Thursday, August 28, 2008

New Book The Power of Retention Tells Colleges how to Retain More Students Through Academic Customer Service

New Book The Power of Retention Tells Colleges Academic Customer Service is the Key to Improve Learning and Graduation Rates of Students

Too many colleges and universities do not realize students are their clients in a very unique business called higher education. Too many seem to really believe the old joke “this would be a great place to work if it weren’t for the students”. As a result, colleges and society both lose when 72 percent of students quit prior to graduation due to poor or weak academic customer service. Students and their families lose large sums of money and the chance for a better life through a good career. Colleges lose money from lost tuition and the need to spend even more to replace the students who quit. And the society loses educated workers and individuals who could make contributions to the economy, sciences, medicine and our culture.

But this can stop if colleges learn how to provide good academic customer service as discussed and prescribed in The Power of Retention; More Customer Service in Higher Education, the new book by international academic customer service and retention expert Neal A Raisman., PhD published by The Administrator’s Bookshelf.

In the follow-up book to his best selling book Embrace the Oxymoron Raisman explains how students decide to attend and stay or leave a college based upon academic customer service. “After assisting over 240 schools in the US, Canada and Europe and listening to 1000’s of students, one thing is absolutely clear” Raisman says. “Students and their parents have a consumer approach to education starting with bargaining over the tuition sticker price all the way through a collective set of expectations for a return on their emotional and financial investments. Today’s students expect a greater level of service than ever before. And if they don’t get it, they’re off to another college down the road or on-line.”

“But it is not the customer service of a store but of academia, of education. In a store someone goes in buys a shirt and leaves. Easy to be nice to someone for five minutes. Students and parents are buying and investing in a future life at a college. Buying decisions are made every day, every class, and every experience so the demands are always higher. That requires a very different, more sophisticated relationship building to retain a student through graduation and into the alumni donation years.”

Raisman discusses how today’s college students are members of the ME generation as well as how that changes the way we must work with them to retain them in college. He also explains how academic customer service is not like any other leading to 15 principles that are unlike those of business. These include The customer is not always right. Just ask any student who has taken a test and Every student wants to attend Cheers University and every employee wants to work there.

Raisman also provides practical formulas for determining the real dollar value of retention as well as many down to sensible and inexpensive how-to’s that can be easily applied such as learning from Captain Kangaroo; how to survey a market for real results; overcoming phone rudeness; dealing with the way students communicate; Gordon Gee’s bowties; ten steps to a more secure campus and how to make students more compliant and enthusiastic learners so teaching can be fun again.

The Power of Retention: More Customer Service in Higher Education by Neal A Raisman, PhD can be obtained through the Administrator’s Bookshelf ( ) ($27.95 + $4.95 S/H)

The Administrator’s Bookshelf provides publications and seminars for new and seasoned academic administrators at all levels of college operations with practical, convenient and quickly applicable information and direction on how to perform, deal with or achieve success in the tasks and chores of being an administrator. 207-713-7130

We are always looking for good books and booklets on topics of interest to college administrators and managers. So If you have a topic to suggest contact


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Making the Glow of Move In Day Last

Students are starting to arrive on campus. And most every college is doing all it can to make the arrival day welcome big and hearty. Presidents are walking around greeting students and parents. A few may even help carry something in. Administrators are on hand doing the same. At some schools faculty are around to help out too. And of course, student ambassadors are everywhere helping, pointing, guiding and smiling to try and make the move in easier and friendly. Great start. Sort of like drop off day at summer camp feeling.

Too bad it is like Tom Lehrer’s line in his song National Brotherhood Week. It’s only for a week so have no fear. Be grateful it doesn’t last all year. If he were singing about move in, it would be Thank god it only lasts a day and not all year. As it should!
Yup, as the last parents drive away, their tears drying, it all ends. The president goes back to his or her office. Administrators too. Now faculty will be available for classes and help when needed. The student ambassadors wash their polo or tee shirts and put them in a bureau to be pulled out at the next organized move in or orientation day. But the excitement and happy welcome end.

Dumb move.

