Creating Quality in Higher Education Admissions: Increasing Institutional Effectiveness

Quality in Higher Education

Higher education is a service. Defining quality in a service can be more difficult than defining quality for a product. Quality in service has to do with accomplishing objectives while at the same time satisfying the customers’ perceptions of the service. Delivering quality can be difficult as objectives and perceptions change as the needs for customers change.

Many colleges have departments dedicated to quality assessment and improvement, focused on the institution as a whole. Quality in college admissions is required to make sure the student and school are a good fit for each other. Ensuring the best fit between school and student improves retention and ensures that the student is prepared for the area of study. Students who become part of a degree program is a good fit helps in leading people into a good fit for future profession in the area that the student is pursuing their studies.

Institutional Effectiveness

There is an increased emphasis on institutional effectiveness for higher education. Institutional effectiveness measures the percentage of graduates that receive jobs within their field of study from each institution. The growing concern over institutional effectiveness comes from the combination of high unemployment rates, concerns with student loans, and the national level of student loans.

The use of intuitional effectiveness gives students and schools a qualitative measure of quality among colleges. Colleges can benchmark their institutional effectiveness as compared to similar colleges. When superior results for a similar college are identified; other colleges can study that college as a model of how to improve their own institution. Higher education institutions can become aware of what programs are performing best in placing students into jobs after graduation; the results may indicate an area that the school can give more emphasis.

Quality in Advertising

Institutions can promote quality through advertising. Informing potential students how the college and degree programs attempt to achieve the potential students desires can achieve quality. For example if a student would like to become a mechanic, the school can illustrate how they are qualified to help a student become a mechanic. The advertisement could discuss the background of the college and the instructors. The advertisement could give examples of past students results after finishing the program. The ad could include information about the programs institutional effectiveness.

Colleges can proactively pursue students that are a good fit for the institution through accurate advertisements and promotions. The promotional material can take a bigger emphasis on what career the programs prepare the student for instead of promising career possibilities. Advertisements can be targeted the segment of students that would be ideal candidates for the program with information in promotional material that discusses the type of student the program was designed for.

The content of advertisements are of extreme importance to convey accurate information and set expectations for students and parents; however, where colleges advertise is of extreme importance also. It would be better for Seminaries (graduate school for pastors) should target people that are involved in a specific church or denomination. For the colleges that work with traditional students should advertise among young adults aged 16-20, where as schools geared towards non-traditional students would target an older demographic.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements can assist in ensuring proper alignment between the college and potential student. Admission requirements that help ensure proper alignment can include grade point average (GPA), assessment results, essays, reference letters, or experience. The college needs to understand their typical student and their challenges. Some colleges specialize in helping underprepared students excel through specialized programs to prepare those students for further academic programs and vocational aptitude. The college needs to define whom the school fits in demographic and academic terms.

An essay that requires the student to explain their motivation for applying to the school and why they are a good candidate allows the admissions counselor to make a judgment about institutional fit and at the same time allows the applicant to internalize and express how their goals align with the colleges. Essays can indicate the potential students ability to follow instructions for writing papers and indicate their grammatical ability. The entrance essay can indicate the student’s level of motivation, if the application process becomes delayed by the essay requirement that indicates that the student either needs encouragement, further educational support, or lacks the motivation to the complete the essay in a timely manner.

The GPA requirement can vary among schools depending on the degree and type of school. The requirement varies from a minimum GPA to be able to perform college level work to more specific transcript and grade requirements. The minimal purpose would be to not admit student who appear to be incapable of performing college level work an school policy that closely relates to entrance GPA. Other programs may need to see an overall good GPA in addition to specific grades and types of classes taken, in the case of engineering degrees.

Reference letters help colleges see if anyone will vouch for you and who vouches for you. To ensure proper good institutional effectiveness the school would like to see that the student has already begun to network in the right places or that they are least networked. What a school many times does not want to deal with someone who creates problems everywhere they go and has no one willing to refer them.

Assessment results typically come from SAT or ACT achievement test. Schools that work with older non-traditional students will many times find other assessments because of the time lapse from when the student was in school and when they were last assessed. Although assessment results are important, they are a piece of the whole picture of the student’s ability and fit for an institution.

