Ray and I just got back from NACAC’s annual meeting in Baltimore. It was a great chance to see 4,000 of our closest friends in the field of higher ed admissions. While Baltimore’s Inner Harbor was beautiful and sunny, the overall mood of the conference was a bit cloudy.
Everyone (and I mean everyone) was talking about the economy in ways I haven’t heard in a long time. Did you make your class? How hard was your endowment hit? How much did you have to adjust your discount rate? Can you pay for this round of drinks, Paul, I don’t have any petty cash.
But what everyone thinks are the problems aren’t really the problems at all.
The problem isn’t really the economy. The economy simply accelerated the problems that have been slow-roasting for the past ten years.
The problem isn't really affordability. Affordability itself is on everyone’s mind, but its impact goes far beyond the financial aid office. Here’s what we can (and should) expect from your prospects:
- - they are applying to more schools
- -they are seeking (and expecting) more financial help
- -they’re leaning toward publics
- - they’re considering schools that are closer to home (and online)
- -they’re interested in majors with clear job prospects
The solution isn't really a stronger brand, smarter leadership team or deeper discount rates. (although these help). This year, it’s all about relevance. Your courses, your professors, your career placement, your learning environment and, yes, your financial value. How relevant are they? Are your key messages rooted in these answers? Because this is what will differentiate you, make you more attractive to prospects and help you thrive in this economy.
Please keep this in mind because next year in St. Louis, the drinks are on you.