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At the last AMA Higher Education Marketing conference, President Mark Putnam of Central College, profoundly claimed that he could know the health of any college by looking at just two metrics: yield and retention rate. This led me to a hunt for other metrics that college presidents consider indispensable. Here is what I have found so far:

1. Size of endowment, the war chest to attract the most talented students and faculty with financial aid and salaries.

2. Geographic reach of enrolled students, which is a measure of diversification and college reputation.

3. Average test scores, which pegs a college’s brand position in the prestige hierarchy.

4. Discount rate, the difference between the sticker price and what a student actually pays, directly impacts the net revenue or financial health of a college.

5. Acceptance rate, or conversely rejection rate, is a direct measure of school’s reputation and selectivity. Understandably, the more a college rejects, the better its reputation gets.

6. Yield rate, or number of admitted students who elect to enroll, are naturally the highest for the most reputable colleges. Colleges with higher yield rates tend to discount less. Conversely, colleges use discount as an enrollment tool.

7. Retention rate is a direct measure of marketing effectiveness. If a college delivers on the promises marketing makes, then the right-fit students will show up and be happy they made the choice. Colleges which hand-hold newly enrolled students through “first year experience” programs tend to have the highest retention rates.

8. Percentage of budget spent on technology, if less than 15%, will sooner than later negatively impact student retention rates.

9. Alumni Giving Rate, if less than 20% bodes ill for long-term institutional health. Also, an average alumni gift of less than $75 indicates an unsatisfactory college experience.

10. Percentage of faculty that hold a terminal degree, must be at least 80% to attract new talented faculty.

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