Here Come the Bargain-I Mean Value-Hunters: Better Educate Your Potential Applicants about Cost and Value

By Grayson, Kathy | University Business, December 2003 | Go to article overview

Here Come the Bargain-I Mean Value-Hunters: Better Educate Your Potential Applicants about Cost and Value


Grayson, Kathy, University Business


IF YOU LIVE IN THE EAST OR THE MIDWEST, YOU'VE PROBABLY heard this slogan: "An educated consumer is our best customer." The catchphrase--and it's a good one--belongs to N J-based Syms Clothing (Syms Corp.), a bargain-basement clothing retailer that debuted in the 1970s selling off-price brand and designer apparel. The retailer is still going strong, because people still want top-Label, good-quality clothing at a price they can actually afford. And the company believes in giving the consumer detailed information about the way it prices its apparel--in fact, its advertising campaigns have been based on that pricing information. Hence, the slogan.

Why should you, a higher education professional, care about my little Syms story? If you had a chance to glance at the September or November issues of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, or visit the Peterson's BestCollege Deals Web site (www.petersons.com/kiplingers), you just might. While I don't ordinarily urge attention to college and university rankings, Kiplinger's Private Colleges Worth the Price (September) and 100 Best Values in Public Colleges (November) might be the exceptions, if only because they give American families what they so desperately need right now: a way to be an educated consumer. Certainly, these "value" rankings are only one tiny means of helping families find a college or university for their child that represents worth for dollars spent. More than anything else, however, they introduce or reinforce the idea that families can and should be looking for these values.

I could go into the "winners" of these particular rankings instruments, but that is not the point to be made here (head to www.kiplinger.com tools colleges for more on the rankings). More important is this: If (in Light of the recent College Board proclamation of college tuition inflation) your own institution is not aggressively seeking ways to be a better value, it needs to--now. And if your institution already represents real value for the money--or can represent that real value to certain segments or numbers of qualified applicants--it probably needs to be getting that idea across to potential applicants and their families much better than it is at present.

Of course, there are many ways to manage this, and most of them involve improvements to marketing and public relations efforts (both of which may have been first to suffer the ax when the budget cuts came down). But one of the ideas I Like best is the financial aid calculator--your school's own, on its Web site.

A good model for the calculator is Peterson's BestCollege Deals Web site, which--like so many calculators that can be accessed from banking and collegiate services Web sites--helps families estimate the expected family contribution (EFC). …

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