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uWinnipeg president stresses need for self-sufficiency

November 30th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Canada, Education

No provincial cash coming to rescue

There’s no provincial money coming to the rescue — the University of Winnipeg is on its own to find cash, president Lloyd Axworthy warned Wednesday.

“The gap keeps growing. We need to become increasingly self-sufficient,” Axworthy said in his final state of the university address.

Axworthy, who will retire next summer, said government grants cover 50 per cent of costs, tuition capped at an increase of inflation covers 28 per cent, and he doesn’t see that changing.

“All governments are in a tight bind,” he said: Some have promised to reduce taxes; all have huge pressures on their health-care systems.

His message to the entire campus: “Let’s be creative and find our own resources.”

Axworthy vowed to find a further $1 million to cut from administration this year after three years of freezing or reducing management salaries.

He pointed out the education faculty has developed a post-baccalaureate training program that will bring in revenue, as will the faculty of business leadership management training course next month.

The Richardson science complex can make money, the same way the University of Manitoba’s SmartPark does by working with private-sector researchers, Axworthy said.

The president said some American universities have developed online degree programs that are earning significant dollars.

“We don’t have to copy it, but we have to understand it,” he said. “We’re going to have to do our own experimentation.”

One possible online program that would be unique to the U of W would be carving a special niche in aboriginal-development practices, he said. “We’d create something that Harvard, Stanford, U of T (University of Toronto) can’t do.”

Axworthy said the university won’t see any megaprojects in his final year, even though he has long coveted space in the Bay building and has wanted money for a physics building on the gravel parking lot behind the Richardson complex.

The RecPlex indoor soccer complex and wellness centre will open a year from now, with more than 20 inner-city athletic organizations having signed a charter with the U of W for guaranteed access. “It’s going to be a charter — it’s guaranteed,” said Axworthy.

He is still trying to work out a deal with the federal government to acquire the National Research Centre building on Ellice Avenue in partnership with First Nations, Axworthy said.

The U of W is investigating the state of gender equity on campus during this school year and has applied for a Canada Research Chair in data management, a field Axworthy said didn’t exist five years ago.

The university has rebranded itself with the slogan Discover-Achieve-Belong.

Above all, he said, “Where do we place the arts and humanities in our university?”

He also said the U of W has to debunk the naysayers, especially in business, who claim liberal-arts grads face a bleaker economic future than science, engineering and other grads.

The U of W needs to make ‘a bold statement’ this year on the value of a liberal arts degree, Axworthy declared.


By: Nick Martin

Posted: 09/5/2013 1:00 AM

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 5, 2013

US PSE enrollment fell by almost half a million students in 2012

November 29th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Education

University and college enrollment in the US declined by nearly half a million students in 2012 compared to the year before, according to new data from the US Census Bureau. A decrease of 419,000 students aged 25 and older is responsible for the majority of the overall decline, while enrollment among younger students dropped by about a tenth of that rate. The waning enrollment follows an overall enrollment increase of 3.2 million students from 2006 to 2011. The New York Times in July reported a 2% drop in spring enrollment in 2013.

The long enrollment boom that swelled American colleges — and helped drive up their prices — is over, with grim implications for many schools.

College enrollment fell 2 percent in 2012-13, the first significant decline since the 1990s, but nearly all of that drop hit for-profit and community colleges; now, signs point to 2013-14 being the year when traditional four-year, nonprofit colleges begin a contraction that will last for several years. The college-age population is dropping after more than a decade of sharp growth, and many adults who opted out of a forbidding job market and went back to school during the recession have been drawn back to work by the economic recovery.

Hardest hit are likely to be colleges that do not rank among the wealthiest or most prestigious, and are heavily dependent on tuition revenue, raising questions about their financial health — even their survival.

“There are many institutions that are on the margin, economically, and are very concerned about keeping their doors open if they can’t hit their enrollment numbers,” said David A. Hawkins, the director of public policy and research at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, which has more than 1,000 member colleges.

The most competitive colleges remain unaffected, but gaining admission to middle-tier institutions will most likely get easier.

Colleges fear that their high prices and the concern over rising student debt are turning people away, and on Wednesday, President Obama again challenged them to rein in tuition increases. Colleges have resorted to deeper discounts and accelerated degree programs. In all, the four-year residential college experience as a presumed rite of passage for middle-class students is coming under scrutiny.

