How will gas prices affect Admission?

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Concepts, Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Thoughts | Posted on 06-30-2008


Have you thought about that?  I have been today.  I am putting together a 2nd round of emails because registration for our campus visit days are down.  While trying to answer the question “What can I say to make this student/family believe that they should spend the time/gas/money/energy to visit our campus?”, several questions ran through my head:

  • Are students visiting less campuses than in the past?
  • Are they lumping visits together into one trip to save gas?
  • What happens when your planned visit days don’t line up with theirs?
  • Do you have sufficient material online to show your campus to students who can’t make it?
  • Will ’09 graduates choose campuses closer to home if gas prices continue to rise?
  • Do you allow flexibility for visitors to come when they please, or are they locked into a set presentation time?  What happens if they can’t get from College XYZ down the road to your 1pm presentation before it starts?  Are they going to miss out? Are YOU going to miss out?
  • Are Admission Counselors making the most efficient trips on the road, or are they doing business as usual?
  • Do we need to got to as many college fair and school visits as we used to?
  • Can you get the student to see the visit as an investment?
  • Are you doing everything you can to make them feel like it was worth the trip?
  • What’s the average ROI on a visit to a high school? Is there a Long Tail?
  • Do we care enough about our students who visit to give them a $10 gas card for the effort?
  • Couldn’t we cut out a mailing or two to fund this goodwill gesture?
  • Which would students remember more, the brochure or the gas card?
  • What if the gas card was rechargeable, and we filled it with another $20 on move-in weekend after they applied/enrolled? How would that affect retention?

And those are just 15 questions that have run through my head in the last few minutes. Just thinking/typing out loud here.  I’d love to hear your thoughts, and other questions you are thinking about when it comes to gas/gas prices as they relate to the recruitment process.

Comments posted (12)

Brad – I’m going to back to my days of being an economics major and say that these are very relevant questions. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPACT THAT GAS PRICES WILL HAVE ON ALL ASPECTS OF OUR ECONOMY. And yes, this includes the college recruitment process. I’m afraid high gas prices are here to stay and it will be awhile until alternative energy sources are available.

I love your idea about a gas card – it’s very Purple Cow. The campus visit is a very important part of recruiting. For us, there is a huge impact on yield. So anything to get them to attend a campus visit is worthwhile.

This is great stuff! We just had a similar conversation about this during our planning for next year. Not just what can the college do for our visitors, but how does gas impact how many schools we visit and how we plan for them.

We’ve floated the idea a few times of teaming up with one of the local oil refineries to give gas cards to visiting students/families as an incentive to help them come. It’s never worked up until now, but I’m thinking a few in admissions will now be more receptive.

Just had this conversation on an upcoming podcast we’ll post this week and next – will students look closer to home and will colleges cut down on their travel?

Keep an eye out on our TargetX podcast for those episodes of interviews with Joe Merante and Dennis Whelan.

We’re playing with Ustream to see if the campus tour can be done without gas. Also plan to offer off-hour tours using Ustream – campus at night/weekend (dorms, dining, library, sports, etc…).

@Mark, Tiffany, D.W.- I brought it up in a meeting and wasn’t told NO right away, so that’s a good thing. We are also considering a ~$300 airline voucher if you live outside of a certain radius of campus (500+ miles, I believe).

@Brian – looking forward to the podcasts!

@Todd – Keep us updated on that, I was hoping to do the same when I pitched my Lifecasters, but that’s infinitely on the backburner I’m afraid.

This is a very relevant topic. In fact, since you posted this, there has been a flurry of news items on the subject. However, one interesting thing that has happened is that enrollments have increased for some schools.

One might expect a decline in enrollments (which for some will be a certainty) but for others, their online enrollments have spiked this summer.

From another vantage point, how will the cost of gas affect school’s recruitment campaigns? Sending recruiters out across the country is an expensive venture…one sure to get more costly this fall!

Toby – thanks for the comment and for swinging by Squaredpeg!

It’s interesting to note that online enrollment is increasing. With Butler U having no online classes or any plans for online classes, I wonder how we will be affected as we try to maintain our ‘strong, rich, tradition history’. Will we miss out, or will enrollment remain steady?

Brad…only time will tell!!

If gas prices and delivery of content are the variables, perhaps one of the other major factors that will help shape your enrollment success is the strength in your marketing delivery and execution. Moreover, the ability for Butler to target a ‘local’ student that won’t feel the gas-pinch as much may be part of the equation.

Again…only time will tell!

Gas prices these days are just getting higher, i think the government should focus more on alternative energy.**’

gas prices are still on the rise today, we should go Alternative Fuel-,*

gas prices would steadily go up and the supply dwindle and the saudis like to increase their profit margin~~:

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