Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

August 2013 Archives

St. John Fisher College... Collegiate Learning Assessment test leads to the Wall Street Journal front page

How does a "small liberal arts school near Rochester, N.Y." that's ranked #151 among national universities by U.S. News and World Report make it to the front page of the Wall Street Journal? 

When I opened the August 26 WSJ on a flight to Denver this week the "Colleges Set To Offer Exit Tests" story caught my attention right away. Turns out 200 schools (neither the print nor the online article has a list) will offer the test to graduating seniors next year as a way to demonstrate their abilities to skeptical employers who don't put much trust in a GPA level. Grade inflation and all that.

You can read the story online under the "Are Your Ready for the Post-College SAT?

The lead quote for why this exit test is a good thing comes from David Pate, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences: "The students will be able to use it to go out and market themselves." 

A New Tool to Compare Colleges and Universities

My most immediate thought: imagine some students taking this test at St. John Fisher and scoring higher than students who take the test at one or more of the top 10 highest ranked national universities. Or for that matter, one of the top 50 schools. That just might be an employment opportunity equalizer.

What we have is the emergence of a new comparison tool if enough schools adopt the exam. If institutional results of a test like this becomes widespread the test will inevitably become another way for potential students (and parents) to measure one school against another. And that's not a bad thing if the comparisons are between schools with similar entering student profiles. (For an evaluation of CLA methodology and accuracy, see "The Collegiate Learning Assessment: Facts and Fantasies")

In the market place we need ways that people looking for the school that's best for them can evaluate the array of possibilities, from offerings to costs to outcomes. The Collegiate Learning Assessment is one more way to do that. 
  • According to the CLA website the test "measures critical thinking, problem solving, scientific and quantitative reasoning, writing, and the ability to critique and make arguments." 
  • One use for the results: "Graduating seniors can also use their verified scores to provide potential employers with evidence of their work readiness skills."
USA Today Adds to CLA Visibility

USA Today gave additional exposure later in the week in a story entitled "Post-college exam seeks to determine employability."

This story names more schools that will use the test with graduating seniors:
  • University of Texas system
  • Flagler University
  • Stonehill College
  • Marshall University
That's an interesting mix of institutional types. Check a map with pins for schools who have used an earlier version of this exam in the past for internal assessment purposes. In the future, how many of these schools will use the exam specifically for seniors? And how many will release overall results for public comparison? 

CLA: A Valid Part of the College Selection Mix

If collective results like this for various schools were public, they would inevitably become a new part of the marketing of higher education. And that's not a bad thing. Let future students (and their parents) decide how much weight to give to the results. But give them the opportunity to add the results to their decision-making mix.

That's all for now.
Subscribe to "Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter" for monthly marketing news and notes and weekly Link of the Week selections.

Join 6,300+ people and follow me on Twitter

Conferences in November
  • November 5-7, Aarhus, Denmark: J.Bloye Web & Intranet Conference, "Writing Right for the Web" tutorial and "A Need for Speed: Responsive Design in a Mobile World." Check the entire program here.
  • November 10-13, Boston: AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education. Pre-conference tutorial on "Digital Marketing Strategy: Building Brand Strength and Enrollment." Visit the Symposium website.

August greetings to everyone and especially to new subscribers from the ACT Enrollment Planners Conference and eduWeb2013. 

The eduWeb conference ended last week and you can find an eclectic collection of my 6 top marketing take-away points online in a new blog post at 

Slides from my eduWeb workshop "Advertising Online: Strategy and Tactics for Enrollment Success" are on SlideShare at 

ACT presentation slides for "Increasing (or Decreasing!) Inquiry Conversion: Best and Not-So-Best Email Marketing Examples" are also on SlideShare at 

My conference season is over until November, when I will take Writing Right for the Web overseas for the first time to the J.Boye Web and Intranet Conference at in Denmark. Then I will push jet lag aside for the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education and a digital marketing strategy tutorial at the next week. Hope to see many of you in Aarhus or Boston.

