Academic journal article College Student Journal

Student Focused Marketing: Impact of Marketing Higher Education Based on Student Data and Input

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Student Focused Marketing: Impact of Marketing Higher Education Based on Student Data and Input

Article excerpt

USA Today headlined an article "Study: Nearly Half are Overqualified for Their Jobs," (Marklein, 2013). The article cited a study by the nonprofit Center for College Affordability and Productivity which found this apparent mismatch between qualifications and jobs held. The question then becomes, what has led to this mismatch?

Three trends in higher education may have some impact on this situation. First, colleges and universities are coming under increasing financial stress as traditional funding sources such as state funding shrink, and poor investment returns have hurt endowments. Thus, colleges and universities are increasingly measured using business success measures such as measures that closely resemble profitability measures from the for profit sector. Second, Colleges and Universities are focusing on evaluating faculty performance in the classroom by use of student input. Finally, rating agencies, and colleges and universities themselves are focusing on measurements of success, such as student retention. This paper discusses how reliance on student based data may have helped to produce a mismatch between qualifications and jobs.


As Higher Education moves in to the 2151 century, measurement of outcomes has become increasingly important. In the data driven society of today, the multiple constituencies invested in higher education are looking for objective measures of performance. State legislators are demanding accountability as they attempt to allocate funds. In addition, the decline in public funding for Higher Education has forced colleges and universities to increasingly develop a "for profit" type of business model, in order to maximize the efficient use of funds. Colleges and universities also continue to rely heavily on student feedback in terms of classroom performance of teachers.

However, increased use of accountability measures may have unintended negative consequences.

The first element to consider is the measurement of financial success of the college or university. This element is concerned with the generation of income for the college or university. A key source of income is student tuition and fees. Therefore, one key marketing strategy for success in this area would be to attract and retain students. How, then, are institutions of higher learning to attract students? In order to attract students, colleges and universities must offer a product (service) which is positioned to attract students. The segment targeted, and the service offered to that segment, will be crucial to the success of any marketing effort (Cao & Gruca, 2005). As Cao and Gruca note, different offerings would attract very different students.

So far, this type of marketing effort seems to follow the textbook marketing strategy of finding and filling consumer needs. However, this strategy considers the students as the target market. While some students may attend institutions of higher learning as a means of self-actualization, others may pursue a degree as a means to gaining entry into the workplace.

Therein lies a potential problem. Colleges and universities, in an effort to maximize revenue from students, may develop offerings (majors, etc.) which attract a large number of students. This will achieve the goal of producing revenue. However, a program of study which attracts large numbers of students, may not attract large number of employers to hire those same students when they complete their degree requirements. There may be a significant mismatch between student wants, in terms of courses of study, and employers' needs, in terms of workplace skills. In the process of trying to increase measurables such as revenue from students, institutions of higher learning may be producing an excess of graduates whose skills are not in high demand in the marketplace. North Carolina's governor, Pat McCory, pointed out in an interview his concern that college graduates cannot get good jobs, and his view that one possible reason for this is that many academic majors may not have practical applications in the "real world" (Shaw, 2013). …

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