Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

Recently in Link of the Week Category

Detailed Transylvania "Affordability" Page Combats Sticker Price Shock

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Higher education analysts often decry the "sticker price shock" that many people have when they start their college selection journey and compare degree costs at public and private universities. Why don't people understand that at private colleges and universities the "sticker price" is not what most people pay?

One reason is that few colleges and universities directly attack the sticker price problem on their websites with detailed "affordability" content. Today's Link of the Week selection is a rare exception.

The "Affordability" page link receives prime placement on the home page, directly under the opening image with a large "Quality + Affordability" heading. Follow that path and you'll arrive at a page that gets right to the point: potential students likely are "worried about paying for college."

Easy-to-scan graphics

The content directly attacks the sticker price problem with a series of graphics that include:
  • The family incomes of people attending.
  • The sticker cost compared to other "top 100" liberal arts schools.
  • The progressive cutting of that sticker price with merit awards, grants, and loans.
  • A lower-than-average debt load of about $27,000 at graduation.
  • A low loan default rate of just 2.4 percent.
  • A much higher 4-year graduation rate than at public universities,
If the page is successful in reducing cost fears for people who make this their first stop from the home page, there are links to either complete an application or review available academic programs at the end of the page.

On Mobile

Alas, the page does not fare well on mobile, where a lower than usual 39/100 for Speed combines with a 91/100 "User Experience" rating from Google PageSpeed Insights after the page loads.

Follow the Link of the Week

Start your review of how one private-sector university is making a serious effort to fight sticker shock when you visit the Transylvania University "Affordability" page from the home page link.

Original Link of the Week Page
 
Regular readers will notice that we are again posting a Link of the Week selection within the blog. I've decided to continue posting new Link selections here. Each week's description is available to future visitors and the blog, unlike the website, is searchable.

To review earlier selections for 2016 and previous years, visit the this Link of the Week page.



Skipping the "Reset" Euphemism, A College Announces a "Tuition Reduction"

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Throughout the United States over the past few years a small number of private-sector colleges and universities have decided to withdraw from the tuition discount race to lower actual net cost to students in favor of a substantial reduction in the tuition list price.

Most schools doing this have been reluctant, perhaps even afraid, of describing this move in public as "cutting" or "reducing" tuition. Often the change is called a "reset" to a lower level.

Today's Link of the Week selection caught my attention because of the big and bold announcement of the change on the home page as "We're Reducing Tuition" with a link you cannot miss to a page that explains the details, including a video from the president of the college and an ad featuring students.

The college does make clear that enrollment is not a problem, with full-time enrollment as high as it has ever been. I have not had a chance to seek out the tuition discount rate before the change and that is not mentioned on the website.

Many higher education professionals complain that too many people do not understand that the official sticker price is not what they will have to pay at most private colleges and universities. Too many of those same schools fail to provide strong "affordability" content that lets potential students know just what the net price might be.

In that context, lowering tuition makes great good sense for many schools. The College of Saint Mary deserves special praise for describing the change as clear as possible right from the start... "We're Reducing Tuition".

On Mobile

Alas, the College of Saint Mary home page scores a low 43/100 for Speed on Google PageSpeed Insight and a lower than normal 90/100 for User Experience. 

Once the home page does download, the tuition reduction message is prominent but not as bold as when viewed from a large screen device.

Follow the Link of the Week

To see how one college announces a tuition reduction, start at the College of St. Mary home page.

Original Link of the Week Page

Regular readers will notice that we are again posting a Link of the Week selection within the blog. I've decided to continue posting new Link selections here. Each week's description is available to future visitors and the blog, unlike the website, is searchable.

To review earlier selections for 2016 and previous years, visit the this Link of the Week page

6 Task Links + Search Dominate the Home Page

One of the latest fads in higher education web design is the use of video views where a static hero image once went at the top of the page. Most of the ones I've seen show similar scenes that do little to differentiate one school from another. The result is a distraction from the primary reason people visit a home page: to leave it as quickly as possible to complete a task.