The days after move in day are some of the most important there are to build retention. They are the days the real anxiety builds. When the real work of college starts for students. When they need the most help. Where is building….? Where do I go to….? Who is the one to see for…..? How do I…..? My laptop needs and where ….? Do I need to….? And so and on.

But this is when we have decided to let the news students sink or swim; if they can figure out where the pool is on campus and how to get a locker. And what do I need to bring to use it and what are the hours and….and…. The jolly helpful crew is only out there on the day we have labeled move in. That is the easiest day of all. It is just schlepping in stuff, material stuff. Now when the new students need to set up the psychological stuff, we are not there to help enough. And it is the emotional concerns that will be coming into play when the reality of I am here and where is that and will I fit in and like this place an did I choose the right place. I feel so all alone and I’m sharing a room with some people I don’t know and one is really strange and I’ll have to dress and undress in front of strangers and ….starts to disrupt the new students.

This is when a little irritation such showing up late for the first class at 8:00 am can become the first step on dropping out because I didn’t know how to get to the humanities lecture hall building and the signs don’t help because they just give me names of the buildings so the professor used me as an object lesson about never coming late to his class. And I so felt like a jerk and wanted to just get out of there. And then I wasn’t on his class list so he sent me to the registrars and where that is was a real mystery and there was no one who I could ask to help me out so I waited until later and missed the whole class. I am not sure I made the right choice. I feel so screwed up here.

And all was needed were some of those same administrators and ambassadors, and yes the president, out and about with tee shirts that say “ASK ME AND I’LL HELP” to assist new students. The administrators and the president really do not have any work more important than helping students. Yes, that is right. Students are their business. Their core business. They need to be seen and recognized as a positive friendly force. The ambassadors will be upper class students, so they will not be dumb enough to schedule anything too early in the morning. Besides, all one needs to do is make a schedule so the campus is covered.

There should be someone at the entrance/exit of every dorm; at every parking lot walkway and at every intersection on campus with some in front of various administration buildings to let new students know if they are at the right place.
On the first two days of classes, there should be a full effort with everyone out there to help students. This way you’ll be sure to get both the Monday-Wednesday and the Tuesday-Thursday class schedules.

After the first two days, the ambassadors should still be at intersections and paths from the parking lots just to handle any issues or questions that might come up during the first two weeks. After that, set up a Q+A area in the main student building or a main lobby to continue helping any students and any visitors.

And to help you smile and learn some more chemistry, here is a link to Tom Lehrer’s Elements Song. It is certainly worth it and will make you smile.

Kissing the Year Off Right

And here’s an idea for the first days of classes that will make that first day a sweeter and memorable occasion. It is taken from an ancient Jewish tradition for students on their first day of studying. The day the youngster is to go off to school for the first time, the parents take a prayer book and drop honey on it. It is given to the student who then licks the honey off symbolizing the sweetness of learning.

If possible, have faculty do the following in class, but if not have student ambassadors or others greet students at the doors to classes. They greet the new students with a welcome and give each a Hershey’s Kiss or other small candy to start the year right. It sounds corny and it is. But it is also very effective in creating that set of feelings that this school is a (excuse me) sweet place. I have never heard from any school that did this that students were anything than very happy for that early morning kiss.

AcademicMAPS has been providing customer service, retention, enrollment and research training and solutions to colleges, universities and career colleges in the US, Canada, and Europe as well as to businesses that seek to work with them since 1999. Clients range from small rural schools to major urban universities and corporations. Its services range from campus customer service audits, workshops, training, presentations, institutional studies and surveys to research on customer service and retention. AcademicMAPS prides itself on its record of success for its clients and students who are aided through the firm’s services. 413.219.6939

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

How Americans Pay for College

How Americans Pay for College

In releasing the first edition of a new annual survey today, Sallie Mae and Gallup hoped to inform the discussion about, as the report is called, “How America Pays for College.” But as the data readily make clear, that largely depends on which Americans you’re talking about. There are major differences, among family income levels and the types of colleges and universities that students attend, both in what they spend and the sources of money they tap to cover their educational costs.

The report, which is based on a national survey of 684 undergraduate students and 720 parents of traditional-aged undergraduates, offers a wealth of information about what students and families say they spent on college in the 2007-8 academic year, where that money came from, and what role price and other financial factors played in their decisions about where to enroll.