The most striking signs of change came from Loyola University New Orleans and St. Mary’s College of Maryland. After the usual May 1 deadline for applicants to choose a college, Loyola and St. Mary’s each found that their admission offers had been accepted by about one-third fewer students than expected. Both institutions were forced to make millions of dollars in budget cuts and a late push for more enrollment.

Loyola made a flurry of calls to people who had been offered admission, but had not accepted it, asking them to take a second look. If those students said they had already made commitments to other colleges, Loyola did not pursue them, administrators said.

Professors and administrators who usually are not involved in the process made calls, along with the admissions officers, “and we did invite them to see if there was more we could do with aid,” said Roberta Kaskel, the interim vice president for enrollment management.

Many colleges traditionally round out their classes with a small number of students admitted after May 1, often taken from their waiting lists, and miscalculations as big or as damaging as those by St. Mary’s and Loyola are rare. But consultants hired by families to help with the admissions process say that this spring and summer, they have seen more colleges actively hunting for students, reaching out to those who had turned them down, or even to students who had never applied.

“After May 1, I got e-mails from three or four colleges saying, ‘We’ve still got spots, and we’re looking for people to fill them,’ and I don’t remember getting any in the past,” said Lisa Bleich, an admissions consultant in Westfield, N.J.

“I had a client who had committed to one school, and then changed her mind and said she wanted to go to the University of Pittsburgh, where she had also been accepted,” she said. “They weren’t actively looking for more, but they agreed to take her, when a few years ago, they would have said, ‘No, we don’t have any space.’ ”

This summer, Randolph College in Virginia sent letters to students who had not applied but had strong academic credentials, saying that they had “been selected for admission” in the fall, and offering them financial aid. Randolph’s case is unusual, in that it is expanding, but it shows the lengths colleges will go to, to meet their enrollment targets.

“This is the first time we’ve tried this particular approach,” said Mike Quinn, the vice president for enrollment management. “Sometimes offering these qualified students a more generous grant will prompt them to start a conversation with us.”

Don McMillan, an admissions consultant in Boston, said his office fielded calls this week from families in Saudi Arabia and Italy, hoping to find their children places for a school year that, in some cases, is just a month away.

“We called about 15 colleges, and we found that about half still had openings for this fall and were willing to consider them, which really surprised me,” he said. “These are not Tufts, M.I.T., Harvard, schools like that, that will never have trouble filling up.”

College attendance grew slowly for more than two decades, until it began a steep climb from 15.2 million in 1999 to 20.4 million in 2011, according to census figures.

Several factors drove that boom: a population bulge increased the number of college-age Americans by about 20 percent; high school graduation rates climbed after years of stagnation; the percentage of recent high school graduates going to college continued an increase that started in the 1980s; and colleges drew a growing number of students from abroad.

The recession that began in 2007 steered still more people into college, especially adults who were past traditional college age and who enrolled in community colleges.

But the number of Americans turning 18 hit its recent peak in 2009, and will continue to decline through 2016. High school graduation rates appear to have leveled off, and job prospects have improved, making school a less attractive option.

Managing a college’s enrollment has become more complicated in recent years as the number of applications submitted by the average student has soared. The advent of online applications, and the Common Application now used by about 500 colleges, has made it much easier to add to a student’s list without much thought. And colleges have encouraged the increase, barraging promising students with appeals, knowing that more applications means a lower percentage of students accepted, which moves a college up in the popular ranking systems.

“It’s become really hard for colleges to tell which applicants are actually serious about them, and will accept their offers,” said Janet Rosier, an admissions consultant in Woodbridge, Conn.

That is what happened to St. Mary’s, a state college, and Loyola, a Jesuit school where administrators say some visitors might have been dissuaded by extensive construction on campus.

While Loyola made a renewed appeal to people it had already accepted, St. Mary’s simply reopened admissions, and put out word through counselors and community groups. Both colleges have been able to draw more students since May, but their fall classes will still be far short of what they had hoped.

Correction: August 3, 2013

An article on July 26 about a significant decline in college enrollments referred incompletely to efforts by Loyola University New Orleans to recruit new students after the deadline for accepting admissions offers. After the article had been published, Loyola said that it did not knowingly pursue people who had already made commitments to other colleges; while some of the students the university called had made such commitments, the university said that upon on learning that, it ceased contact with them.

