The following combines information from government and standardized testing company resources, years of experience with college fairs/marketing, working with, against, and in spite of school administrations, direct consumer-query challenges to college admissions teams, and that acquired via numerous other strategies employed to understand the business of college education.
The school colors are green and gold. The pom-poms shake and free gifts are offered generously at the Fall college fairs. Prospective students and their families are offered free tickets to home football games with one hand, and marketing or application materials with the other. The high school counselors scurry around the gym, their faces glowing, proud of the events they coordinated.
Two days later, the newspaper reports the contents of an interview with a local university President. The President quite reluctantly responded to queries about the school’s very poor graduation rates, the high percentage of students they allow to matriculate into remedial courses (paying full tuition to take non-college credit classes), and regarding their apparent failure to work with the regional high school systems so that their incoming students are better prepared for college work.
Interestingly, if you look at historical student performance statistics, for the vast majority of schools these findings are not new (good or bad). What may be new is that increasing numbers of prospective applicants are looking at graduation rates, the average number of years taken to graduate, the average post-graduation student debt, and school-assisted job placement effectiveness. Unfortunately, under duress, college administrations are casting blame upon the students.
Of course, too many students reach campuses believing that every week should include sports entertainment and elements of contemporary “Animal House” experiences, with a modicum of adjustments for the schools’ specific missions, the local environments, and reflecting the class profiles. In spite of which, most incoming students actually understand the true objectives of their attendance.
Admissions committees are professionals, as are those employed to teach, counsel, perform research, manage finances, and provide all other academic, administrative, and social support. By history, the institutions know exactly who they recruit and accept; their student body profile. They know the student body strengths as well as the distribution of academic, social and financial challenges they will face with their students. As such, by accepting the students and their money, they are implying (if not willing to explicitly state): “We are able [in every manner] to successfully instruct, educate, develop, graduate and deliver these student-customers to quality positions in the market.”
Colleges and universities have not been effective for a long time. Corporate 401K’s aside (LOL), into what other services would you invest so much money in the face of such poor product outcomes? Colleges and universities do not employ customer service departments, many have no or woefully inadequate student retention programs, and they would not even be able to define the role of “Escalation Manager” in any manner unrelated to bills-collection, public media relations, or legal interface. The average school graduates only fifty percent of its students in six (6) years. And, most students cannot afford to spend more than six years in college, thereby never graduating unless attending part-time and working part-time.
Neither do most schools wish to be accountable to “helicopter parents” who want to be kept in the “progress loop” regarding more than unpaid bills. Instead, schools refer to students as adults, their progress private information, unless a bill goes unpaid. Most college administrative leaders are unwilling or unable to explain the shortcomings of their business models. The educational institutions simply blame the failures on the students and all those associated with them (family, guardians, associates, prior educational systems, and so on).