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What did we discover?

We asked presidents a variety of questions about their backgrounds, pressure points, successes, current practices and ambitions. While the survey covered a wide range, most responses uncovered findings in three key areas: cost, challenges and marketing priorities.

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finding 1:

The most pressing external and internal issues facing today’s independent college presidents are related to cost.

Sixty-three percent of those surveyed said that families’ ability to pay was among their top external marketing challenges; 68% cited the costs associated with running their institutions to be among their greatest internal marketing challenges (Figure 1).
Figure 1:

Greatest External and Internal Marketing Challenges

Figure 1 100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% Families' ability to pay Institution's operational costs Internal External 38% 61% 43% 68%
Top Reason
Top Three Reasons
finding 2:

Independent college presidents feel more competitive pressure from public institutions than from other private institutions, at a ratio of roughly 2:1.

Figure 2:

Competitive Pressure

Figure 2 100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% Competition from public institutions (two- and four-year colleges) Increased competition from other private/independent institutions 13% 2% 42% 23%
Top Reason
Top Three Reasons
finding 3:

Only a handful of pricing initiatives are being widely explored.

Respondents were asked to select from a list of 10 different pricing-related initiatives and asked if their institution had used any in the past five years with the strategic intent of increasing enrollment. The top four initiatives were increased merit aid, increased need-based aid, increased the discount rate and increased tuition. These were implemented by at least 50% of respondents (Figure 3).
Figure 3:

pricing-related initiatives used in the past 5 years

Pricing-Related Initiatives % Implemented
Increased merit aid 57%
Increased need-based aid 56%
Increased the discount rate 54%
Increased tuition 50%
finding 4:

While product is the top marketing priority, people-related initiatives are drawing more presidents’ attention.

More presidents are concerned with improving retention (95%) than any other marketing-related initiative. Product-related initiatives don’t even break the top five, which also include increasing graduation rates (90%), increasing contribution revenues (88%), investing more in promotional marketing efforts (86%) and evaluating the cost of attendance (81%) (Figure 4).
Figure 4:

marketing priorities

(% who have engaged in the following)

People Price Promotion
Improving retention (95%) Increasing contribution revenues (88%) Investing more in promotional marketing efforts (86%)
Increasing graduation rates (90%) Evaluating the cost of attendance (81%)
finding 5:

Most institutions have added distinctive academic programs with mixed results.

Seventy-one percent of respondents said their institutions have added distinctive academic programs in the past five years (i.e., programs not offered by their competitors). Frequent mentions included health-related, cybersecurity, physicians’ assistant and engineering programs. Of those who added programs, 46% reported that both enrollment and revenues increased “very successfully” as a result; 37% reported that both enrollment and revenues increased, but not as much as expected (Figure 5).
Figure 5:

impact of adding academic programs

Impact of Adding Academic Programs Pie Chart 37% 11% 6% 46%
Both enrollment and revenues increased very successfully
Both enrollment and revenues increased but not as much as expected
Enrollment increased but not revenues
Neither enrollment nor revenue increased

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