The Un-Baby Boom Generation (and What Colleges Can Do about It)

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For higher education, the hits just keep coming.

In an environment with little good news to share, now there’s this: a reported historic drop in prospective students. With the population of 18- to 24-year-olds at an all-time low, private colleges and universities (and some public ones) find themselves fighting for an ever-shrinking pool of potential enrollees.

What’s a college or university to do?

Many are beefing up their financial aid packages and recruitment efforts and streamlining the transfer process—all good (if potentially costly) moves in the short term. But with no upswing in this demographic expected until 2023, colleges need to come up with more long-term, less pricey, strategies.

More than ever, colleges need to look for ways to build or strengthen their brand. Now, I’m not talking about coming up with a new logo or tagline, although that might be warranted in some cases. A brand is so much more than that. It’s the promise you make to your customer, i.e., the prospective student. It has to connect you with them, intimately and deeply. It must be relevant, engaging—and different from your competition.

It all starts by getting to know who your customer really is—and what they’re looking for from you. If you don’t know what that is—and start delivering on it—no amount of tuition discount is going to drive them to your classrooms or keep them there.

This is Marketing 101. And it’s coming soon to a college near you.

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