Affordability and Higher Education Marketing
If you work in higher education marketing today you can't miss the increased public concern over rising costs in both private and public sector colleges and universities. And yet despite that increased concern, marketing strategies seldom extend to developing content that focuses specifically on "affordability."
To help people compare schools, the U.S. Department of Education has an interactive College Affordability and Transparency Center.
Price is still an issue that many if not most schools like to avoid discussing in detail until as late in the student recruitment cycle as possible. Given the high level of interest in cost, that's a marketing mistake.
But there are exceptions to the avoidance syndrome. Today we note 5 examples of how a few schools have elected to deal directly with affordability on their websites. I'd expect to see more like these in the future and possible some combining the best of the different features you'll find here.
5 Affordability Marketing Content Examples
In a series of strong graphic presentations, American highlights reduced tuition increases over the past 10 years (from 6.5 percent in 2005 to 2.9 percent in 20013 and 2014) as well as a strong shift from merit aid to need-based awards, low default rates and more.
The message in the graphics is strong enough that you don't really have to read the text below them. And that's a boon for impatient web visitors. See College Affordability: AU and Your Educational Goals.
While every school is required to have a net cost calculator on the website, legions of potential students and their parents fail to complete them because most are to close to the equivalent of completing the FAFSA form itself.Wellesley takes a different approach with a "Quick College Cost Estimator" that requires just 7 steps to receive an estimate of how much a family might have to pay to send a child to Wellesley. See the basic info required at My inTuition: Wellesley's Quick College Cost Estimator.
You don't have to search far to find complaints among higher ed professionals that too many people only pay attention to a schools "sticker" price without realizing that very few people pay that price.
Calvin attacks that problem directly as their page opens with a large "Cutting the Price Tag" heading. Everything that follows (down to outcomes results and low loan default rates) is on a single page that combines easy-to-read graphics with clear language that is remarkably free of higher ed jargon. See a strong example of "Writing Right for the Web" at Calvin's Cutting the Price Tag page.
University of Findlay
At Findlay the goal is to directly attack 5 "affordability myths" that start with the average cost difference between a student attending Findlay ($21,500) and one attending "state schools" ($19,600) or "other private schools in the region" ($23,200).
The myths also include indebtedness at graduation and high loan default rates with graphs that show a default rate for Findlay grads, for instance, of less than 5 percent with comparisons to much higher Ohio and national rates. Review the other myths attacked at Findlay's Affordability Myths page.
When you visit, be sure to follow the link to the "Total Degree Cost Calculator" for an estimate of four-year degree costs that's included with the first myth.
Ball State University
Despite lower costs compared to private sector schools public universities are not immune to affordability concerns. Reductions in state funding often have meant increases in tuition and other charges. More than a few people feel that public universities have not done enough to reduce operating costs before resorting to tuition increases.
Ball State tackles the PR challenge with content to demonstrate "fiscal stewardship" that has let it lower tuition while maintaining quality education. That's rather a "man bites dog" assertion compared to more prevalent positions that fewer resources create quality declines. For more see "Ensuring Affordability, Now."