For-Profit Schools — Sign Up or Be Accepted?

accepted-rejected 

There is a quandary 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 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 while ethical proprietary schools want to provide excellent education and training outcomes, they are are now feeling a loss in student enrollment. The unethical standards of some money-hungry technical schools have penalized well-run proprietary schools.

The history of unsavory for-profit institutions interested only in profit is well documented.  Their success was obtained at the expense of students who enrolled based on false admission promises. They were lured by claims of guaranteed placement in jobs they were told paid extraordinary amounts of money. These schools 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 students who were hopeful that the sacrifices they made to acquire a meaningful skill to provide a  future for themselves and their families.

Reputable proprietary schools are forced to increase their marketing budgets to increase the number of inquiries they receive.  They can no longer rely on radio and television advertising and are turning to new lead generation sources like social media, email, and inbound lead generation.

Since most proprietary schools have adopted a quantative admissions mindset that measures the number of inquiries that result in applications, it is doubtful that 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. Many potential students are in lower socioeconomic brackets and don’t have support from those closest to them. They have a tough time staying in class until graduation.

If an educational institution is truly interested in the success of its students, it must ensure that it accepts them based on qualitative criteria, not just on whether they graduated from high school or have a GED.  For-profit schools often emphasize securing admission deposits and scheduling a financial aid briefing.  Some 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 you have been thinking about earning more 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 enable them to enroll.

Few schools try to determine if the student has the support and encouragement of their significant family members. Many don’t determine if it is realistic for them to work all day and commute to the school for evening classes, 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 their significant others in evaluating whether they should accept the student.  The goal 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 they will be able to become a graduate and that if they do, they will be considered for admission.  There needs to be an Acceptance Policy that measures a student’s potential for success.

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 must conduct a meaningful interview to determine if the student can be accepted and has a good chance of graduating.  It must ensure that admission representatives are trained to recommend acceptance, when valid,  or to help the student find another pathway to success.

When Acceptance is the mindset of senior management, they will quickly see an increase in two vital metrics 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 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 harrison@harrisongreene.com.