And now here are your marketing news and notes for August.
Search Trends in Higher Education: New Google Report

Google is reporting a 4 percent increase in searches related to higher education over the past year, a sign of increased demand. Areas of highest growth include: public universities offering MOOCs and geo-searches for programs at schools close to home. Searches for MBA degrees did not grow but this remains the highest search topic overall.

Flat over the past year: searches that include for-profit universities.

Higher education searches from mobile devices increased 49 percent.

Read more about what search can tell us about interest in higher education in the article by Jessica Lee at 
Enrolling Low Income Students: NY Times Calls Out "Some Elite" Schools for Lack of Effort

The NY Times makes as assumption here: many wealthy universities with high endowment levels should be enrolling more students with Pell Grants than they are now doing. Why are Pell Grant levels not higher? Some schools just do not work hard to get them higher.

Vassar, Amherst College and Emory University, with Pell Grant enrollment levels over 20 percent, get high marks. Washington University in St. Louis and Washington and Lee University, with Pell enrollments under 10 percent, do not do nearly as well. 

Check to see how your school compares after you read the article at 
Website Load Times: Getting Slower, not Faster

Here is the latest update on a dangerous marketing trend: websites are getting slower to load rather than faster. That is a special problem as more people use mobile devices to access websites.

If you need more ammunition to make speed a priority for your website, add the article by David Moth to your list and highlight the note that an increase of 1 second in download time makes conversions drop 7 percent. More at 

If you have to trade beauty for speed, go for speed.
Cost and Revenue Solutions in Higher Education: The NACUBO Conference

Chief business officers are busy exploring new ways to raise revenue and control costs. Possible options include expanding outsourcing of operations not directly related to education, from housing to arena management to endowment investing. The discussion is built around the premise that the current business model for higher education is broken. 

Down at the bottom of an InsideHigherEd report is a note on one area that remains a third rail untouched by business officers: increasing faculty work load. 

For more on the scramble to increase revenue and lower cost, read the NACUBO report 
Reluctance to Pay: High Income Parents Spending Less on Higher Education

You know many colleges and universities face a difficult future when even high income parents show increasing reluctance to meet higher prices for a college degree.

Schools with powerful brand positions will not suffer nearly as much as second-tier private sector schools trying to control tuition discount rates. The bubble might not be about to pop but news like this tells us it is leaking air.

More about the recent Sallie Mae research is reported at
Social Media: Facebook Activity by Community for July

The reality: most Facebook fans will never see the items posted on their favorite pages. A much smaller percent actively engage and even fewer than that pass along stories about what they see.

Average percent of fans reached by a Facebook post varies between 10 and 20 percent depending on how many fans you have. If something is important, post it twice a day for increased visibility. 

Check more on Fans Reached, Engagement, and Storytellers by community type at
Viral Marketing in Higher Education: A Survey

Cameron Pegg at Griffith University is running a survey on viral marketing practices in higher education and is seeking responses from people around the world for a presentation at an Australian higher education marketing conference.

Complete the survey now at to get a copy of the results after the survey.
The Conversation Prism: Great Map to Social Media

Way back in 2008 Brian Solis crafted the Conversation Prism to sort out the primary purpose for the almost infinite number of social media sites that existed then. Now Brian is back with a 2013 update that sorts sites by three primary roles according to how people use them: Adapting, Listening, and Learning.

