In the world of marketing higher education, the race is on to gather as many applicants as possible. One obvious reason for this is so that colleges can deny more applicants. The goal is to lower the schools’ acceptance rates. More applicants rejected = higher “selectivity.” In turn, this most likely will raise a college’s standing in the seemingly all-important world of rankings. Of course, the 500-lb. gorilla of college rankings lives at U.S. News. There are also myriad other rankings published each year. The goal, as with U.S. News, is to bring attention to whatever print or online publication is presenting the rankings. In other words, let’s sell more magazines or bring additional eyeballs to a Web site.
Marketing higher education is like marketing any other product, except with college, the aura of the product appeals to both intellectual pride (“Our son just got his Masters in climate change studies.”) and economic practicalities (“A B.S in chemistry or related field is required for this position.”). To paraphrase P.T. Barnum, nobody ever lost a dollar by underestimating the gullibility of the American public. Case in point: for-profit “colleges.” For example, check this ABC News story:
Santa Ana, California-based Corinthian Colleges Inc. announced that the campuses being closed operate under the Everest name and are scattered in 11 states. The company faces multiple state and federal investigations …
… Last month, the Education Department put Corinthian on heightened financial monitoring with a 21-day waiting period for federal funds. That was after the department said it failed to provide adequate paperwork and comply with requests to address concerns about the company’s practices. The department said the concerns included allegations of falsifying job placement data used in marketing claims to prospective students, and allegations of altered grades and attendance.
Some students left comments on the Everest Facebook page expressing concerns that their degrees would be worthless. Corinthian was reaching out to those students individually and asking them to call for more information …
One has to have empathy for the students and their families involved in this debacle. However, the point here is to try to understand why colleges do what they do. From my viewpoint, regardless of the rhetoric pouring forth from college marketing departments, it all comes down to … three guesses … money. Either directly or indirectly, institutions of higher education need money to sustain and justify their existence. How they go about getting those funds varies greatly, from naming buildings after wealthy alumni to no-nonsense, no-pretense annual giving.
But I digress. The actual content of my article here is not so much how colleges market themselves but rather how many schools are moving into the so-called “test-optional” category. Those two subjects are not unrelated, at least from where I sit.
A test-optional admissions policy means that applicants can choose not to submit SAT or ACT scores. Of course, there are exceptions and variations on the test-optional approach. If you need more resolution on what test-optional means, check these details for more clarity.
I’m always curious to see what others think about seemingly significant college admissions policies. That’s why I was intrigued by some of the comments from posters to this College Confidential (CC) discussion forum thread entitled “No, the SAT is not Required.” More Colleges Join Test-Optional Train. It references a USA Today article by the same name. The original poster of that thread poses this thought and question:
Many people consider standardized testing to be a staple in the college admission process, but some universities now perceive it as irrelevant. Does standardized testing serve a true purpose in admissions, or is it really unnecessary?
Let’s see what some equally thoughtful CC posters have to say about that. More »