Published: July 25, 2013

7 Deadly Site Search Sins

November 28th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Marketing, Website

Revenue per visitor is greatly affected by your site search usability and precision. Are you making any of these mistakes?

1. Ignoring mobile

So you optimized search for your website already? How does it look on mobile? Ensure your pagination uses enough white space for touch, ensure thumbnail images are clear, and scoping tools are easy to use.

Newegg’s a mobile-specific site (note the m.domain), yet the search box, thumbnail images and product links are lacklustre on iPhone.

Doesn’t Reebok wanna take advantage of showrooming??

2. Zero results found

Allowing zero results found is a captain obvious mistake, but serious — and very common even on today’s top ecommerce sites. Great search tools handle mispellings or attempt to provide something relevant to the query (partial match).

We’ve covered in detail 4 constructive ways to handle no results found on the blog before, if this is an issue on your site, I encourage you to check it out.

3. One result found

Far more dangerous is sending the user to your “top hit” for a search term. Why?

1. It gives the impression that there is only one result, while at least with zero results found the customer may try a modified search. (Even Google would ask if you were feeling lucky before serving such a feature!)

2. A user will never see your full selection matching the keyword. You’re banking all your search conversion on one result. Would you do this to your category pages?

I recently searched for “bronze” on a shoe site and it sent me to a product called “Bronze Age” which did not come in the bronze color. It happens – even on large brand sites. Don’t let it happen on yours.

4. Missing sort / filter tools

Category pages typically include great refinement tools, some quite creative.

But search results pages benefit from these tools just as much! Make sure they’re replicated on your site to improve usability.

5. Search box field too small

This is an old web usability tip from Jakob Nielsen, but all the more important today with mobile part of the mix. Longer search box fields allow the user to see their input and reduces errors. How long should the box be? Check your search logs to see what length of search query is typical.

6. Google Custom Search

If you’re not careful, your site search could be advertising the competition…

7. No scoping tools

Scoping tools are not necessary on every ecommerce site, but for brands, manufacturers, telecoms and software publishers for which site content goes beyond the online store, the ability to search and scope between product results, site help, documentation, etc. is critical — and often missing.

The Microsoft Office site promises search results from the “entire site.”

But it forces support results. Huh?

The user has to figure it out that product results are hidden behind that obscure call to action that is the Store link in global navigation.


September 3rd, 2013 by 

US data shows shorter degrees lead to similar earnings to those of bachelor’s

November 27th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Education

College Measures, which produces state-by-state college performance data, has released a report of key takeaways about the earnings of college graduates in five states. Associate degrees and certificates often hold their own in the job market relative to bachelor’s degrees, the report found. It also said the value of credentials in STEM fields are sometimes oversold by policy makers. And the discipline in which students earned a credential influences their wages more than which college they attended. College Measures, which is a joint venture of the American Institutes for Research and Matrix Knowledge Group, created the study based on data from Arkansas, Colorado, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Higher Education Pays: But a Lot More for Some Graduates Than for Others

Higher education is one of the most important investments that people make, and most students make this investment because they want a better chance to land a good career and higher earnings. But as they enter the labor market, some graduates earn far more than others. Prospective students need sound information about where their educational choices are likely to lead.

  • Some short-term, higher education credentials are worth as much as long-term ones. Short-term (or “subbaccalaureate”) credentials include associate’s degrees and occupationally oriented certificates, and many who hold them will out-earn graduates with bachelor’s degrees.
  • Where you study affects earnings—but less than usually thought. Earnings vary widely among first-year graduates in different states. Further, each state has schools whose graduates fall far below their peers in terms of earnings, and, conversely, each state hosts institutions whose graduates outperform their peers from other schools.

Infographic: Some technical associate’s degrees pay more than bachelor’s

  • What you study matters more than where you study. The labor market rewards technical and occupational skills at the associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s level. Graduates with bachelor’s degrees in music, photography, philosophy, and other liberal arts almost always earn the least among the major fields of study. Graduates with engineering degrees earned the most in every state. Graduates with degrees in health-related fields, especially nursing, are among the highest paid and are usually followed by graduates with business degrees.
  • The S in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is oversold. Data from College Measures show that employers are paying more—often far more—for degrees in the fields of technology, engineering, and mathematics (TEM). Evidence does not suggest that graduates with degrees in Biology earn a wage premium—in fact, they often earn less than English majors.