The experience admission requirement helps ensure that the student has the ability to perform the profession that the school will be teaching. Many degree programs do not have specific experience requirements, however, the experience aspect can be imperative for some degree programs. Several programs that require experience are MBA (Masters of Business Administration), MFA (Masters of Fine Arts), and other specialty programs for both undergraduate and graduate levels.

The admission requirements help the school identify ideal students for the their program. Many times schools find their specific niche appeals to a specific type of student looking for a specific program. Once the student and the programs for the school are identified, the school can create programs to increase the effectiveness of the pairing of the school and the student. For instance if a school specializes in educating underprepared students the college can create methods to help the student through programs, remedial classes, tutoring, and vocational preparation. The schools can also build sections of the needed training into the curriculum of the classes.

Continuous Improvement

The need for continuous improvement in the quality of higher education admissions will help universities to adapt to the changing needs of the school and students. The expectations for higher education have changed over the years to have a vocational emphasis, which merits different assessment of effectiveness than how education was assessed in the past. Quality in admissions will help align the goals for the school and student to accomplish the shared goals. For example the current trend of measuring education institutions by the percentage of graduates acquiring jobs in that should lead Universities to cultivate relationships with employers in the areas that the school specializes in.

Conclusion

Quality in admissions for higher education comes from proper alignment between the student and the school. This alignment should be cultivated in an enrollment and marketing plan that clearly articulates the unique programs the school offers and excels. The plan should also include the detailed segmentation of ideal students. The increased attention on higher education’s effectiveness comes from marketing schools as one sized fits all for one-sized fits all students. The needs for the alignment will change as the students needs change while at the same time different industries will change.

The difficult part would be to focus on unique programs instead of popular programs. For schools to stand out from other schools they must provide something in a way that another college does not offer. Many schools will want to offer the popular and general education courses to not loose potential students while at the same time they will need to place emphasis on their unique programs.

One of the challenges would be the impression of higher educations view of the admissions office. The admissions office needs to be able to advise schools on issues further than sales and marketing. Specifically, with higher education admissions, academics, institutional effectiveness, and educational rigor are all interconnected. The more emphasis that colleges place on their unique programs coupled with admission requirements that admit the best students for the programs will increase the colleges retention and institution effectiveness numbers. With better retention and institution effectiveness, the school will attract more ideal students, which will create a stronger program. Implementing quality seems difficult in the beginning and requires support from senior leaders. However, the difficulties are worth the results.

What Every Financial Institution Should Know About Social Networking

The aim of any business is to be successful and profitable throughout the lifetime of the organization. The evolution of communication technology in recent years has helped make this possible by improving a business’s ability to network with its existing and potential customers. What once required face-to-face conversations and the physical exchange of contact information can now be done in an entirely virtual environment with just a click of a button.

Advances in communication technology, such as texting, blogging, emailing, media sharing and gaming, have created new social norms and revolutionized the way people communicate. It is no wonder, then, that the financial services industry is beginning to use various forms of Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) to enhance customer service and improve current products and services. The most popular form of CMC are social networking websites such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn, which are used primarily to maintain or build connections among users.

Social networking sites represent a large market with tremendous growth potential that can be easily targeted by financial institutions if they know how to use these sites to their advantage. Like many organizations that have already experienced the benefits of using social networking sites to enhance their business, financial institutions are beginning to understand and embrace the power of social networking as it relates to their day-to-day business activities as well. Whether educating customers on new services, boosting customer confidence, increasing sales outreach or personally connecting with their customers to meet their banking needs – social networking is a vital communication tool that financial institutions can utilize in many of their customer business interactions.

Understanding Social Networking
Social networking is a form of collaboration and networking where individuals develop groups and associations, often forming a virtual community. While social networking is possible in a face-to-face setting, such as on a college campus, it is most often seen online in a CMC environment. The size and popularity of the “communities” created by MySpace and Facebook and other social networking websites have experienced substantial growth as more and more people invite their acquaintances, co-workers, friends and family members into these virtual communities.