Download a digital version in the size that suits you (or even order a printed poster version!) 
Most Popular Topic in July Newsletter: Sliders and Carousels on Home Pages

Most popular topic in the July newsletter made me smile: "Get rid of those sliders and carousels" starts with data from University of Notre Dame. 
Director of Web Initiatives: Oberlin College

Oberlin is searching for a person to lead their web team within the communications division. Applications are due August 6. Details of the opening are at 
Conference Director: Academic Impressions

Academic Impressions, offering conferences, webinars and more to higher education professionals, has an opening for a Conference Director. Details are at 
New Conferences Presentations in 2013

November 5-7, Arhus, Denmark: "Writing Right for the Web" tutorial and "A Need for Speed: Responsive Design in a Mobile World" at J.Boye Web and Intranet Conference. Details at 

November 10-13, Boston: "Digital Marketing Strategy: Building Brand Strength and Enrollment" tutorial at AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education at 

Plan a custom presentation on your campus. Host a workshop on any of my conference presentation topics. Contact me at or call me at 248.766.6425.
Higher Education Marketing Notes from eduWeb13

Just back on Wednesday from the latest eduWeb conference in Boston. And here are some notes important to higher education marketers that linger in my memory from various keynote talks and presentations. A disclaimer: order of presentation doesn't equal order of importance, just the way my memory is working as I write.

Presidents on Social Media Can be Magic for Your Brand

  • Presidents who take naturally to social media and make time to use it to engage in a personal way with students, faculty and the outside world at their university really do have a marketing impact on brand strength and more. That's the major take-away from the opening address by Santa Ono, president at the University of Cincinnati. 
Responsive Design: Do Everything You Can to Cut Content First

  • The best presentation I've heard yet about a Responsive Design solution to get your website "mobile friendly" came from University of Vermont, "From Mobile Last to Mobile First: A Pragmatic Approach to Responsive Design." 
    • The most important point: if you have a large, bloated website for the big screen that's what you'll have on the small screen after you finish applying RD to the site. Great slide of a large cat forcing itself into a small box. Alas, starting with a "mobile first" attitude is rare since it requires serious content reduction to work well.
International Students: The Flow to the U.S. Will Shrink

  • Jeff Selingo speaking to major points from his new book that actually are not new anymore but need to stay in the public limelight. As he says, he wrote this book for parents and college-bound students not higher education professionals. The more people in his primary audience read it, the more the higher education establishment will change. I hope.
    •  As is often the case, one of more interesting long-term points came during the questions after the talk: expect the flow of international students to the U.S. to shrink to all but the highest ranked universities as schools in China, India and elsewhere become stronger. Not tomorrow, but in 10 years we'll see a difference.
E-Expectations Survey: Still a "Must Read" for Marketers

  • The annual presentation of the latest Noel-Levitz E-Expectations survey of college-bound high school students. More questions on survey questions and results this year than usual, but this remains a "must-read" collection of data. 
Your Marketing Plan: Revisit and Revise Every 3 Months

  • Ken Bonham from the Lucid Agency at the closing keynote reminding everyone of the incredibly fast way that online marketing is changing. If you don't revisit and update your marketing plan quarterly, you are losing to those who do. 
    • Old-style planning, and especially annual reviews and adjustments? Dead.
Retargeting Advertising Increases Yield to Enrollment

  • Valuable experience-based comments from people at my workshop on online advertising:
    • Retargeting works to increase yield from potential students who have visited your website but not taken an action at that first visit.
    • Advertising on Pandora produced leads but conversion rates from those leads were not as high as from other sources. Not a reason not to try Pandora ads, but a red flag to monitor results and compare value for money with other sources.
    • The ideal online advertising world: you have enough organic traffic to your website that retargeting is the only advertising you have to do to meet enrollment goals. Probably a dream.
eduWeb14 in Baltimore

eduWeb14 is next year in Baltimore, August 4-6. Plan now to attend.

That's all for now.
Subscribe to "Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter" for monthly marketing news and notes and weekly Link of the Week selections.

Join 6,300+ people and follow me on Twitter

Conferences in November
  • November 5-7, Aarhus, Denmark: J.Bloye Web & Intranet Conference, "Writing Right for the Web" tutorial and "A Need for Speed: Responsive Design in a Mobile World." Check the entire program here.
  • November 10-13, Boston: AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education. Pre-conference tutorial on "Digital Marketing Strategy: Building Brand Strength and Enrollment." Visit the Symposium website.

Bob Johnson
Blog Contents
Recent Entries Categories Monthly Archives