Campus Safety And Diversity: Taking The First Step

missou protest

Campus Safety And Diversity: Taking The First Step
Chris Burton
Vice President of Business Development, Greenwood Hall

Few higher education officials deny that safety is a problem on college campuses in the U.S., particularly issues of diversity, sexual assault and hazing. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, there are currently 249 open investigations related to sexual assault across the United States. Furthermore, a cursory glance of the education sector’s headlines reveal continued strains on campus race relations. And it’s not just students staging walkouts and issuing demands as faculty, coaches and board members join the debate to voice support for better safety and inclusion initiatives. Consider the following statistics:

  • 36% of students say they would not report hazing primarily because there was “no one to tell”
  • Every 21 hours there is a rape on an American college campus
  • 5% of all college students admit to being hazed
  • 40% of college students involved in hazing report that a coach or advisor was aware of a hazing event
  • Research shows that campus violence impacts student academic performance and a higher likelihood of not completing

How colleges respond to campus safety issues continues to come under greater scrutiny as campus leaders evaluate strategies to deal with growing tensions. Most administrators want to do the right thing in creating a safe campus environment. However, it is an ongoing challenge that is complicated by tight budgets and increasing scrutiny. So, how do administrators create a safe campus environment?

red line

I’d like to suggest that the first step every college should make is to establish a 24/7/365 monitored tool (website, hotline, text, webchat, etc.) where students, employees, and other members of a campus community can obtain university sponsored information on all safety and diversity related issues, seek front line counseling and referrals to campus/community resources, and anonymously make university officials aware of any inappropriate or unlawful conduct that jeopardizes the health, well-being, or safety of a campus community. Reaching far beyond simply offloading nonemergency calls, these tools can provide campus leaders the capacity to capture all incoming data on every incident, request or query, track response and resolution times, and use data to make informed decisions about resource allocation.

When looking to improve campus safety and diversity, aim to set new standards. Campus safety is not just about university police; it’s about advocacy, incident reporting, retention, education, prevention, and support resources. An investment in the right resources may prove small compared to the cost of inaction.

From “Churn and Burn” to “Learn and Earn”

From “Churn and Burn” to “Learn and Earn”
Chris Burton
Vice President of Business Development, Greenwood Hall

Look to the right of you. Then look to the left of you. One of you will not be here by the end of the year…” said many college deans during freshman orientation over the years. Today’s retention and graduation statistics remind us of this unfortunate reality in today’s higher education landscape. And while college completion remains a priority among politicians, large foundations (e.g. Gates, Lumina), and local economic development groups who need more trained individuals to fill jobs, students are not the only ones suffering.

Inside Higher Ed’s 2015 Survey of College and University Presidents found that institutions statistically fall into 1 of 3 groups regarding confidence in the sustainability of their institution’s financial model over the next 10 years. Approximately 1/3 of those surveyed agree or strongly agree that their institution has a sustainable financial model. Another 1/3 of presidents were neutral, while the final 1/3 expressed strong concerns that their institution would survive beyond 10 years. Alas, not only are students suffering the effects of poor graduate rates, but many of our great institutions are too.

In December 2015, my company conducted a “first of its kind” study of foregone tuition among Council for Christian Colleges and University (CCCU) member schools. The results revealed a significant impact on revenue. In aggregate, tuition losses for the 115 schools in our study totaled approximately $1.3B annually or about $11.0M per school. We made no attempt to include the cost of recruitment, room, board, fees or the lifetime value of alumni giving.

The solution? Retention is where real revenue is created. And a key factor in retaining students and growing revenue is not simply admitting more students, but in keeping the ones already in your midst. Or, as Neal Raisman says, “It’s time for schools to shift from admissions-concentration to an admissions AND retention focus; from churn and burn to learn and earn.” In this paradigm shift we find the truest definition of student success, where students graduate and institutions sustain their operations and accomplish their mission.

Brookings and College Rankings

Brookings

Brookings and College Rankings
Bill Bradfield
Executive Vice President of Business Development, Greenwood Hall

A good friend of mine put me in touch with a contemporary study of College Rankings done by the Brookings Institution in 2015.  The report, which is both scholarly and weighty, makes a case for changing the traditional rankings (such as US News & World Report) with a methodology that is based on economic outcomes of its graduates.  The report (http://brook.gs/1RHNKBh) makes a case…  if only for the consumer, that schools can be ranked based on a formula calculating a school’s value add as a function of actual outcomes of alumni less predicted outcomes of alumni.  And those outcomes are almost totally economic outcomes.  The Brookings folk make the case for economic outcomes as important by stating, “Earnings are a major and important measure of well-being; earnings data are relatively precise and easy to obtain; and income and other labor market outcomes have have important civic and public policy implications.”

