Product Knowledge vs. Product Understanding in Higher Education Enrollment Management

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shutterstock_426907543 (2)

MAC Services – Coaching Corner 

Higher Education Enrollment Management 

I recently returned from the 2016 APSCU/CECU conference in Orlando, Florida. The conference’s theme, Aligning the Future, could not have been more relevant given the current state of Higher Education in this country. Along with innovation displays that evidenced how schools and colleges are forming strategic alliances with private sector companies to ensure that their graduates are properly prepared to enter their chosen industry, there was a prevalent focus on creating a substantial value proposition for students seeking career growth through Higher Education.

I had the pleasure of attending a seminar presented by Dr. Suzanne Morrison-Williams of City College entitled Revolutionizing Retention 2.0- Millennial Style.  In addition to some valuable information that was focused on servicing the distinct needs of millennial students within the Academy, there was an important section she shared that all Admissions and Enrollment professionals should acknowledge. Whereas, previous generations viewed college and other forms of higher education as an opportunity to facilitate additional earning power and gain entrance to desired career tracks, millennials tend to view higher education as an expense.

Understanding this shift of higher education perception and expectations, successful Admissions teams are adjusting their processes to evidence value to overcome the expense objection. With an ongoing national discourse about rising school loan debt and questionable ROI’s when it comes to the financial investment associated with attending Higher Ed institutions, positioning your school or college to better articulate value is an important paradigm adjustment, especially when training your Admissions staff.

At some point in the enrollment cycle, representatives of your institution have to articulate the structure, course offerings, delivery and benefit of the programs for which a prospective student has shown interest. In preparing these Admissions professionals to address these program offerings, training has traditionally consisted of a catalog –inspired summary of the program and maybe some supplemental context offered by a Program Director. On the surface, this type of training may be sufficient for basic product knowledge, but in today’s higher education landscape, product understanding should be the desired training outcome for any campus personnel involved in the enrollment process.

The difference between product knowledge and product understanding is nuanced, yet very distinct in the level of confidence, trust building and relationship cultivating skills that your Admissions team is able to bring to every prospect interaction. Product knowledge may arm your team with the requisite features that your programs offer, product understanding takes them to a level where they can explain the “why” of every course offered and how the cumulative elements of the program (including delivery method, hands-on components, and resource materials) translate into the value proposition of career readiness and comprehensive preparation to compete in their career of choice.

Here are some techniques that can enhance the ability of your Admissions personnel to evolve past product knowledge and into a state of product understanding:

  • Training in product understanding is dynamic and ongoing. Quarterly refreshers on program offerings should include educators and employers who are equipped to relate the program elements to their practical applications in the workplace
  • Admissions-focused summaries of Program Advisory Meetings can be shared with your Admissions team to highlight current industry trends that will be addressed within the curriculum
  • Periodic conference calls in which successful graduates are able to talk with your Admissions team and convey how the skills and concepts learned in the classroom were utilized once they entered their career

These enhancements along with some additional best practices can elevate the quality of institution-prospective student interaction exponentially. The onus of evidencing the value of higher education at your campus is on you. The question is; is your team really ready?

For more information about Tribeca’s Marketing & Admissions Coaching Services please click here or contact Richard McCulloch at 954-495-0932.

 

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