Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Increasing Enroillments - Buying Groups and Enrolling the Family Part 1

More and more colleges and universities are working aggressively to increase their under-represented student populations. That is a euphemism for students of color, first of family attendees and quite non-traditional learners. But many schools are running into immediate retention issues between the application and the show – between the decision to apply and the equally important to show up for classes - for this population. There are a few simple things to do to increase applications and actual show rates, i.e the percentage of applicants who actually show up and attend.

To increase retention from application to show success is to realize that choosing to attend a particular college is finally a group decision; not that of the applicant alone. Therefore, it is important to enroll and stitch in the entire family.

The Buying Group

Most every college, university, community college and career school make the error of focusing on the individual. Marketing is to the individual potential student.. The interview is with the individual potential student. Paperwork is sent to the individual And the application is completed and signed by one potential student.

But the discussions are with the student’s buying group and they will finally have the greatest sway over a student’s decision to attend or not. So who is the buying group? All those who have any investment in the student attending, or not attending school. For a younger student, this would be the family or grandparents. Perhaps brothers and sisters. Whoever will be assisting with paying and moral support can be part of the group. For an adult learner, the buying group would include a spouse for example, and even perhaps older children.

The buying group is the people with whom the potential student will consult on the effects and costs of going to school. For example let’s say an out of work wife decides to study criminal justice. She has likely spoken about it with her husband. He may even have been okay with the idea; maybe even supportive. She goes to the school, meets with an admissions rep and completes an application. Then she tells her husband she applied and will be taking classes in the early evening.

Hold on! The husband now sees the reality. He will have to be home to help with dinner. Clean the dishes. Oversee homework. Gets the kids in bed and whatever else she normally did. Wait a minute! The husband is supportive of her getting a degree but maybe not as supportive of doing the work. He gets buyer’s regret and conveys it to her. College may not be as exciting a prospect for the family now. And between the application and the first day of classes, there may well be hindrances placed in the way by the spouse. He may well rethink her decision to go to college.

Will she show up for the first day of classes?

Perhaps. But to make that a probably, the college should have made certain that her buying group was with her at the interview and decision. If she brought her husband and even the kids, they all could have gone through the admission process, looked at the issues facing them with her attending school. They could and would likely have discussed them right then and there. Any issues or problems could have been aired and probably resolved.

Further, it is the role and obligation of the admission’s rep to put forward any possible questions for discussion. But this should be done as an assistance to the group. For example, “Okay, let’s take a minute to discuss a likely class schedule and hours so we can better plan for your success.” This way the hours the family member will be away from home do not come as a surprise and the group can work through the possible issues to resolution and support. I recall an interview in which the wife found out she’d be in classes when the couple’s two young children would need to be bathed and put to bed. She worried that she wouldn’t be there for them. “Hey, not a problem. You’ll show me how to do it and I’ll do it so you can get to school”, the husband responded. Dinner? “Just make it up before you go and I can microwave it.” A young woman with a baby and no sitter during the day with her buying group there will almost always get Mom or Grandma to volunteer. But this needs to happen in the pressure of the group.

Being in a group with a unified goal of one of them getting an education and moving ahead does place a certain amount of pressure on each member to help out. The buying group is there to support the objective and the person trying to get there. They would not be there giving their time otherwise. Unless of course one member of the group is there to try to quash the decision. And if that is the case, at least the rep has an opportunity to try to convert the naysayer or at least get issues out and discussed. With the group there. all the issues and questions are raised, discussed, resolved.

Moreover, when the decision is made by the group, it is a much stronger affirmation. For instance, if a young soon-to-be high school graduate is there with his parents for the interview and discussion, they can be brought into the decision as active parties. They can have all their issues resolved. They can even meet with a tuition planner and have a good sense of how school will be paid for rather than just hitting a brick wall when a bill comes in the mail. If they support the decision to apply, they can become the reps and the college’s strongest allies for the student going to and staying in school. After all, this is their decision too as part of the group. They are not going to want to have their decision shot down without a fight.

Equally important is that if buyers remorse kicks in for the applicant, there is a group of people who can help him or her get over the remorse hump. They were there when the initial decision was made and so they will support themselves in their support. Cognitive dissonance will push them to reinforce their initial decision and support.

In Mistakes Were Made (but not by me) (Hartcourt:2007) Tavris and Aronson discuss the virtuous circles that can create a spiral that starts with a deed that helps another or an organization and increases another’s attachment to the person or organization.

BTW, it is just fine to let parents bring their children. In fact, it can be a plus. They can get a good experience at the college and make the parents feel even more comfortable with the decision or support for an older child. Just make sure you provide things for the children to do. For example, get some customized college coloring books made up for the kids to color in. Have some toys for the kids to play with. Lollipops can also make them very happy if the parents agree. For more on this aspect read http://academicmaps.blogspot.com/2008/08/creating-beautiful-pictures-to-aid.html

The group buy also provides the opportunity to enroll the family. Not actually enroll them in actual classes but in a psychic bond with the college. A bond that can and will become a very powerful force in encouraging the student to succeed.

Enrolling the Family – the next section is available by clicking here!!!




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