Current Issues

Competing with the For-Profits

Posted on February 20, 2009

A cornerstone of our new Strategic Plan has to do with making our enrollment efforts competitive with the best of the for-profit competition we increasingly face.  In our search for a new Vice-President for Enrollment Management we are looking for someone who understands the new world of lead generation and scoring, web optimization, call center conversion strategies, and more.  We are quite open to candidates from the for-profit world, even as we seek to improve the already high quality of our academic programs (a quality the market associates with not-for-profits like SNHU).  I believe that if we can offer the right programs in the right ways and can equal or better the competition when it comes to service, students will choose SNHU over Phoenix or Kaplan.

Our thinking about this matter caught the attention of the folks at Target X.  See the e-mail that went out nationally today (and yes, that’s SNHU he’s discussing):

From: TargetX [mailto:[email protected]] On Behalf Of TargetX
Sent: Friday, February 20, 2009 12:01 PM
To: Jill
Subject: The Recruitment Minute: Raise your hand if you’re in sales

“Get comfortable with these terms,” Brian Niles often tells enrollment officers. “You’re in sales; the students are your customers; you and your institution are engaged in marketing.”

It’s still not easy for many admissions professionals to accept the notion that their school is really a business, and that they are no longer counselors helping students navigate the winding path to their ideal college.

The reality lesson the TargetX CEO includes in presentations around the country was dramatically reinforced in a job description issued recently by a college in New England.

The title of the position is VP of Marketing and Enrollment Management. Interesting, but not all that unusual as more and more schools recognize the critical role marketing plays in student recruitment. The really significant part, according to consultant Susan Hallenbeck, is in the details:

The successful candidate “will be asked to play a particularly important role in bringing the best operational and recruitment practices from the for-profit sector, especially on-line recruitment with real-time data-driven strategies, call center support, and a strong sales orientation.”

Moreover, according to the description, the strongest candidate will be currently serving as vice president at a “for-profit (ideal) or not-for-profit college or university with a record of outstanding enrollment growth and student retention.”

Hallenbeck, a former admissions dean and VP of enrollment management, notes that the New England college is a not-for-profit. “I would not typically have thought that it would describe itself or its ideal candidate in such bold, sales-oriented terms,” she writes in her blog. “Which then made me wonder — do Kaplan, Phoenix, Strayer and some of the other for-profit and aggressively marketed institutions finally have some competition from the traditional side of the fence?”

That would make Brian Niles very happy.

To read Hallenbeck’s observations, visit:

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