicants recently reported, prudent colleges will plan for a reduction in loan availability and therefore a possible need to spread their own grants and scholarships more thinly than in the past. It will be an interesting time between now and May 1.

Details of public and private practices are at www.insidehighered.com/news/2008/11/26/aid
____________________________
4 Private College Presidents Talk Money

How realistic are the statements of college presidents about the impact of the current economy on future enrollments and college and university budgets?

Decide after you watch 4 college presidents in a Chronicle of Higher Education video interview at chronicle.com/media/video/v55/i15/economy/?utm_source=at&utm_medium=en
____________________________
"College Cost Central" from NAICU

Especially if you're in the private sector, stay connected with events and opinions on the economy and the future of higher education at NAICU's College Cost Central website page.

The basic message hasn't changed: people should not exclude private colleges without first exploring real vs. sticker costs. A somewhat unreal note: an October 29 NAICU statement stresses that the average tuition increase this year of 5.9% was "only" a real increase of 0.3% when adjusted for inflation. That might be true, but it isn't significant for families whose incomes did not increase at all.

Monitor the ongoing reports at www.naicu.edu/news_room/college-cost-central
_______________________________________
Impatient Illinois Trustees Boost Online Learning

When Joseph White first became president at University of Illinois not long ago, he planned to start on online education division that would enroll 9,000 students and create $10 million in new revenue for the university. Resistance by faculty at some university locations, including the flagship campus, kept that from happening. Today, 150 students are enrolled in 5 degree programs.

And so the trustees have just voted to seek independent accreditation for an online learning program, while first expanding courses under the accreditation umbrella of University of Illinois-Chicago. From a marketing perspective, that makes great good sense as the demand for online learning explodes. Details of the continuing adventure are at tinyurl.com/5qmd5w
_______________________________________
And Minnesota Expands Online Learning Initiatives

Colleges and universities in Minnesota are being encouraged to expand online learning opportunities. What's the goal? By 2015, Minnesota students will earn 25 percent of their college credits in online courses.

To get early traction, the governor is proposing a $150 scholarship bonus for scholarship-level high school students who complete at least one online course before graduating. The proposal would require all Minnesota high school students to complete an online course by 2013.

Read more about the incentives at www.mnscu.edu/media/newsreleases/current/article.php5?id=72
_______________________________________
2008 NSSE Results from 722 Schools

Results for the National Survey of Student Engagement are available now in a 52-page PDF at
nsse.iub.edu/NSSE_2008_Results/

For the 2008 survey, 722 colleges and universities participated. One key finding should boost the academic credibility of online learning: "Students taking most of their classes online report more deep approaches to learning in their classes, relative to classroom based learners. Furthermore, a larger share of online learners reported very often participating in intellectually challenging course activities."

The report includes the names of the school participating. Survey results can help craft accurate, realistic marketing messages. If your NSSE results are not public information on your campus, be sure to ask about them.
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Top 10 International B-Schools

Business Week is out with a 2008 list of the top 10 international business schools. Queen's University in Canada again leads the list, and two other Canadian programs are also included.

See the detailed results on an interactive chart at bwnt.businessweek.com/interactive_reports/mba_intl_2008/index.asp?chan=magazine+channel_in+depth
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New Product Reviews for Colleges and Universities

College and university product reviews are starting to appear on the Yelp site, under the "Education" heading. The Washington, D.C. "Education" listing starts with a cooking class at Sur La Table but also includes reviews for Georgetown University. If you sort by sub-categories, you can get right to "Colleges and Universities."

Yelp is promising "Real People. Real Reviews" at www.yelp.com/dc based on city searches across the country. In Boston, for instance, MIT has 42 reviews, followed by Boston University while Boston University has 31 and Emerson College with 14 comments.
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Google Answers Search Optimization Questions

People at Google, including Matt Cutts, answered a variety of search-related questions during a recent interview reported at WebProNews.

If you have a deep interest in some of the more esoteric aspects of search optimization, you'll enjoy reading the results at
www.webpronews.com/topnews/2008/11/10/google-answers-some-tricky-questions

Back in the real world, continuing paying close attention to your page title tags, primary headings, links, and the way you write your content. And always remember this key point: if you have content that interests almost nobody, it is unlikely that it will interest search engines either.
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Twitter as Marketing Tool

Since starting my Twitter count just a few weeks ago, I've noticed a growing number of colleges and universities using this to update interested people from current students, faculty, and staff to alumni and friends on what's happening on campus. Right now, a very small percent of Internet users are also Twitter users. And there's a real gap between serious information and the personal "this is the flavor of coffee I had today" tweets.

If you are wondering whether or not to add Twitter to your marketing communications mix, read Website Magazine's article, "Twittering with Consumers," that lists 4 key points about effective Twitter contacts. Perhaps the most important: be prompt in responding to anyone who asks a question in response to one of your tweets. Twitter is a rapid-fire medium and if you can't assign someone to post and monitor every day, then it is best not to start.

Read more at tinyurl.com/64dmas
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Email Metrics for Successful Marketing

Email marketing is still effective. And while overall open rates have decreased in the past year, the open rate for "Education/Training" email has increased.

Other general reports of interest: Sunday and Monday are good days to send email; shorter subject lines lead to higher open rates; personalization in the subject line decreases open rates but personalization in the main text increases click-through numbers; one-third of all email is opened in the first two hours after receipt.

You'll find much more information than this in a new 35-page report, "Email Marketing Metrics."

Read an overview of the report at www.clickz.com/showPage.html?page=3631648 and follow a link in the second paragraph to download the no-cost, no registration document.
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2008 Sloan Report on Online Education Trends

If you are seriously planning on online education marketing initiative, then your "don't miss" reading includes the 28-page 2008 report from Babson College and the Sloan Consortium at www.sloanconsortium.org/publications/survey/pdf/staying_the_course.pdf
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Faculty Incentives for Online Learning

For an overview of approaches to create greater faculty participation in online learning initiatives, see the Inside Higher Education review at www.insidehighered.com/news/2008/11/18/online
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Advertising on Social Networking Sites

What do people think about ads on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace?

Ted McConnell is described as Procter & Gamble's "digital guru" and he's not an advocate of running ads on Facebook no matter how accurately marketers can target the ads. That, he believes, violates the reason people participate in Facebook in the first place and therefore isn't a good marketing strategy.

He does believe there is a marketing role for social networking sites. McConnell's thoughts on how to make that work are at adage.com/digital/article?article_id=132606
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That's All for Now

Be a marketing champion on your campus.

Bob Johnson, Ph.D. (bob@bobjohnsonconsulting.com)
President and Senior Consultant
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC
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Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

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