STEM or TEM infographic

Full Report

September 3, 2013

Inside Higher Ed

Email Marketing Isn’t Dead … You’re Probably Just Using it Wrong

November 26th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Email, Marketing

There are rumors floating around the marketing world that email marketing is “dead” – those rumors could not be further from the truth. Not only is email marketing alive and well, it is actually one of the most important and effective avenues of communication.

To the rumor’s credit, outdated “batch-and-blast”-style email marketing has certainly reached its expiration date, making room for transformed email marketing that reflects the changes in digital buyers. Today, buyers are better informed, understand how to opt out of unwelcomed communications, and see bad marketing for what it is. Your challenge as a marketer is to understand these savvier consumers and reach them with relevant, engaging content that speaks to them individually - not as a demographic. Keeping it old school and bombarding them with deals and sales will not only relegate your email to the spam folder, it will blow any shot you have to build trust. Without trust, marketers have no chance.

By no means should email be your only channel, but done well, email marketing can have the greatest ROI compared with other channels. Consumers across every age demographic prefer email for promotional messages to other marketing channels. That’s good news for marketers who do email well and not so good news for those who don’t. If you’re not sure which category you fall into, here are three clear signs that your email marketing just isn’t working.

Nobody Reads Your Email

Ignoring basic metrics is the most obvious error in email marketing. Fortunately, it’s an easy problem to solve. If you’re getting 2 percent click rates (the total number of clicks divided by the total number of emails delivered), you’re not engaging with 98 percent of the people you’re emailing. Something’s clearly wrong. Even a 25 percent click rate (which is thought of as good in some industries) still means 75 percent of your list isn’t engaging with what you have to say. Marketers should think of this as a problem.

Monitor your open and click rates to determine the efficacy of your campaigns. In today’s data-obsessed marketing industry, there’s no excuse for ignoring the data.

Your Email List Is Weak

Beware implicit opt-in marketing. This might occur when a potential customer fills out a form, perhaps to register for an event. Sometimes this happens when a potential customer registers on a third-party site, and the site shares the email addresses with sponsors. Or perhaps you scanned attendees’ badges at a trade show. These practices are perfectly legal, and widely used among marketers, but remember that those people haven’t explicitly asked to receive your emails. They might not even know they tacitly gave permission. If your list is made up of entirely implicit opt-ins, you’re in trouble.

You have to build and constantly cultivate an engaged list. Avoiding shortcuts such as using third-party lists or data vendors and using clear opt-in methods will help potential customers trust in your brand. There are many easy ways to build valuable lists. Explicit opt-in marketing is a great example. This occurs when a potential customer voluntarily signs up for email marketing, like checking the “I want to receive news and updates” box on a registration page. This form of single opt-in process requires the least amount of effort from both you and the potential customer – she does not have to do anything further, like confirm her opt-in, so she is automatically registered for the follow-up email. Adding a welcome email helps protect against spambots – if the welcome email bounces, filter the address out of your list!

Only offering single opt-ins is certainly not a foolproof email marketing tactic, but it is a great place to start.

You Blast Everyone With the Same Message

Batch-and-blast. Spray-and-pray. Whatever expression you prefer, the results are the same. They’re not personalized, they’re not engaging, and people won’t listen. Don’t do it. It might seem cheap and easy, but the negative effect to your brand and reputation can be difficult to overcome.

The most effective email marketing has content that looks like it came from a human, is personalized, solves a problem, and is timely and educational. As consumers in general are comfortable with targeted ads and personalized content, they expect marketers to create customized experiences. A smart marketer will use email, not as a one-off messaging tool, but to foster conversations that listen to the potential customer’s needs and respond to those needs over time.

Simple metrics will shed a lot of light on whether your email marketing is missing the target. It’s wasted effort, but what’s worse, bad email marketing can do irreparable damage to your brand. The relationship between a marketer and her audience, like any relationship, starts with trust. Act irresponsibly, and that trust can be impossible to mend.