The traditional roles of the sender and receiver involve delivering messages in a clear and concise way and providing feedback to achieve agreement of a particular subject. Social networking uses these same basic building blocks but accomplishes the end results in a slightly different way. The cues that help facilitate understanding in a face-to-face environment (e.g., intonation of voice, body language, facial expressions, physical distance, etc.) are often removed in a social networking environment. Though some websites offer an audio visual element, social networking is largely text-based, relying on “digital gestures” to demonstrate emotions and add emphasis to a message, such as:

• Forwarding.
• Recommending.
• Sharing.
• Tagging.

Social Networking Applications for Business
Networking has always been a key success factor in the business world. Networking involves linking together individuals who, through trust and relationship building, become walking, talking advertisements for one another. Traditional networking often takes place face-to-face at business lunches, conferences or exhibitions, where people are able to meet and establish mutually beneficial working relationships.

Online social networking offers many of the same benefits as traditional networking, while allowing bankers to more easily network with the average consumer as well as with their colleagues in the financial industry. Used appropriately, online social networking offers businesses the opportunity to develop meaningful, long-lasting customer relationships.

A study of the banking industry and the ways in which several banks’ board members networked with others showed that though these professionals are interested in using networking to secure new customers and to maintain and develop existing customer relationships, they also want to use networking to represent their banks in community, professional and trade organizations and to procure market trends and competitive information.

To achieve the goals identified in this study, board members and other bank employees must first understand what social networking is and how it can be used to position their banks above others in the industry. If properly trained, these employees can use social networking to achieve their banks’ organizational goals and place their banks in the top positions in the industry in the following five ways:

• Community building.
• Product research.
• Customer service.
• Marketing and promotion.
• Transparency.

Social networking is currently being used to bolster the reputations of the financial institutions that use it, providing information both internally and externally. This type of information sharing builds consumer confidence and helps employees understand the importance of their roles within their banks and how they should strive to achieve the highest standard of customer service.

Challenges of Social Networking in the Workplace
One of the first challenges of integrating social networking with the workplace is helping employees understand the importance of using this technological tool. The next challenge is in addressing the training needs of the organization to bring all employees up-to-speed on the etiquette, functionality and general norms of such a medium. This means determining who will be maintaining the websites, how end users will experience the websites, and how policies and procedures concerning social networking will be shared, and with whom inside of the organization. And finally, relationship management in a virtual environment poses a challenge. This last challenge should be a primary focus when implementing a social networking-friendly policy or procedure.

A great deal of the CMC that occurs in social networking happens through what has become known as Social Information Processing (SIP) theory. The theoretician who first introduced SIP, Joseph Walther, stated that the nature of relationships created online can be drastically different from those established in person, particularly when individuals act differently than they would in a non-virtual environment. While Walther acknowledged that the rate at which these relationships are formed may change over time as individuals become more familiar with the technology, he argued that relationships in a CMC environment would take up to four times longer to establish.

To counter this potential limitation, banks might seek to make use of the theory of attribution, which states that individuals link observed behaviors of others with causal explanations to help them understand what type of people they are communicating with. The time to develop relationships can be shortened using attribution theory because bankers can use their observations to make product or service recommendations based on needs that they have established.

Using Social Networking to Connect with Customers
Though social networking poses its own challenges, it can also be used to overcome other challenges that banks may face. For example, social networking allows financial institutions to boost consumer confidence, increase sales, and strengthen customer relationships, which are all areas of concern as they can give a bank a competitive edge over others in the banking industry.

When consumer confidence is low and distrust of the banking industry is high, particularly in times of economic crisis, social networking has allowed for greater transparency and has opened up a conversation with consumers. The public forum created by websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace provide the financial services industry an ability to address customers’ banking needs by:

• Acting as a medium for customers to send their questions and concerns to a bank, with immediate feedback from a banking expert.
• Replacing one-sided information dissemination like press releases or bank-sponsored advertisements.
• Reassuring the public of safety and soundness policies and procedures.
• Eliminating skepticism through informative links, text, graphics and audio or visual elements.
• Educating customers about products and services that address specific needs.

