Time, once again, to rant about how colleges and universities busy themselves trying to manipulate you.
Transfer students are a hot commodity in admissions. Since Mason is one of the most popular transfer destinations in the U.S., I may be even more disturbed by misinformation about transferring schools than I am about the usual admissions confusion. A recent article intended for college admissions officers reminded me of this pet peeve.
Jason Bakker is a most excellent college marketing guru. In a recent article on Ypulse.com, however, he offers help with responding to the “increase” in potential transfer students, asserting that what transfer students want most is help achieving their “life goals,” and therefore, colleges should market themselves to that concept. Instead of trying to prove that point, Jason offers some examples of tuition discounts. He seems to feel the main reason students transfer is to get a cheaper education. This could lead colleges to believe that the best way to convince you to transfer schools is to offer you a better financial deal. No offense to Jason, but that seems like a big steaming pile of nonsense.
Community college or other transfer students are no more prone to respond to value or discount pitches than any other group of prospective students. In fact, claiming to be “cheaper” can just as easily translate to impressions of lower quality rather than higher value. This may seem insane, but there is far more evidence that raising cost increases perceived value and little evidence that lowering tuition provides comparable benefit. That’s how colleges and universities get into that whole dirty science of how little they can discount your tuition and still get you to enroll – otherwise they’d all just lower their price, and transfer students would be flocking to the least expensive schools.
As for Jason’s initial assertion that what transfer students want most is help with life goals (he means making more money), colleges have been trying lay stake to that claim for years. Of course, the data says that your income level after college has nothing to do with what college you attend, but don’t let that stop you savvy (evil) marketers!
What clearly works with transfers (and every other market segment) are assertions of quality. Strangely, we tie quality to exclusivity –schools that are hard to get into are more likely to be labeled as high quality. That impression (linked to hints of future income) is one successful way to reach out to recruit transfer students, and the cost issue can have an inverse relationship to that effort. In simple terms, colleges and universities have found that being more expensive makes it easier to claim higher quality. It even raises school standing in the rankings.
There is a better, even less evil, way to recruit transfer students. Far more than freshmen, transfer students are concerned with convenience and expedience. Access to online courses, evening and weekend classes, acceptance of credit, and general accommodation and assimilation of transfer students are HUGE issues, often far outweighing (although also influencing through time to degree) cost of attendance. Be seeing you.
Filed under: Education |