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Guarantees or Incentives to Succeed?
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Guarantees or Incentives to Succeed?
(January 20, 2017)

If there’s ever a time for colleges to push the envelope as it relates to their recruiting efforts, it’s now, when 63% of admissions directors surveyed in a recent Inside Higher Ed/Gallup poll said they missed the mark on last year’s recruiting goals, with 54% very concerned about meeting this year’s goals.


For some time now, Noel Levitz (and other) surveys have shown that financial outcomes of a college education: major, job, expected salary, ability to pay back loans, have become top factors influencing students’ decision of where to enroll. These factors rank even higher than friends, parents and social life.


In other surveys, students expressed dissatisfaction with the traditional model of career planning services offered by most colleges and universities, citing the biggest reason being that there were no career services offered until their senior year.


In December I wrote about strides some schools have made to address these financial concerns by offering a guarantee of their education, such as graduating in four years, getting employment, or finding employment with a minimum salary. I pointed out that in order to manage the cost of a guarantee, colleges would need to provide services and encourage student participation in order to reduce their risk of offering that guarantee.


Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI, took a different route by not offering a guarantee, but by incentivizing preparation for the post-college world through a four-year program called LifeWork. While LifeWork does not offer any money back guarantee, it mixes career coaching, in-person and online workshops, assistance in finding internships as well as offering a $3,000 scholarship during the senior year for anyone who has followed the process for all four years. Thus they can forecast the cost of their investment in students and budget for it.


Personally, I like the skills development combined with help finding internships in addition to the ability to tie in alumni. Offering a senior year scholarship is one more effort to improve the retention of students - the flip side of the recruitment coin.


This is a unique story that sets Calvin College apart, and they’ve leveraged the power of video and social media to spread the message to students they like to recruit. I predict that matching their unique story with effective communication channels will deliver results – but we’ll all see the results next fall.

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