Doug Lederman
The original story and user comments can be viewed online at

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Creating Beautiful Pictures to Aid Admission Sales

One possible member of the buying committee is often not given enough attention. This is certainly true in one of the growing segments of the adult admission market, adults who are parents. It is even truer in a sub-section of that market – single parents considering enrolling. That member of the buying committee is the child that often accompanies the parent on a college or school visit or interview.

Children often come with a parent simply because it may not have been possible to arrange for child care. Normally, the child is left to squirm and interrupt the discussion about college as well as the sales pitch of an admission’s representative. (Yes, let’s be honest. Admissions is sales. Call it what you will but it does boil down to a sales relationship with one person trying to get the customer to “buy” enrolling no matter whether it is with a soft consultative let them talk themselves into it approach to a hard sell, at its core admissions is sales. The goal of the admission’s representative is to get a potential student to sign an application and meet his or her numbers. And don’t simply say we don’t have quotas for people to hit. They may not have a set or written number goal but if they do not recruit and enroll students, or the right kind of students, the college will either help them find a better more suitable position elsewhere or fire them. And that is all colleges and universities, for or not for-profit. This is not a judgment of admission either. Just like colleges and universities. There are good ones and not so good; ethical ones and ones that will take any student to fill a freshman class. But no matter what euphemisms we us, admissions is sales.

And it is harder to sell a client distracted by a squirmy child. The children are often simply bored sitting there on a parent’s lap or in one of those adult sized chairs. As a result, the child becomes an impediment to the parent and the admissions representative.

The potential student needs to have questions answered, concerns addressed, and just be able to pay attention to make the right decision about attending, major and other related issues that will certainly affect his or her choice to go to college or not. Can’t always do it with a squirming, bored child also demanding attention. The admission’s representative cannot be sure the parent’s questions are fully answered, concerns addressed and that he or she has helped the parent make the right decisions. Does not get accomplished if the parent has to attend to the child more than his or her needs.

There is a simple answer we discovered and implemented when helping Briarcliffe College (NY) improve its enrollment conversion rate from interest to more adult students successfully pursuing a career and new future. It is in the picture in the upper right hand of this article.

We designed and printed a coloring book that was specific to the college that could be given to kids while they were at the college with a parent. The coloring book had pages of students going to college at Briarcliffe; teachers teaching; students learning and finally cap and gown graduation. The idea was to not merely get something to keep the kids busy but to educate them about what Mom or Dad would be doing. The coloring book also was the college’s first marketing piece to the kids about college and perhaps Briarcliffe quite a few years down the road.

Each child also received his or her personal box of crayons which has been imprinted with a label with the child’s name. The label also declared I’m going to go to Briarcliffe College some day just like my Mom/Dad! The kids, and this the parents go to take the coloring book and crayons home. What a great buttress when that possible buyer’s remorse hit once home. If the parent wavered a bit as a result of the enormity of the decision and commitment to go to college, there was a child holding up a newly colored page and a box of crayons to remind the parent why college and a career was the right thing to do.

The coloring book was a wonderful way to help Mom and/or Dad spend time getting the right questions answered about going to college while his or her child was getting put on the right future path as well. And a great way for the admission’s person to be able to concentrate on the potential client. Want more details or information on creating your coloring book to increase enrollment now and later. Just get in touch. Be glad to help.

AcademicMAPS has been providing customer service, retention, enrollment and research training and solutions to colleges, universities and career colleges in the US, Canada, and Europe as well as to businesses that seek to work with them since 1999. Clients range from small rural schools to major urban universities and corporations. Its services range from campus customer service audits, workshops, training, presentations, institutional studies and surveys to research on customer service and retention. AcademicMAPS prides itself on its record of success for its clients and students who are aided through the firm’s 413.219.6939

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

An Article Maybe Not to Write: Flaming Anti-Student Bullies

I have been telling myself that I should not write this. Might upset some folks and lose some consulting work. I used to tell myself that I should not write anything this because as a college president I could have a revolt leading to trouble with trustees. When I was a dean I did not write this because I knew I would never become a president. When a faculty member I did not write this because I did not want to be ostracized and lose promotions.