Note: I think you can and should still do “blasts” at times — sometimes you just need to contact everybody. But you can still segment those blasts into smaller, more targeted groups. This can increase engagement significantly. In fact, 23% of engagement can be predicted simply by how finely you slice up your list.

  |  September 2, 2013


Story-Based Stewardship: Why It Works

November 25th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising, Marketing

I’ve been writing and thinking a lot about storytelling lately. Partially because of my upcoming storytelling workshop in Vancouver and also because of The Storytelling Challenge survey that’s happening. But I thought that I would take a slightly different angle this week and consider the relationship building capacity of storytelling.

Storytelling is an important tool that non-profits are using in fundraising and communications. But perhaps its most important role is being able to forge relationships with constituents in a scalable way. Especially when it comes to annual giving stewardship.

The Challenges of Annual Giving Stewardship

Being familiar with the complexities of annual giving portfolios, I know that many annual giving fundraisers struggle with how to provide donors with meaningful stewardship without having to put in 14 hour days. Moreover, the real secret of course to retaining donors and increasing fundraising revenue is to provide donors with stewardship.

Phone calls take time and so do handwritten notes. Planning appreciation events can be costly and you might not have a good turn out. Conducting donor visits would also be out of the question for most annual giving folks.

So what solution is left?

What I would like to advocate for is a major donor-esque approach to annual giving stewardship – accountability report.

Impact + Accountability = Great Stewardship

The accountability report is possibly the most under-utilized tool in annual giving.

Most commonly used by major gift folks, accountability reports are a tool used to tell donors exactly how their gift ways used. Specifically, they report on the gifts impact on the program or service that received it. And as you could probably imagine, this closes the loop on the elusive donor retention issue.

Donors consistently tell us that they want to hear how their gift was used and the impact that it had. But all to often we fail to do this at an annual giving level.

In addition to creating an accountability report for your annual giving donors, there are other ways that you can using stories and accountability for better donor stewardship.

Four Stories in Stewardship

If you are considering an annual accountability report (and I highly suggest you do), here are four types of stories you could tell your donors to highlight their impact.

  • A client’s success story – If your programs and services are benefiting people, sharing a client’s success story is a great opportunity. After all, these are the people who have directly benefited from a donation that made a program possible. Donors will want to hear about positive changes in their lives.
  • A program staff member’s story – Personally I love hearing from program staff members because they have such a fiery passion for their work. And if you have a difficult time collecting stories from clients, staff members might be able to share their accounts of the program.
  • A volunteer’s story – These stories are not as common, but I think that volunteers play a vital role in the non-profit sector and they also enrich our communities in many ways. In fact, they are often deeply impacted by the work that they are a part of and their first hand account might be something that your donors could easily relate to.
  • A story from a fundraiser who was involved in the project - This might be a less common story, but I think that fundraisers will sometimes have an interesting prospective on what a problem in the community was like prior to there being funding for a program solution. Don’t shy away from giving the fundraising team a voice!

August 26, 2013

Written by 

The No. 1 Email Marketing Lesson from the DMA 2013 Compliance Report

November 24th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Email, Marketing

The Direct Marketing Association’s mission is to advance and protect responsible data-driven marketing, which covers both direct mail and email. Members agree to comply with strict guidelines, which cover aspects like privacy, data collection, consumer notice, and use of data. The DMA recently released its 2013 Annual Compliance Report, which details consumer affairs and casework covering the period from February 2012 through June 2013. The CSR Committee reviewed 55 cases during this time period, and in twelve of these cases, companies failed to be compliant and to correct their behavior.

The most complaints by far were generated by consumers who wanted to unsubscribe from a real-world mailing or catalog list. Email complaints led the rest of the pack – which means that marketers could do a better job of managing email unsubscribes.

Passing the buck

A surprisingly frequent complaint was a practice called “pass-the-buck.” In pass-the-buck, a consumer contacts a company directly and asks to be removed from a company’s mail or email list, and a company representative tells these people that they should instead contact the DMA to be removed (and the mail/email just keeps coming). In the email world, this is against Can-Spam (and totally illegal).

