Friday, April 26, 2013

College's Strengths and Weaknesses?

The recession refocused companies on the bottom-line in a more straightforward way, and a broad review of policies across the corporate landscape revealed a dramatic rollback in tuition benefits and limited government funding. Many companies have capped tuition benefits at $2,500 per year, federal and state grants have been cut and the requirements to qualify are restrictive and cumbersome.  Colleges get enrollments from employees using employer tuition benefits and government grants, but with reductions, this has caused a longer period of time to complete their Education, because they reach into their own pocket to pay the remaining tuition, or they delay completing their Education until the following year, when they can draw on the next year’s tuition benefit or government grant replenishment.

 One tactic to work around this problem is to increase the college’s business outreach capabilities to deliver programs and services directly to more corporate clients.  Many firms are still investing in employee training and development, but they have taken the latitude to map out a professional development plan away from their employees.  We also noticed the company’s need to build selective, strategic college relationships by developing student – employer pools, participating in Advisory Boards, Foundations, and Event Sponsorships.  This involves bringing in college providers under the focused company supervision of the firm’s human resources or organizational development office. Colleges have been developing these capabilities, but it is no quick fix.

It is crucial to network – through college marketing, public relations, corporate training centers to reach out to prospective corporate clients. They build landing pages on their web-site, and continue to refine it. Some have done some data-mining in their enrollment system to find firms that have sent meaningful numbers of students into our programs in the past, as a first step toward some targeted outreach.

Not to mention it takes months colleges to think through the curriculum for the new year, reviewing student comments about our courses, inviting instructors to return, recruiting new ones, updating courses, reviewing and revising syllabi, taking apart a sequence of courses, putting it together in new ways, then assembling marketing materials and media plans. When a corporate client wants a customized program for its employees, colleges need to respond in days, an accelerated pace more familiar to consultants and for-profit competitors.

This all takes expertise, time and a commitment of resources.  Yet the prospect is so attractive, that colleges take on these challenges, and accept the additional costs of promoting their offerings to this segment of the marketplace.  But the hope is that, in the end, colleges can reconnect with an audience with which we are at risk of losing contact. 

We believe this approach will require a new way of doing business.  The college needs to continue to build upon their strengths but more importantly manage their weaknesses.  Thus, is the college stronger at developing and providing the educational needs of the business or are they stronger at promoting and marketing their training/educational products and services? 

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