At its very introduction, the report states, “It pays to get a college degree.  Compared to typical individuals with only a high school diploma, typical bachelor’s degree holders earn $580,000 more and associate’s degree holders $245,000 more over their careers.”  While this concept is not new, it is new in terms of the basis of college ranking.  The new approach is both revolutionary and potentially threatening to traditionalists who prefer a “softer” set of criteria…  Are you listening, US News??

The study used five key quality factors to underpin their work:

  • Curriculum Value – Based on the earnings of people who hold degrees offered by the college.
  • Alumni Skills – Based on the average market value of skills listed on alumni resumes.
  • STEM Orientation – Based on the number of graduates prepared to work in STEM occupations.
  • Completion Rates – Based on the percentage of students who finished their degree within 2X the normal time… 8 years for a 4 year degree and 4 years for a 2 year degree.
  • Student Aid – Based on the average level of financial support given by the college to the student.

Admittedly, this analysis doesn’t even begin to approach the depth of the Brookings report.  It caught my attention since it informed a suspicion of mine that, as college costs increase and outcomes become more uncertain, consumers (Moms, Dads, and students, for beginners) will become more discerning about where to spend their dollars.  Maybe the new Brookings methodology will help inform those career and spending decisions, particularly the inclusion of completion rates as a key criteria…  Would you spend $100,000 for an education if the school could only promise a 3 in 10 probability of chance of graduation and only with skills that have limited market value?  Tough question.

So, I looked a little further and found that Brookings ranked 5,000 two and 4 year schools using the methodology (http://brook.gs/1ZnmiHL).  I immediately used the listing to look up my Alma Mater, Lafayette College and found it had scored an impressive 98 (on a scale of 0-100).  That put it ahead of Penn and a solid 8 points ahead of Dartmouth College (the school that turned down my application back in 1966).  😉  Check out the listing, it’s chock-full of surprises.

How Can Colleges and Universities Persuade Prospective and Former Students to Reengage With Their Institution?

dropout factory

How Can Colleges and Universities Persuade Prospective and Former Students to Reengage With Their Institution?
Chris Burton
Vice President of Business Development, Greenwood Hall

You need tough skin when it comes to recruiting for your institution. No matter how well you craft your engagements or strategically place messaging and media, many of your prospects will express interest initially, but then become inactive (think of all those “old leads”). Or worse, they’ll enroll and then step out of their education for one reason or another (drops, stop-outs, those “taking the year off”). It’s just the nature of recruitment and retention in today’s higher education market.

However, inactive prospects and former students don’t have to be forsaken forever. Re-engagement campaigns can be a great way to reconnect with prospects and former students, and start moving them back through your funnel. I know a thing or two about reengagement from my years of experience in working for colleges and in the EdTech industry. I am ready to help find and enroll those prospects and former students whom you’ve already invested in.

Re-engagement campaigns are not just a simple one-and-done email blast to your inactive prospects telling them to finish their application, or a reminder of the deadline to reenroll for next semester. You need to invest time into planning an engagement campaign that recaptures their motivation for graduating. The most successful reengagement campaigns succeed because they involve a highly personalized touch that says we’re here to help you reach your educational goals.

Here are just a few ways you can set up programs to persuade your prospective and former students to reengage with your institution:

Incentivize
Alright, let’s be honest. I’m suggesting you offer an “incentive.” Although this is certainly not the most elegant solution, it’s often the most likely to get you results. It’s hard to say no to a special promotion, fee waiver or prioritized treatment. Remember, incentives don’t need to take a monetary form either. If you segment your lists, you should have a good idea of how to appeal to their unique circumstances or interests. Offer a piece of relevant content or suggest an online open house that falls in line with their circumstance.

Show That You Care
This is another hard one for prospects to ignore. If you cut through the impersonal nature of mass email campaigns and say, “Hey, we miss you. We want you back,” you have a good chance of eliciting a positive response. In addition to getting your students to take notice, it might also help them to see beyond your brand to the real people that are trying to reach out to them.