Best practices to reduce email unsubscribes

Subscription best practices

  • Set the right expectations at the beginning. Clearly state how frequently you are planning on emailing subscribers, and communicate what the content of your emails will be so subscribers understand they’re signing up to receive (Note: this makes subscribers less likely to label your emails as spam)
  • Make it easy for people to opt-out with an obvious button or text in every email
  • Under CAN-SPAM you cannot request anything other than the user’s email address to complete an unsubscribe. You cannot have them “log into” into an account or some other form of second step.
  • Your email opt-out process is easy to complete
  • Use an “opt-down” method to let people unsubscribe from one of your campaigns but remain in another
  • If you’re sending daily emails, offer the option to send once a week (or some other less-frequent schedule)
  • Honor people’s email removal requests immediately
  • Consider using a survey that lets people tell you in their own words why they unsubscribe

Email best practices that help keep people subscribed and engaged

  • Send content your subscribers (or the recipients of your email) would define as valuable – not self-serving content that only your company cares about
  • The subject line should have a value proposition
  • Keep subject lines short and accurate (Note: Few things upset consumers more than a deceptive email subject line)
  • Locate the most important words of your subject line toward the beginning
  • Proofread your emails; sloppy grammar and typos make emails look like spam
  • Emails that carry branding that matches website branding look more professional and are more likely to be trusted as genuine

By , Published August 30, 2013

Moody’s increasingly downgrading elite colleges

November 23rd, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Education

Over the past year and a half, the credit ratings of several prestigious liberal arts colleges have been downgraded or assigned a negative outlook by Moody’s Investors Service.

These are institutions — Haverford College, Morehouse College, Oberlin College and Wellesley College – that top students seek out, yet they are showing small but noticeable signs of fiscal stress several years after the end of the recession. Their downgraded ratings are still better than those of plenty of other institutions, and Moody’s has issued plenty of gloomy projects about  colleges during the economic downturn. But the recent actions are notable because they affect colleges that are by many measures — money, prestige, history — among the most fortunate in the country.

“We do see pressure on small private colleges as a group and that’s primarily because they don’t have a lot of different things they can do, so they are primarily dependent on tuition revenue,” said a Moody’s analyst, Edie Behr.

Moody’s has pointed out the fiscal dangers of colleges relying on a small number of revenue streams.

That is not an easy task, said Oberlin’s vice president for finance, Ronald Watts.

“It’s like a car dealership being sales-of-car dependent,” Watts said. “I mean, it’s our industry, what do you want us to do?”

There are three basic sources of revenue for these colleges: tuition, donations and money from endowment growth, though Oberlin is thinking about trying to use its campus for more summer programs of some kind.

Since spring 2012, Moody’s has downgraded Morehouse, Haverford and Wellesley, and changed Oberlin’s ratings outlook to negative. It also assigned Morehouse a negative outlook.

Morehouse, a historically black college with about 2,400 male undergraduates, has the worst rating of the four. That’s in part because it alone was cited by Moody’s for declining enrollments.

“Morehouse clearly has a market niche as a historically black college and university, probably the preeminent all-male HBCU,” Behr said. “But they are small and they have experienced three years of net tuition [revenue] declines, so they’ve really got a difficult situation. They’ve had a management turnover. They have very thin cash flow.”

Moody’s downgraded Morehouse’s long-term credit rating last summer to A3, which is still upper-medium grade. The firm also gave the college a negative outlook.

The college has furloughed faculty and staff. A Morehouse spokeswoman did not make anyone available to talk about the college’s situation.

Robert Zemsky, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a consultant, said liberal arts colleges are trying to offer a wide range of options to students while keeping classes small. This, he said, cannot last.

“Liberal arts colleges in particular have to get control of their curricula and consolidate them and that will shrink the base they have to cover economically,” he said. Zemsky said he had done consulting for one of the institutions covered in this article.

Haverford and Oberlin officials are both unsure how much the changes will actually affect them. Lower ratings — but not changes to an outlook — can drive up the costs of borrowing. But neither institution plans to incur new debt in the near term.

Oberlin, in Ohio, got knocked by the ratings agencyon Aug. 5 for faring poorly since the recession compared to some of its peers. The college received a high-quality Aa2 grade but had its outlook changed to negative. Moody’s said the institution, which borrowed $15 million in August and may borrow another $17 million this year, is increasingly leveraged and investing cash in capital projects.

Watts said the college grew its endowment by about $45 million in the 2013 budget year and is working to cut spending. But Watts said the endowment, which he said ranges from $500 to $700 million, is smaller than the endowments of other colleges in Oberlin’s peer group.

He said building new facilities is good for the institution in the long run and that putting money into the upkeep of its century-old buildings is a good investment.

