Enrollment marketing guru’s two cents: If I was a College President…

We know that colleges and universities today are scrambling to adjust to shifting demographics, shrinking budgets, skyrocketing pressure, and other changes on all fronts. We expect (rightly) that college presidents will be educators, diplomats, fundraisers and visionaries. Too often, organizing and managing personnel slips a little bit farther down the list. Too often, today’s presidents use outdated models of organizational management, where huge amounts responsibility fall to academic with little experience or training in the areas they oversee. Also troubling: many models overlook the most important part of any organization, the people. You may find the chief HR professional buried under a CFO or (even more frightening) under a Provost.

We all think we could do better, right? I’ve certainly got some ideas of my own, and I bet you do as well.  If I was president, here’s who would be sitting at my senior staff table, and why.

VP of Academic Affairs or Provost
At its very foundation, a college or university is an institute of learning. We exist to educate young (and not-so-young) minds, to expand fields of knowledge, and to contribute to a changing world through this important work. The top academic officer at any institution is the person who should maintain a focus on this mission and vision, and not be bogged down by enrollment marketing challenges. The Vice President for Academic Affairs should focus on the academic curriculum of the institution, providing leadership to the faculty and managing the processes through which teaching is conducted and administered. This person should be devoted to ensuring that the curriculum appropriately reflects the mission of the institution and that it is as current as possible in both discipline and delivery.

VP of Human Resources
A college is, first and foremost, a community of people. Your staff is your number one resource, as well as the most expensive one. The VP of Human Resources is responsible for directing all of the “people functions” of the university in accordance with policies, practices, ethical, social consciences, laws and regulations. This VP should also be responsible for strategic human resource planning to provide the university with the best talent. The best universities attract and retain the best talent. For that reason the VP of Human Resources is the president’s single most important hire in building the team below.

VP of Enrollment
This person in this position should oversee all enrollment efforts from first contact with prospects to graduation. Reporting to the President and a member of the President’s Cabinet, I’d make sure that the Vice President for Enrollment Management is responsible for the offices of Academic Advisement, Admissions, Campus Life, Career Services, Financial Aid, Intercollegiate Athletics, Judicial Affairs, Disabilities Services, Registration, Student Retention, Student Health and Counseling and University Police.

With digital marketing increasingly driving the conversation in enrollment marketing, your enrollment head should be a true professional that understands SOE, SEM, CRM strategy, responsive websites, search marketing strategy and much more. This position would need to work closely with marketing on all of these efforts.

VP of Marketing
The VP of Marketing must (obviously) understand enrollment marketing. And that’s not as straightforward as it sounds. “Marketing” has been revolutionized in the past ten years by digital innovation and social networking, and we must anticipate that the coming years will bring continued revolution. And this is the engine that feeds the enrollment funnel, shapes your brand and energizes alumni. The budget dollars for these efforts should reside in enrollment and advancement with the exception of the university brand efforts. Enrollment and Advancement are critically important to a university’s future, enrollment need to be calling the shots on these efforts. The marketing team should also oversee the university website. The web is now the heart of the higher education branding and it must be guarded as such. I recommend that the communications report to the Marketing head, and in that capacity should oversee all efforts with news management, media relations, writing, editing, and publications management.

In a perfect world, this would be the easiest job on campus. Image a world where you had more students than you could accept, coming to campus for a fantastic education, and leaving as happy, dedicated alumni. Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. Many institutions are scrambling to find the students they need, are adjusting academic offerings to keep up with changing demands, and (as always) pushing hard on their advancement teams to help make ends meet. The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is a corporate officer primarily responsible for managing the financial risks of the corporation. He or she should be responsible for financial planning and record-keeping, as well as financial reporting to higher management. Particularly for institutions struggling in today’s environment, a good CFO is critical for success. This is the person who should make sure that the train stays on the financial tracks.

Chief Information Officer (CIO) is a job title commonly given to the most senior executive in an enterprise responsible for the information technology and computer systems that support enterprise goals.   At many institutions, the CIO reports to the CFO. Unfortunately, the CFO usually knows very little about technology and may be prone to nickel and dime the technology department to death.  Information technology and its systems have become too important to the universities survival today. Technology can and should be a contributor in formulating strategic goals of the university and the solutions that will make those goals achievable. In my hypothetical administration, the CIO would be a key member of my senior staff to make sure that the influence of technology is harnessed and maximized.

VP of Institutional Advancement
I believe that the Vice President for Institutional Advancement should be responsible for administrative leadership and planning, fund raising, alumni relations, and special events planning. Fundraising is probably the most important responsibility for this VP.  Some colleges and universities also have communications and marketing professionals reporting to the advancement VP. I think this is a mistake. The fundraisers don’t necessarily understand the outreach and branding that it takes to enroll students today, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Fundraising supports all aspects of the institution’s operations, and it’s important that the institution be prepared to focus here.

Some presidents stuck in the past would say “If it’s not broken why break it”. Sorry Mr. President I would disagree and would push change to these old models by breaking it.  Ok presidents and other university stake holders what are your thoughts? We would love to hear from you.

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