What paranoia just over expressing an opinion. Get a hold of yourself. There is no reason for that level of paranoia what with academic freedom and the intellectual community always seeking new ideas and discourse. We are a polite community of scholars and colleagues all seeking truth and genuineness of thoughts, not some tribunal judging Galileo.
But I am also firmly aware of two adages quite common to academia. The first, no good deed goes unpunished. The second is in the form of a riddle. Why are battles in academia so fierce and vicious? Because there is so little to be won.

But if I do not speak now, I will have lost to a group of bullies which is what many of us appear to be when it comes to our thoughts about our students. A group of bullies who make the rest of our good and dedicated colleagues look small and mean.

If one reads the articles, letters and blogs that refer to students, it appears that many, too many of us not only feel our students are slovenly, dumb, uninterested and rude but they are below our contempt and brilliance. We seem to feel it is open season on them and we can take any shots we wish.
It is nothing new to have some condescension toward students. After all, who has not heard the oft quoted joke that this would be a great place to work if it weren’t for the students? And I believe if we look just a bit into even the classics, we will see that Plato’s Young Socrates was not always portrayed as a bright young student.

Students had always been seen as what they are. Young minds to be molded and enriched through our teaching and care. As we were at one time in our educational lives. But recently, the discourse on students seems to be saying that students are too far below us for us to even try to educate them. And the tone of the discussion is mean and malicious. Not quite the scholarly discourse we all claim to respect and desire.

When I first started to recoil from offensive comments, I had attributed them to the context or the media source. In my work as a consultant with colleges and universities on increasing retention through improving academic customer service, I was not entirely surprised when someone would complain that students are rude or disrespectful in class. Students coming to class late, answering cell phones, walking out, napping or searching the web during lectures was a common complaint as it should have been. Students should not be doing any of these things but then the question comes up, who is at fault?

It’s the students’ fault is the immediate answer. There is some logic in that response since they are the perpetrators. Yet, that’s not the complete answer I fear. It may even more the fault of faculty member for allowing any of these behaviors beyond the first occurrence. It is for the person at the head of the room to determine allowable behavior and then enforce that behavior. If a faculty member does not want people entering the class late; don’t let them. If one does not want people answering cell phones in class, have them all shut off. If someone is bothered by people sleeping in class, wake them up either by quietly going to them and explaining that this is not an appropriate place to sleep or by making the class worth staying awake for. If a student does not want to abide by your rules, he or she can choose to leave or that choice can be made for the student since these are rules for the whole class, not one person alone.

But I will get in trouble if I enforce rules of decorum. Students will go and complain about me or give me a bad evaluation. To be sure if someone enforces rules in a manner that singles someone out or embarrasses him or her, that person may complain. That’s may as in perchance but not as in will. Big difference. The other most common response is that the administration will not support faculty who enforce the rules. Again, generally wrong. Certainly there are some administrators who do not want students complaining to them but they are more in the folklore of academia than in offices. Most administrators will indeed be supportive of all faculty who care enough about teaching and learning to set rules of decorum and will support them. They will not and should not support anyone who uses the rules to bully or belittle students.

Decorum is for students but must also be for those of us who work with them.
If the rules are spelled out the first day, printed in the syllabus and applied with respectability, the odds of a student complaining are actually quite slim. In talking with thousands of students each year, what I hear is that they will complain if the faculty member is mean-spirited or cruel.But if they know the rules up front, they usually want them enforced because they are also the ones who are hurt by poor behavior. Moreover, since students know faculty control the final grades and their future, they will put up with quite a bit, even some abuse. But for the faculty who feel that Paper Chase’s Charles W. Kingfield is a role model, the story may be somewhat different.