Protecting Customer Information
One of the main concerns of financial institutions is the protection of information and financial assets. As technology makes it easier to communicate with people in remote locations or to conduct financial transactions, it also enables thieves to obtain customers’ confidential, nonpublic information, putting customers at risk of identity theft and other similar schemes.

Financial institutions have addressed these potential information security breaches by creating Know Your Customer (KYC) programs and prioritizing identity verification and the reporting of suspicious activity. The same precautions and care should be exercised when using social networking websites to ensure that customer information remains protected.

Implications for Legal Compliance and Record Keeping
Once a financial institution’s directors and staff understand the implications and proper use of social networking websites, it is important that the institution’s policies and procedures be revised to reflect the addition of these new business activities. This ensures that the institution remains in compliance with industry laws and regulations, and it demonstrates to the public that the organization is fair and respectful of customers and employees and that it works to protect its customers’ information and financial assets.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recently issued a publication that provides guidance to financial institutions regarding the use of social media in their business operations. FINRA Regulatory Notice 10-06 outlines the necessary recordkeeping requirements that financial institutions must abide by and provides guidelines for the supervision of non-static messages sent social networking websites.

Because social networking websites are fairly new and financial institutions are only just beginning to explore their potential uses, the twelve government agencies that control the financial services industry, in addition to other organizations like FINRA, are continuing to develop and amend regulations. For instance, the use of social networking affects advertising requirements for financial institutions, as stated in Regulations Z and DD. It also affects Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) membership, Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and non-deposit retail investment and fair lending implications. It is the responsibility of each institution to be aware of current regulations and how their use of these websites affects their compliance current law. Management should also understand the risks of noncompliance and be sure that their policies and procedures are updated to reflect these changes.

Final Word
Financial institutions must consider the risks and rewards of using social networking tools in their everyday business operations, and ensure that these tools conform to policies and legislation, while meeting the needs of their customers. Because customers are the driving force for success in the financial services industry, the key to protecting them is through employee education. It is imperative that bank employees are appropriately trained before and during the use of any type of social networking tool. Understanding how this new form of communication impacts the organization in the long-term can help a financial institution plan for and attain future success, while focusing on keeping customer relationships strong and information and financial assets secure as social networking becomes a more prominent business tool.

Waste #7 – Failure to Make Advertising Direct Response

In the 21st Century, the investment required for successful media advertising can be very significant. Many business owners try to do a little bit of advertising in the paper or radio or billboard, etc. but find out they don’t get back any return. They become frustrated and upset.

There are two reasons for this frustration. First, there probably isn’t enough advertising going on in a synergistic way that creates results. If the company is advertising on radio, they might need to do newspaper and billboard as well. If they start marketing and advertising on the web, they probably need to do off-line marketing to support it. These costs and investments can become very difficult to maintain. A huge waste of money.

The second reason the advertising falls short is most are doing what is called “institutional advertising” rather than Direct Response advertising. They are sold by the advertising agency that “branding” and “positioning” is important. They are told that if they don’t advertise, their competition will and beat them to the customer. These are both possible true statements. But, not necessarily true.

21st Century Marketing System’s recommendation to small businesses is to make all advertising a direct response. That is, make the advertising create a response of some kind i.e., a lead, purchase or request for more information. That way, the advertising can be measured. It can be held accountable.

Briefly, there are several important elements that should go into every advertisement that makes the ad direct response. These elements include: headlines, sub-headlines, good copy, offer, urgency, reply mechanisms, bonus, P.S., etc.

If a company will follow these rules, the advertising can be tracked and different testing accomplished. Institutional advertising simply tells people that the company is in business and has great service. There is no USP, offer, urgency, bonus, reply mechanisms, etc. Therefore, the company cannot measure results. A big waste.

By implementing direct response marketing into all advertising, different testing can be used to make the same dollar invested return more in leads, sales or even an opt-in E-mail database. Waste (in the form of non-producing ads) are eliminated.

Even with direct response, there is branding and positioning that can be accomplished. At the same time, if there is room in the marketing budget, branding and institutional advertising in and of themselves can be effective. It’s simply the case that most small to medium sized companies can’t afford both types of advertising.