Bellarmine University indeed has a similar video display on the home page. But I barely noticed it because imposed over the campus scenes in large "you will see this in 5 seconds or less" text are 6 key links important to potential students:
  • Apply Now
  • Schedule a Visit
  • Net Price
  • Virtual Tour
  • Majors & Programs
  • Watch Video
If you don't think those links will take you on the right path to task completion, just below them is a large "Search for programs, events, and more" search box. This feature reminded me of another Link of the Week pick this year, the home page at Xavier University

On Mobile

The Bellarmine home page scores a respectable 66/100 on Google PageSpeed Insights for Speed and a strong 96/100 for User Experience.

While I was not able to show the mobile home page here, be sure to visit on your smartphone. You can't miss the 6 task links as the page first opens, an excellent use of the power of words to help potential student visitors move along to relevant sections of the site. 

Follow the Link of the Week

To see how one university dares to be different, visit the Bellarmine University home page.

Original Link of the Week Page

Regular readers will notice that we are again posting a Link of the Week selection within the blog. I've decided to continue posting new Link selections here. Each week's description is available to future visitors and the blog, unlike the website, is searchable.

To review earlier selections for 2016 and previous years, visit the this Link of the Week page


Making Website Life Easier for Faculty & Staff and Students

Faculty and staff are more dissatisfied with college and university websites than any other group using them. Current students are not far behind.

That's been the result of every CCI (Customer Centric Index) satisfaction survey that we've done with faculty over the past 10 years. The primary reason has always been the same: confusing menus and links make it difficult for people to find and complete their top tasks on a website. 

William & Mary may have the solution in the highly visible link paths that start on the "myWM" page. Just below entry points to Banner and Blackboard are 12 links that likely are of use to both faculty and students. 

Just to the right of those 12 links are large "you can't miss this" boxes leading to "Faculty & Staff Links" and "Student Links."

High Visibility for Key Link Collections

Faculty and staff can follow their path to a page with links grouped under 7 headings:
  • Academics & Research
  • Working at W&M
  • Technology
  • Campus Services
  • Professional Organizations
  • Wellness & Safety
  • News & Events
Current students have 9 headings. Some duplicate those for faculty & staff, some are unique. All promise an easier pathway to task completion. 

If you were doing a top task research project, most of the links you'll find here would be included in the survey to sort out the top 3 to 5 that always exist from the rest. Those could appear at the top of the faculty & staff and student pages, above the rest for even faster access. Meantime, this is a fine alternative.

On Mobile

On Google PageSpeed Insights, the page receives a relatively high 71/100 for Speed and a strong 98/100 for User Experience. The mobile site skips the rotating photos that open the large screen version. Those images contribute to an unusually low 63/100 "Desktop" score. Removing them would position the key links even higher on the page.

Follow the Link of the Week

To review a strong presentation of the links that make website life easier for faculty & staff and current students, visit the William & Mary "myWM" page at http://my.wm.edu/

Original Link of the Week Page

Regular readers will notice that we are again posting a Link of the Week selection within the blog. I've decided to continue posting new Link selections here. Each week's description is available to future visitors and the blog, unlike the website, is searchable.

To review earlier selections for 2016 and previous years, visit the this Link of the Week page.


3 Personal Motivational Topics at Entry Page for Online Students

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Most higher education websites don't do an especially good job of connecting on a personal level with potential students searching the site. Today's Link of the Week differs from most others in two important ways:

  • Generous use of the "you" word in an informal writing style that starts in a heading as the page opens and speaks directly to a concern of many "adult" students: "Continuing your education without putting your life on hold."
  • Motivational options that let potential students move along to content focused on their primary reason for returning to school:.
The 3 motivational options you'll seen in large blocks appear under the heading "Everyone has a reason for going back to school. What's driving you?"

  • To Fulfill My Passions
  • To Advance My Career Path
  • To Earn a Bigger Paycheck
This truly is one of the rare times that a college or university admits that simply earning more money is a motivation worth recognizing.

On Mobile

Google PageSpeed Insights reports that smartphone visitors will experience a slow download Speed (41/100) followed by a high User Experience (99/100).

Follow the Link of the Week

See the content that appears after each motivational topic when you visit the Regis University entry page for Degrees and Programs for Working Adults

Original Link of the Week Page

Regular readers will notice that we are again posting a Link of the Week selection within the blog. I've decided to continue posting new Link selections here. Each week's description is available to future visitors and the blog, unlike the website, is searchable.

To review earlier selections for 2016 and previous years, visit the this Link of the Week page.




Bob Johnson
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