But faculty are not that unkind or cruel. They would not have such negative thoughts or make rude comments to students. Just like this commenter from the blog University Diaries in response to a posting entitled Scathing Online Schoolmarm in which someone who simply lists him or herself as SOS takes to task the Letter to the Editor originally printed in the Bolder, CO Daily Camera. In it, Lena Antman, a student who provides her full name and is willing to be known for her comments unlike the cowardly SOS who hides behind a nom de cowardice, complains that she did not learn anything at the University of Colorado. But does SOS or the following commenters say hooray, a student who wants to learn more. No. SOS tries to take her apart as a good pedant would and MD (another towering example of the anonymous bravery we with academic freedom and tenure have) makes the following statement.
If students who didn’t want to be in class dropped out we would have much smaller class sizes, amenable to better discussion. Professors would have more time to help students who actually care if they can make a sentence. I encorage (sic) students who feel this way to leave the university. After all, they already know everything. They should do just fine. The classroom and campus would be a much better place for everyone else. MD, at 8:00 am EDT on May 2, 2008
All she did was say she wanted to work harder and learn more! Yes she had complaints and perhaps some were overstated and some justified. But isn’t this the sort of student we should all want and encourage? Should you believe that SOS and MD were alone, fear not. They had company. Here is what brave soul The Myth had to add.
But Veruka wants her OOmpa-Loompa NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW! ...Why should she WAIT to get EDUCATED, which o (sic)her generation is the simple amassing of factoids and self-esteem, and not gaining expertise and training in thinking, writing, reading, and analyzing. This same student attitude is rampant across the country. Our country is doomed. The_Myth, at 8:30 pm EDT on April 17, 2008
I fear The Myth is right. If we can read a student letter that says I wanted to learn more and then attack her for that desire, we may well be doomed. If we have such negative attitudes about our students that MD, SOS, The Myth and others commenting on Ms. Antman’s letter show when we attack them for wanting to do what we say we want them to do, we are in trouble.

Open Season on Students?
More and more it seems that it is open season on students for some in higher education. We even sue them for thoughts and comments we do not like such as is being done by Richard J. Peltz a law professor at the University of Arkansas. At Dartmouth University, Priya Venkatesan a lecturer in writing filed suit against seven students who applauded another student who disagreed with her in what may have been a forceful manner. Peltz is suing a group of African American students charging them with defamation. Prof. Peltz maintains that some of his comments in a class about affirmative action were used inaccurately to accuse him of racism. And that would tarnish his reputation. The details of the suit should be left to the litigation but what was even more disheartening were the comments academics sent in response to the article. Once again, under the safety of anonymity and pseudonyms, students came under attack.
…empty rhetoric of the immanent defensibility of always-innocent students who may or may not even care about what is said in the classroom, or who may not even care if they leave college better educated than before arrival …

…near-rampant boorish behavior by students, …

….today’s student. They lack maturity and critical thinking skills to understand what is being conveyed in the classroom.

…“Perhaps this suit will teach students the limits of free speech, something many of them do not seem to understand

A student who had been to class a grand total of 4 times that semester responded with, “This guy has no idea what he’s talking about …

Students do not have the maturity or perspective to evaluate a professor…

…students can “behave” as they wish, “say” what they wish and never suffer any consequences.
Yes there were a few comments out of the 38 that could be seen as defending the students. But, it is interesting to note that even some of those respondents were then attacked for not realizing how stupid students and they really are.

The Dumbest Generation
Now there is a whole book that seeks to prove that the current student population is the dumbest yet. Mark Bauerlein’s book The Dumbest Generation works hard to show that this current student population is wasting all the advantages it has and is “camped in the desert, passing stories, pictures, tunes, and texts back and forth, living off the thrill of peer attention. Meanwhile, their intellects refuse the cultural and civic inheritance that has made us what we are up to now” (p.10). Considering what we are now, there are many whom might argue that they may be right to reject it. Moreover, the argument begins with a belief that there is a cultural and civic inheritance that is the basis for determining intelligence and intellect.

It is clear from the canon wars in academia as well as the culture wars of our society that this is a false assumption. There is no agreement at all over what is “good” culture; what is the right (or left) social and civic knowledge. There simply is not any agreement, nor has there been any concurrence of what makes a learned person. Yet, the critics of today’s students know students are neither learned nor even capable of becoming so because prior to entering college they do not know some of what we learned in college and graduate school.