“My argument is that your deferred maintenance does not go away by not investing in the buildings,” Watts said.

Moody’s downgraded Wellesley to a high-quality Aa1 rating in March 2012 on $240 million of outstanding debt, at least some of which is being used to fund a renovation of the campus.

“Ultimately, we believe that investing in renewing the physical plant of the college — even as we increase support in the operating budget to methodically move toward fully funding depreciation — is the responsible thing to do and is the best way to strengthen Wellesley College,” Ben Hammond, Wellesley’s vice president for finance and administration, said in a statement.

Haverford was downgraded to a still-high-quality grade of Aa3. The college continues to suffer from the economic downturn, during which the value of its endowment fell by 35 percent, in part because the college sold off assets at the bottom of the market. Some other institutions borrowed cash so they could hold onto investments for when the markets rebounded.

“We did not borrow for liquidity, we sold for liquidity, and that did not help us,” said Haverford’s vice president for finance and administration, Dick Wynn.

Wynn said he believes the college did well during the 2013 budget year but Moody’s looked at the results of its 2012 budget year.

Watts and Wynn both noted their colleges had slightly better ratings or outlooks from Standard & Poor’s, an indication of what some say is evidence of the more conservative and ratios-based approach that Moody’s is taking to higher ed ratings.

Not all prestigious liberal arts colleges are facing negative ratings actions. Reed College, for instance, maintained an Aa2 rating in a recent review by Moody’s.

“I think it’s just as notable in this economic environment to note that the majority of our rating actions are affirming the outlook of the universities in our ratings universe,” said Moody’s analyst Karen Kedem.

August 30, 2013

Inside Higher Ed

Old-fashioned email marketing still best way to communicate

November 22nd, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Email, Marketing

Reaching prospects by email and boosting open rates.

So many communication channels these days, so little time (and attention!) to go around. But while much of the focus of late is on social media, content marketing, and mobile, there is ample evidence to suggest that if you really want to drive decision making and purchase behaviour, then the humble email is still key.

A recent survey from the Economist Intelligence Unit and Lyris points to the continuing importance of email as a way of connecting with prospects. While the survey relates to broader patterns of consumer behaviour, it is nevertheless revealing and warrants a closer look by education marketers aiming to connect with prospective students via email.

Among the study’s key findings:

  • For an initial introduction to a product, consumers prefer email (37% of respondents) followed by printed catalogues (35%) and personal referrals (33%).
  • Only about one in five consumers say they prefer social media sites and blogs to make purchase assessments or decisions. Email is also a preferred channel for post-purchase follow-up, with 52% of consumers citing it as one of their top three preferences.


And this is of particular note for marketers who are targeting college-age audiences:

Dear John

The study also has an important comment to make on personalisation in email marketing.

While there is again a fair bit of research to suggest that even modest efforts at personalisation – for example, the use of the consumer’s name in the email greeting or subject line – can produce results, other recent studies, including the Economist/Lyris research noted here, suggest that consumers are now looking for more thoughtful customisation efforts in the marketing communications they receive.

Eloqua, an online marketing division of technology giant Oracle, recently reported on email performance trends based on a large sample of 200 million messages, and its data suggests that there are real gains to be made through personalisation.

“Email helps support overall multi-touch communications strategies, enabling marketers to deliver these targeted messages based on customer preference across different points in the buyer’s purchase process,” notes a recent post on the Eloqua blog. “Sophisticated email marketing programmes – fueled by marketing automation – enable relevant communication when used with behavioral triggers. Email is a great tool for marketers to serve up relevant content at the time when a buyer is engaged and likely to respond.”

In this sense, even a modest level of personalisation can act as a means to increase the relevance of the email message to the prospect who is receiving it.

Eloqua found that the use of the recipient’s name alone in the subject line boosted average open rates by 5%. But the use of the recipient’s name and one other data point – for example, the recipient’s location – in the subject line had nearly double the impact and led to open rates that were on average roughly 10% higher.


Other sources have concurred that even basic attempts at subject line personalisation do generate a modest advantage in open rates, but note as well a more pronounced impact on click-through rates. Marketing Sherpa, for example, has reported on tests where click-through rates on personalised email messages were on average 17.36% higher.

