This summer marks a decade since Waybetter’s founding. In that time a lot has changed in the industry of higher ed undergraduate enrollment. Notably, we’ve faced (and continue to face) increasingly tumultuous economic, demographic, and cultural upheavals that have made the work of recruiting individual students significantly more difficult. That’s the headline.
Warren Wilson College has been a Waybetter client for going on three years. Tucked into the impossibly beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, its unique approach to undergraduate education combines work, service, and academics to create a student experience like no other. But matching its unique offering with the prospective students who will most benefit from it has never been easy: they're a small school that draws nationally but without historically reliable feeder schools, even in their home state.
This year, however, things are really looking up. Here's Janelle Holmboe, Warren Wilspon's VP of enrollment & marketing, talking about how they're turning the tide.
Husson University has been a Waybetter client for about two years, and the truth is, they're crushing it. We're very proud of the role we play in their efforts, but they're also really good at a lot of things that have nothing to do with us—they're priced well, they grow the programs that students want, they hire the right people, and, most importantly, they work really, really hard.
Here's a longish interview with the folks in charge there. It's wide ranging, and it's a pretty rare, up-close look at how a school that's in a tough demographic region has been able to thrive.
Now that we have a couple weeks' distance on it, we thought it might be useful (and fun) to reach out to Waybetter's partners and get their reflections on their May 1 progress this year. We also asked them to provide a little advice to their counterparts at other institutions.
Back in February, Inside Higher Ed hosted the first iteration of its 2018 Leadership Series—a planned slate of single-day conferences, each devoted to a specific issue sitting heavy on this industry’s collective shoulders.
The topic of the inaugural conference, “Higher Ed in an Era of Heightened Skepticism,” couldn’t have been timelier.
If you’ve read Dale Carnegie’s classic self-help book How to Win Friends and Influence People, you know it contains a million takeaways for today’s modern marketer. After all, the whole thing is essentially about getting other people to do what you want them to do—the marketer’s basic function.
That last sentence isn’t exactly a fair representation. Because what makes Carnegie’s book so great is that his whole strategy for influencing people is never even remotely self-centered. Instead, the point he makes over and over again is that in order to win people over (to win their loyalty or their business) you must pay careful attention to their needs and then figure out ways to meet them.
When you do this—when you follow empathy with relevance—you gain friends, allies, and yes, even prospective students.
In a historically difficult time to be recruiting traditional undergraduate students—and in an especially difficult region of the country to be doing so—they’ve had tremendous success. How much success? They brought in the largest freshmen class in school history each of the last two years.
Like many folks in this line of work, I inquire at colleges and universities all over the country. This means I get viewbooks, postcards, brochures, emails, and all manner of other marketing collateral delivered to my home and office just about every single day.
Rarely do I see anything that’s objectively bad. Until, that is, application and visit season start up in the fall. Then things get dicey, not from a design or copywriting point of view necessarily, but from an actual marketing point of view.
And a few other uncomfortable observations about the relationship between marketing and enrollment, the budget, and who gets to spend it.
So let’s say this May has you falling short of your goals, and let’s say that trajectory continues, and come the first day of classes this fall, the numbers do end up being worse than you’d like. What can you do? How can you begin to turn the tide? First, it will help if you can fully embrace three fundamental truths about higher ed enrollment...