For example, Bauerlein attempts to prove through studies and surveys that students watch too much television and do not read enough. Or if they do read, they read the wrong things. This is not a revolutionary statement and simply replicates every study that has been done since Uncle Milty hit the airwaves. And as for reading, outside of the future English majors, this has been a constant complaint of all adults. But this generation does not deserve that complaint really. They read quite a bit but on-line. Even Bauerlein’s studies establish that. Moreover, a Nielsen On-Line study in June 2008 found that college age students are reading more than they may ever have read in the past; twenty-five hours a week, but on-line. And much of that time is spent reading blogs, on-line news and other informational sites.

So the issue is not that they don’t read, but they don’t read what we believe is good such as reading Twelfth Night by Shakespeare according to Bauerlein. Quoting Scott Carlson in a October 7, 2005 Chronicle of Higher Education story, he asks ‘whether or not they are absorbing the fine points of the play (Twelfth Night) is a matter of debate.” Is knowing the fine points of one of Shakespeare’s comedies an indicator of knowledge? If so, most everyone but English majors who read Twelfth Night and critical essays on it may fall into the dumb category. They may not know the fine points after all. And many of the parents and grandparents of the current professoriate couldn’t even read English so I suppose they would have had real trouble with
Twelfth Night. Boy, what dumb people incapable of learning those immigrants must have been.

Buauerline also makes some grand assumptions that would be supported by many of the student critics on college campuses today based on our own internal biases of what is knowledge, cultural and civic inheritance. He finds for instance that students fail the Jay Leno test of not knowing the answers to simple questions like “where does the Pope live?” and “How many stars are on the American flag?” And when the young people do not know the answer that is proof they are dumb.

Just as when we, in the 1960’s went around and asked adults to read the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence. The people who read it thought it was some Communist propaganda. I guess they were dumb and funny too.
And those who retain their belief that Barak Obama is a stealth Muslim against all the evidence, they are just hilarious I guess. What’s even funnier is that some of those may teach and believe that students are too dumb to learn.

Yes, these are simple anecdotes but so are many of the proofs used to claim students are incapable of collegiate study.

The tests that the students are dumb proponents use are based on their own presumptions of their own ability, learning, as well as self-centered assumptions about what is good and appropriate knowledge. If students are not as smart as they are, they are dumb. Their assumptions are obviously invalid. Moreover, the language and emotion poured into proving students are un-intellectual, lazy and unworthy of we who teach them is so excessive and so heavy handed as to disprove the anger and negativism of the assertions.

Perhaps some of it is just the times we live in and the result of the everyday flaming, the ad hominem attacking that takes place on the internet and blogs. The anonymity granted in the on-line media allows for a few people to attack and let out their baser thoughts and feelings without fear of reprisal. That could be but if that is true, the comments on students that appear then do display a deeper more fundamental attitude held by people. And like racism or anti-feminist attitudes, the ones who will say something might be merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg of the cold thoughts of others who simply have not said anything publicly.

Now after all this I must admit I am a cynical optimist. I often approach issues with an apprehensive attitude especially when my intellectual gut gets twisted by what I hear, see, read and observe. And my gut is getting somewhat misshapen by the increasing vitriol. But I am also an optimist. I believe that those who dislike the students who come to us to be educated, made more intellectually, socially and culturally matured are currently still outnumbered by those who care enough about learning and the mission to embrace our students. But they can not stay quiet and do what is a tradition in higher education. Ignore the flaws in our colleagues that hurt us all and our students. Keep quiet rather than engage a colleague in what could be an important if perhaps uncomfortable discussion for the betterment of the academic community.

If you find common ground or even disagree violently with this piece, please send it to colleagues and others. This is an issue that needs to be discussed. Let it start now please!

We are quickly filling up our dates for school opening convocations and workshops in August and September as well as customer service week (Oct 6-10). We would like to be able to help you too so please contact us ASAP for a date

AcademicMAPS has been providing customer service, retention and research training and solutions to colleges, universities and career colleges in the US, Canada, and Europe as well as to businesses that seek to work with them since 1999. Clients range from small rural schools to major urban universities and corporations. Its services range from campus customer service audits, workshops, training, presentations, institutional studies and surveys to research on customer service and retention. AcademicMAPS prides itself on its record of success for its clients and students who are aided through the firm’s 413.219.6939