Empower Them
If the two ideas above seem too indirect for your style, why not simply ask your inactive prospects if you can change your contact preferences to better suit their needs? Obviously, you can’t tailor a campaign to each prospect and former student, but you can certainly send them a link to their email settings to adjust the type and frequency contact, or to give them the option to be removed from your list. Your audience always appreciates being given more control.

Touch People
Studies have shown that students attrit because they believe that the school doesn’t care about them and they get little, poor or no service. Make sure that your reengagement strategies have a high degree of personal contact, not just a “counseling function” or “center” where prospects and former students can “ask” for help. Offer help and support directly to them from professional counselors!  Pick up the phone and call them.

Next time you are feeling down about the lack of activity in your prospects, don’t despair. Instead, use a re-engagement campaign to give them a gentle nudge back in the right direction. You’ll be surprised to see how many prospects that you thought were goners were actually just waiting for you to come back around and engage them.

A Sobering Thought…College May Not Be Worth It?

drunk_homer

A Sobering Thought…College May Not Be Worth It?
Bill Bradfield
Executive Vice President of Business Development, Greenwood Hall

The average return on going to college is falling…  So begins a brief Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research paper from December 2015.  It’s a sobering warning, particularly given some of the equally sobering statistics:

  • For typical students (whoever they may be) the number of years to break even on the cost of college has grown from 8 to 9 years since 2010.
  • If current cost and wage growth trends continue, 18 year olds starting college in 2030 will only start making a positive return when they reach age 37.
  • The gap in alumni earning between colleges in the 99th percentile of scores (SAT as the proxy for selectivity) and those in the 99.9th percentile is as big as for those in the 1st percentile and the 20th.
  • Since 2009, the cost of college fees has grown 10.9% in real terms versus a .9% and -.1% change in wages for high school and college graduates.
  • Graduates from the bottom 25% colleges earn less, on average, than high school graduates.

So, all of this is “sobering” but it does foretell a potential trend in higher education…  that of a rise in consumer awareness, power and choice in higher education.  Will consumers begin earnestly looking to alternate places to get their education?  If earnings potential is low at the bottom 25% of colleges, will consumers make a conscious decision to seek another school, or another path?  Will they make such decisions about schools that have a lower probability of graduation (the national 6-year graduation rate is currently at a startling 52.9%!)?

With all the changes and challenges facing higher education, consumer awareness and threats from non-traditional suppliers (like corporate education and on-line surrogates) just add to the pile.  Education executives will need to be visionary, creative, agile and most importantly, swift in their responses to the threats.  Education is worth it.  The question is, will it be traditional colleges who provide it?

http://www.goldmansachs.com/our-thinking/pages/macroeconomic-insights-folder/what-if-i-told-you/report.pdf

We Need to Do More Than Rearrange the Deck Chairs

Titanic

We Need to Do More Than Rearrange the Deck Chairs
Bill Bradfield
Executive Vice President of Business Development, Greenwood Hall

I just finished reading the “National Student Clearinghouse Research Center Signature Report #10,” and the news is dismal.  The six-year cohort completion (read graduation rate) continued its precipitous decline down 2.1% to 52.9% in 2015.  That means that roughly half the students who entered college in the 2009 cohort failed to get a degree in six years! (I added the exclamation point as I could not find one in the NSC report…  and there should have been at least one, dang it!).  The report is lengthy and scholarly, and while a long read, it is compelling.  https://nscresearchcenter.org/signaturereport10

What is really compelling is that, despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent on software and warning systems, the student success needle isn’t moving in the right direction.  In fact, it’s moving in the wrong direction…  and at an accelerating pace.  The NSC report cited the availability of financial aid as a major factor.  Authors Shapiro et al. also stated that:

The other major factors leading to institutional departure include family expectations, lack of social integration, confusion about academic major, and academic/employment balance (Bers & Schuetz, 2014; Hunt et al., 2012). This reaffirms the importance of creating diverse opportunities for student engagement at higher education institutions to compliment [sic] completion efforts. (2015)

Well, that’s no surprise!  Social issues and not academic issues are the major cause of “institutional departure” (NSC’s phrase…  not mine).  Neal Raisman warned us of that back in 2012.  It’s not academics or availability of financial aid.  “Institutional departure” is caused by

  • Lack of customer service
  • Feeling that the education isn’t worth it (losing the dream)
  • Believing the college doesn’t care and
  • Lack of social engagement

I have written about these in past posts and I won’t belabor them here.

