Overcoming bad press: college marketers vs. student debt crisis

In our previous posts, we learned how college marketers are applying marketing solutions to the problems of a declining customer base and poor retention rates. An undercurrent that has propelled both of the problems is the issue of student debt.

 

Search “student debt crisis” and you’ll find four years of headlines such as “Student Debt Is Dragging Down an Entire Generation”. It’s no wonder that Gen Z is cautious about the cost of college. Their paranoia of debt is compounded by the fact that they have witnessed friends and family lose jobs and homes during the 2008 recession.

 

Is rebranding or a brand refresh the solution?

 

When you have an image problem, damage control may include a total rebranding. Take Pennsylvania’s original Beaver College for example. After years of bad jokes and declining applications, they put an end to the ridicule back in 2000 when they rebranded as Arcadia University. By 2005, applications had doubled!

 

Rebranding, however, is extremely taxing and risky which is why a brand refresh is more likely the solution. With competition for students on the rise, traditional colleges and universities are looking at growing online mega universities for inspiration. Arizona State University promotes how 87% of ASU graduates get job offers within 90 days of graduation. Liberty University promises “Affordability. Accessibility. Academic Quality” and Western Governors University is on a mission to, “Help our students achieve their dreams for a degree and career success by providing a personal, flexible, and affordable education based on real-world competencies.”

 

Multichannel campaigns and influencers raise awareness of financial aid.

 

One way to boost enrollment is to simply help parents and students solve the college funding dilemma. Federal Student Aid is doing its part by making multichannel “FAFSA First” resources easily available to schools via an online portal and teaming up with Instagram influencers to spread the word to students.

 

Lenders are also realizing that educating their audience is key. Through our work with College Ave Student Loans, we learned that overstressed parents often overlook better financing options. By providing customers with the tools and information they need to make smart loan choices, College Ave boasts that 80% of customers choose a repayment term of 10 years or less and 98% make their payments on time.

 

If higher education can overcome these hurdles, so can you.

 

When you’re feeling as if the world has turned against you, remember the situation colleges are facing (demographic and economic shifts killing enrollment, high drop-out rates, continuous press about the harm of college costs). Add to this the fact that the pace of change for universities is best described as glacial, staging a turn-around in your marketing should be comparatively quick and painless.

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