The Economist/Lyris study takes such findings one step further by noting:


Perhaps as much as anything else, this finding illustrates the possibility that as personalisation in email marketing has become more widespread, its effectiveness is beginning to erode. This demonstrates as well a continuing and heightened demand among prospects for relevance in email communications – that critical characteristic of email that Eloqua noted in its research above – and in online marketing more generally.

For a little more background, and some great examples, on email personalisation/customisation in action, check out this round-up from Hubspot.

For some ideas of what this customisation might look like in a student recruitment context, we need look no further than some of the recent examples we have seen on ICEF Monitor.

Customisation examples

Intead’s mystery shopper experiment revealed the usefulness and importance of automated response systems for student queries, and the value of customising follow-up messages for key elements, including the student’s first language, location, or programme of interest.

These same key elements of the student enquiry, especially to the extent that they can be managed within data-based marketing or enrolment management systems, provide considerable scope for additional, targeted communications downstream.

Are you launching a new programme offering that relates to the prospect’s stated interests? Are you attending an education fair next month in their home city? That is the stuff of relevance, and automated email messaging is an efficient and effective way to demonstrate that relevance to prospective students.

Another way to demonstrate relevance to prospective students is by offering them somecommunications in their first language, whether via email or in the form of customised landing pages such as we saw with the example of the fantastic landing pages created by the University of Alberta.


A customised web page for Mexican prospects on the University of Alberta website.

Again: relevance! But in this case, the university has created a series of highly targeted pages that could be easily and repeatedly referenced in targeted email communications with prospects.

So clearly there is a continuum of personalisation and customisation available to all marketers, and today’s email marketing tools make it ever easier to incorporate some degree of personalisation into your online marketing efforts. The question – as always – is how to ensure the communications you are sending out are as relevant as possible for your prospects and, as a result, as effective as possible for your recruitment effort.

 30 Aug 2013
ICEF Monitor



November 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Marketing

Loyalty programs continue to help small- and medium-sized businesses generate regular customer engagement, according to a recent survey. It’s a model that works in associations too.

If you were to audit the contents of your wallet, chances are good that you’d find at least one grocery store rewards card or frequent-visitor punch card—those ones where, after you buy five ice cream cones, the sixth is free. Possibly, you’d find quite a few more than one.

Loyalty programs like these have been around for a while and likely won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, according to recent research.

A BIA/Kelsey survey of small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) found that 38 percent of small businesses offer some kind of loyalty program, with an additional 21 percent saying they will probably start one in the next 12 months. Those numbers are nearly identical to surveys from years past, the group reported. Small businesses also estimated that over 17 percent of their total business would be generated by customer acquisition programs such as discounts or daily deals, which may or may not be part of a loyalty program.

“The data indicates solid interest and intentions in loyalty programs, which are becoming an increasingly important tool for customer retention,” Steve Marshall, director of research at BIA/Kelsey, said in a statement. “Going forward, we believe the proportion of business generated from both loyalty programs and promotions will rise significantly, as SMBs increasingly tailor their offerings to frequent customers and specific customer segments.”

Member loyalty programs are a natural in associations, too, where they can give a boost to meetings and events andincrease member involvement in association activities. “In our research we’ve found that most Americans belong to over 10 loyalty programs, and roughly 180 billion memberships and loyalty programs exist in the U.S. alone,” said David Carrithers, founder, president, and managing director of Affinity Center International, which runs a loyalty program for associations. “It’s part of our culture; it’s part of how people do business nowadays.”

A successful loyalty program is one that goes beyond tactical thinking—relying on conferences or products or training seminars as ways to build relationships with members, Carrithers said.

“A well-thought-out, strategic loyalty program allows an association to stand out 365 days a year and allows the member to build positive engagement memories,” he said. “One size doesn’t fit all though, so make sure you are thinking of all your members and what will drive their behaviors. Think through the whole program and build it into the overall value of membership.”

Employing a loyalty program that gives members positive engagement experiences will only benefit the organization, said Carrithers. “Associations will see more committed, proactive members who connect with the organization more frequently, which in turn drives up renewals.”

Despite the benefits, in a recent informal poll of attendees during a session at ASAE’s Annual Meeting & Exposition in Atlanta, “only 13 people out of the 250 there said they offer a loyalty program,” Carrithers said. “Then I asked how many personally, or for the office, are members of a frequent flyer miles or credit card points program, and all but two raised their hands.”

BY ROB STOTT / AUG 23, 2013