However, I will make an observation.  Can you imagine what would happen to a company that routinely loses half of its customers?  What would become of investors’ hopes?  Executives’ careers?  Employees’ livelihoods?  American business had that dilemma in the 1970s.  Poor customer service and the emergence of international competition devastated industries in this country (e.g. automobile, small appliances, etc.); the list is endless.

It’s time to reverse the trend of student attrition.  We are all working hard at retention, re-engagement, enrollment, and they can all be positively affected by high touch, proactive treatment of students.  It’s been proven to work and it’s time to do it aggressively before we stumble further and create a national tragedy of an ineffective workforce, unrecoverable student debt and millions of unfulfilled dreams.

Focusing on the Right Things – The Student and the Partnership

Focusing on the Right Things – The Student and the Partnership

David Ruderman
Executive Vice President, Strategic Relationships, Greenwood Hall

The Chronicle of Higher Education article “4 Problems That Can Sour Colleges’ Partnerships with Online-Education Enablers” (10/27/15) highlights “problems” that can negatively impact the success of online enrollment initiatives.

The challenges highlighted can be inherent challenges in any type of business relationship where activities are sourced to an external party.  The highlighted obstacles can be overcome with the right focus, partnership orientation, transparency, alignment of goals, and communication.

The focus always needs to be on the student:  Identifying and understanding their goals, developing a relationship and connecting them to the institution, breaking down barriers to success, and keeping them connected and engaged.  In order to achieve this, a partner needs to possess a truly holistic approach to the student lifecycle – versus just recruiting a student or delivering a program online.  There also needs to be an alignment of values and goals.  A third-party that collects a percentage of tuition may be inclined to focus on enrollment or insularly focus on a single academic program/delivery method.  On the other hand, a holistic partner that is compensated on a fee-for-service basis can naturally focus on the student’s needs and act as a conduit to multiple academic programs as well as educational delivery methods.

Transparency, communication, and a commitment to ongoing process improvement are crucial to making the partnership work between the institution and a partner.  The partner’s freedom to collectively share what’s working (or not working) to optimize marketing, recruitment, admission, financial aid, and other processes – is key.  The required transparency is an essential component of fee-for-service revenue models, but not with revenue share agreements, where long-term return on investment becomes a primary driver for the enabler.

Online enablement can and should be a partnership focused on student success – and with that success, institutional and partner success.

Dropping the Other Shoe

United States Department of Education

Dropping the Other Shoe

Bill Bradfield
Executive Vice President of Business Development, Greenwood Hall

Today’s WSJ described the most current effort to drive retention and graduation rates…  pressuring accreditors.  http://www.wsj.com/articles/arne-duncan-to-launch-crackdown-on-college-accrediting-1445382119.  I don’t have an opinion at this point as to the wisdom of such a move, but it is telling that the billions of dollars expended on higher education by the federal government has caught people’s attention.  Outgoing Education Secretary Arne Duncan summed up the issue succinctly, “Government, at both the federal and state level, along with accreditors and Congress, need to flip the current incentives in higher education. In the current system, only students, their families and taxpayers lose when students don’t succeed. That simply doesn’t make sense.”

As I said, I don’t have an opinion as to the wisdom of the actions proposed by Secretary Duncan, but I do realize that schools with consistently high attrition rates and consistently low 6-year cohort graduation rates had best pay attention.  Now that the newest shoe in the debate about school funding and accreditation has dropped, there will be increasing pressure on schools to defend and then improve those statistics.  It would appear that the WSJ analysis and Duncan’s subsequent proposals are going to force action.  Any school with a less than 30% graduation rate will be fair game.  And, over time, that target will increase to 35%, 40% and maybe 50%…  engulfing as many as half of the schools in the country.

As I have written before, almost every school has specific programs to assist them in managing retention and graduation rates.  In fact, I have seen estimates that nearly $500B has been spent on software and services to help.  But to date, the results have been anecdotal.  Few schools, and the purveyors of retention solutions, can point to quantitative results.  In essence they may have saved specific students but few can point to a 20% increase in overall graduation rate.  It can be done and with a great ROI, and if Mr. Duncan’s plans are implemented, that ROI will do nothing but improve.

So, it’s time for schools to get serious about retention and graduation.  Buying software generally is nothing more than “checking the box” of retention.  Programs need to have specific metrics and internal culture needs to be changed to one of “service.”  Measures of success of such initiatives need to be specific and verifiable.

