The decline in college enrollment seems to be accelerating, though it was the steepest in the Midwest. According to experts, enrollment typically falls when the economy improves and unemployment drops. Despite a slow economic recovery and how predictable enrollment drops from an economic perspective, colleges still have to fill out classrooms to deal with increased costs or state support. Two- year colleges have seen the greatest decline; while four-year private colleges actually saw their enrollments slightly grow. What are private colleges doing differently to increase enrollment? Why aren’t most public universities and community colleges doing enough to reach out to Hispanics? After all, Hispanics are the fastest growing demographic group and due to economic and geographic reasons, Hispanics tend to choose community and technical colleges as their first choice.
In spite their higher tuition fees, private colleges have kept their enrollment up despite the down trend across the board. Their enrollment success is based on a threefold strategy: First of all, private colleges devote a bigger budget to advertising. Second, largely in part to their “private” status, these colleges can be more aggressive and innovative in their outreach and marketing efforts. Partnering with businesses as part of their recruiting efforts has proven to be a successful recruiting strategy. Finally and most importantly, some private colleges have worked really hard to build relationships with Hispanics and other minorities in highly diverse areas. Undoubtedly, a must and natural step considering the latest census demographic data.
With the exception of a few, public universities and colleges are not doing enough to increase “considerably” Hispanic student enrollment. The “Total Market Approach” has been adopted as a potential solution to a long-standing issue of neglect for the marketing and retention of young Hispanics. However this approach lacks the bicultural mentality and relevant message that would effectively resonate with a multifaceted ethnic group. Running radio spots with generic content is a decent attempt at best and denotes an absence of creativity and cultural knowledge. Multivision Media Group has produced radio content in the past that contains pivotal and essential elements that effectively communicates the “relevant message” to the intended audience: It has to include students, it has to be unique and it has to highlight the benefits the college offers to the audience. If any of these components is missing, the message becomes dull, deficient and irrelevant.
Community Colleges: Geography matters. Concentrate your efforts in your home area first. It is logical, it is more effective, it is less costly and fortuitously enough, it might be quite diverse.
By: Juan A. Vázquez
Juan holds an AA degree from Century College and a Business Bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin River-Falls. He is the founder and president of Multivision Media Group, a Hispanic Marketing Co.