Here is the quandary for the management of for-profit (Proprietary) technical schools and colleges. They are being clobbered by federal regulations that place requirements on them that are not placed on not-for-profit educational institutions. This Department of Education has increased this heat in recent years and shows no signs of abetting.
Many proprietary schools have been forced to close their doors because they could not attain the Department of Education’s requirements. The quandary is that fine proprietary schools that want to provide excellent education and training outcomes are now feeling a loss in student enrollment because of these restrictions and the bad reputation that has been broad-brushed to apply to them simply because many well known for-profit schools were not reputable.
The history of unsavory for-profit institutions that were interested only in profit is well documented. Their success was obtained at the expense of students who enrolled based on false admission promises, lured by claims of guaranteed placement in jobs they were told paid extraordinary amounts of money, and who targeted those students who could receive the most financial aid. Proprietary schools that operated like that should not have the right to ruin the lives of people who were hopeful that the sacrifices they made to acquire a meaningful skill and to provide a future for themselves and their families.
Now, reputable proprietary schools are forced to increase their marketing budgets in order to increase the number of inquiries they receive. They can no longer rely on television advertising and are turning to new sources of lead generation like social media and inbound lead generation through content marketing.
Since most proprietary schools have adopted a qualitative admissions mindset that measures the number of inquiries that result in applications, it is doubtful that simply increasing inquiries will make a meaningful impact on student outcomes. Quantitative admission systems were designed to put as many students in seats as capacity would allow. But if those students are not capable of graduating because they had so many external pressures put upon them, are in lower socio-economic lifestyle brackets, and don’t have support from those closest to them, they have a tough time staying in class for the duration of a program so they can graduate.
If an educational institution is truly interested in the success of its students, it must ensure that it is accepting them based on defined criteria, not just on whether they graduated from high school and have a GED. For-profit schools often place their emphasis on securing admission deposits and scheduling a financial aid briefing. Some of the schools that interview prospective students simply ask transparent questions designed to make the student feel that he or she is being interviewed. Questions like how long have you been thinking about earning more money or how much would you like to earn as a (technician, automotive technical, medical assistant etc.). Seldom would the student be rejected unless the school could not help them attain enough financial aid to enroll.
Few schools try to determine if the student has the support and encouragement of his/her significant others, or if it is realistic for him/her to work all day and commute to the school for evening classes, or how much time the student is willing to study outside of class, or if they have transportation to attend class.
There must be a fundamental shift in the psychology of admissions. A good school that operates in the student’s interest, will want to know that, if accepted, the student has the desire, interest, motivation, and support of his/her significant others in evaluating whether they should accept the student. The mentality of getting another ‘sign up’ or ‘body in a seat’ must be shifted.
Instead, the applicant should feel that he or she is being carefully evaluated to determine if he/she will be able to become a graduate and that if they do, they will be considered for admission.
If the applicant can not be accepted it is the responsibility of the admissions department to propose another course of action or recommend a plan to help the student gain admission.
I have heard many school owners state that it is ridiculous to be qualitative because “I have seen many students who I didn’t think would ever graduate do so with great sacrifice and determination and others who I was sure would be a superstar student drop out after two weeks.” Basing an admissions process on an exception is not a plausible way to make a decision that can affect a person’s life… forever.
The operating credo of senior management must be that the admissions department should be conducting an interview to determine if the student can be accepted and has a good chance of graduating. They must ensure that admission representatives are trained to recommend acceptance or to help the student find another pathway to success.
When that is the mindset of senior management, they will quickly see an increase in two vital metrics that they are probably not presently measuring… the application to the start rate and the start rate to the graduation rate. The real benefit will be that more graduates will find employment in the career for which they trained.
Harrison Greene is the founder of Unique Enrollment Systems and has helped both small, independent proprietary and nationally known, multi-campus schools increase revenue through a qualitative method of enrolling students. He can be reached at 508-400-6193 or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.