The sky isn’t falling, but the shoes are dropping.

It’s All Connected

It’s All Connected

Bill Bradfield
Executive Vice President of Business Development, Greenwood Hall

Great article in the NY Times yesterday [October 07, 2015] on the ongoing student debt/default problem facing higher education and the nation. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/08/upshot/student-debt-is-worse-than-you-think.html?ref=education&_r=0

The teaser is that it is “worse than you think.”  Not only are the numbers worse, but the “system” conspires to exacerbate the problem.  It’s no surprise that schools with a poor 6-year cohort graduation rate also have troublesome default and non-repayment rates.  So student retention is one of the culprits here, right?  Well sure, but to fix that we need to look at the existing enrollment processes, student support services, financial aid support services and student lifecycle management.  It’s all connected.

I have written before about Neal Raisman’s work on student retention.  He has been a paragon in the crusade to resolve student retention (defined as 6-year cohort graduation rate).  And he has developed a formula to define the cost of student attrition.  What that means is schools can calculate an ROI for their retention activities.  Which means they can now justify student retention activities and actually fund them internally.  Students that don’t graduate will struggle to repay loans.  It’s the next housing bubble.  It’s time to invest in retention.  Raisman is a good place to start.  He contends that over 80% of the reasons that students fail is poor service from the schools, not believing that school is worth it, and that the college doesn’t care about students.  Look to the school’s enrollment management, engagement and student services functions.  Often problematic but always pretty fixable.

In the past week, I have read articles on two major US University Systems raising their tuition.  In one case, the System is comprised of 9 schools.  Seven of those schools have 6-year cohort graduation rates of less than 40%.  In that System, it means that $150M in tuition alone walks out the door… annually!  In a second, larger System, I did the calculations and was surprised to find that more than $400M in tuition revenue potential exits annually.  A 5% increase in retention would have negated the need for the tuition increase and undoubtedly improved the default and repayment rates.  It’s all connected.  The numbers are easy to calculate and for some schools, it’s the elephant at the table.

If we want to fix the student loan problem, we need to get diplomas into the hands of students (and provide better employment opportunities).  To get those degrees completed, we need to fix the student retention problem.  And the path to do that is pretty easy to see, just hard to execute.  It’s all connected.

The Frogs are Boiling!

Big Frog

The Frogs are Boiling!

Bill Bradfield
Senior Vice President of Higher Education Partnerships, Greenwood Hall

Years ago I read Peter Senge’s book, The Fifth Discipline.  There was a lot of valuable insight and advice to companies facing an uncertain future.  Most memorable was his invoking of the time worn story of the “Boiled Frog.”  The core tenet of the story is that organizations react to rapid changes in their environment (a frog thrown into a pot of boiling water will immediately leap to safety while a frog in a pot that is gradually heated will react too slowly and boil to death).

I was reminded of this story while reading the following article in Inside Higher Ed this week:  https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/09/28/moodys-predicts-college-closures-triple-2017.  Moody’s predicts small colleges will triple their closure rate.  The article thoughtfully places the blame at declining enrollment (and I would add atrocious retention and 6-year graduation rates).  While there are vigorous defenses and vociferous refutations of Moody’s predictions; such as the spirited statement, “Schools will do anything to survive;” such statements don’t do much to build confidence that the schools are actually doing what is necessary to survive.

Decision-making on college campuses is notoriously slow and cumbersome…  and it probably needs to be given the contemplative nature of school governance.  But, for many of these schools the water in the pot is heating up rapidly.  I would contend that for many it has already reached the boiling point.  Schools need to rapidly do the kinds of things that will increase revenue, sustain revenue and reduce operating costs…dramatically.  And many of them need to do it now!  Today!

Increasing revenue is a function of enrollment management…  getting students into seats!  Sustaining revenue is a function of assertive and effective student retention programs…  giving students the service and care they deserve.  Reducing operating expenses is a function of resolve at eliminating those things that don’t progress the school’s mission or differentiation…  not fun, but it’s a necessary component and one which American business learned dearly in the 1980s in the face of international competition.

Fortunately, there are models in the market in which the enrollment, retention and cost issues have been beaten.  In short, education leadership teams need to look to the market for help and good models.  They need to make bold moves to get out of the pot.  It may not be fun.  It may not be glorious.  But, it beats the alternative.