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Time to Re-Position “College”?

This sounds like a dramatic thought for a time-honored brand: College. But it may be the right time. The trigger for change is to acknowledge the plight of many college graduates and realize the promise of a college degree has not been met.

For students looking for better career opportunities beyond a high school degree, college was always how the mouse found the cheese. For many years, that path was highly successful and continually elevated the college brand. Well, the cheese has moved and has left students, parents and educators reassessing.

The convergence of soaring costs and overwhelming debt is daunting and continues to get worse.  Matters are exacerbated with the bleak job market resulting in graduates taking entry-level positions that are either not in their field of study or don’t require a degree, or even worse, both. Some have not gotten post-college jobs at all and retreated to their parent’s basements. Still others are forgoing college altogether as not worth it. In short, the college investment is not paying off.

In fact, some could say that “college” (four-year, residential, liberal-arts education) is no longer the core value for those looking for the promise of career advancement. Instead “higher education” (of any kind) has become the more relevant core value. Therefore, for student prospects, the re-positioning of “college” results in a much broader concept than college itself. It has evolved to “higher education” with college as just one of many options.

It’s time to change the conversation with prospective students. And it starts at home and with guidance counselors. Here are five ways to reframe the conversation to a more successful outcome:

  1. Identify marketable student interest: Dig deep into students’ interests and identify several that could be leveraged into thriving livelihoods.
  1. Evolve to the “higher education” brand story: The goal is to make the case that further education beyond high school still carries benefits for affordable career opportunities. There are numerous choices in addition to college that offer legitimate, viable options that can pay off.
  1. Find the right fit: The fit between students’ aspirations and viable career paths regardless of the higher education path is critical.
  1. Broaden the search to find the right option: Whereas college was usually the first answer, now other options need to be evaluated like vocational schools, technology institutes, community colleges, etc.
  1. Keep the cost in line: Many people believe that more expensive options are better than less expensive options, which is not necessarily true. It is entirely possible to go to college, graduate and not pay a lot for it.

Reframing the college brand conversation around a higher education story allows students and influencers to identify options that offer a better fit and better chance for graduation that won’t break the bank.

If you would you like to further the conversation, please reach out to us.  We have deep experience optimizing higher education brands and success developing programs that drive student acquisition with schools and programs.

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