Joint Marketing and Student Recruitment: The State University of New York University Colleges of Technology Experience

Article excerpt

Abstract

American colleges and universities have used joint marketing and recruitment activities to reach student enrollment goals for many years. These activities include advertising, direct mail, friend-raising, personal recruitment, publications, Web pages, and an assortment of other recruitment activities sponsored by two or more institutions. Despite widespread use of these strategies, many admissions, enrollment management, marketing, and public relations professionals believe that joint marketing and recruitment activities do not have the same effect as campus-specific marketing and recruitment activities. This article, using the experience of the State University of New York Colleges of Technology, presents and evaluates a wide-ranging joint marketing and recruitment effort to assess the relative value of this approach.

Since the early 1900s, the five upstate New York Colleges of Technology-formerly known as New York State's Colleges of Agriculture and Technology-provided in-demand educational programs at small, residential campuses to students seeking both career- and transfer-oriented one- and twoyear programs. The colleges have a long history, conceived to fill an identified state need from 1906-1916, specifically for the purpose of offering instruction in agriculture and the domestic sciences. This singular purpose continued until the 1930s, when the needs of the state called for an expansion of programs to include instruction in industrial, electrical, and construction technologies. In the 1950s, program offerings grew in response to demand for business technologies, health technologies, and additional engineering technologies. Throughout the twentieth century, the colleges also offered liberal arts and sciences and other career- and transfer-oriented programs to meet the educational needs of their local communities.

While the colleges were evolving, other changes occurred in New York including the formation of the State University of New York (SUNY) system, the emergence of community colleges and university centers, and the transformation of normal schools into colleges of arts and sciences. As these changes occurred, the Colleges of Technology lost their distinctiveness due to internal modifications, the parallel evolution of other colleges, and because of changing societal needs. These changes eventually impacted student choice patterns. Between 1992 and 1997, enrollment at the Colleges of Technology declined 17 percent for a total net reduction of students by 2,470 (SUNY System Administration 1998).

Observers of the New York State higher education community saw three primary reasons for the enrollment decline at SUNY'S Colleges of Technology. First, the number of New York State high school graduates declined significantly during this period. The number of students graduating from New York State high schools declined from 246,945 in 1977 to 157,086 in 1995, or by about 64 percent (SUNY System Administration 1998). This resulted in a smaller cohort of New York State high school graduates moving to the postsccondary level during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Second, the public community colleges expanded significantly in the middle to late part of the twentieth century and increasingly offered a credible educational option within the commuting region of most New York State residents for a fraction of the cost of a residential College of Technology education. Community College Week (Borden 2002) lists five of the 30 State University of New York community colleges and an additional four City University of New York community colleges on the "Top 100" list for degree completion among community colleges nationally. Additionally, the students graduating from high school in the 1990s were concerned about the cost of higher education. With lower tuitions and geographic presence in all of New York State's urban and suburban regions, as well as some rural areas, choosing a commuter community college became an acceptable option for many New York State high school graduates. …

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