Quality in Higher Education
Higher education is a service. Defining quality in a service can be more difficult than defining quality for a product. Quality in service has to do with accomplishing objectives while at the same time satisfying the customers’ perceptions of the service. Delivering quality can be difficult as objectives and perceptions change as the needs for customers change.
Many colleges have departments dedicated to quality assessment and improvement, focused on the institution as a whole. Quality in college admissions is required to make sure the student and school are a good fit for each other. Ensuring the best fit between school and student improves retention and ensures that the student is prepared for the area of study. Students who become part of a degree program is a good fit helps in leading people into a good fit for future profession in the area that the student is pursuing their studies.
There is an increased emphasis on institutional effectiveness for higher education. Institutional effectiveness measures the percentage of graduates that receive jobs within their field of study from each institution. The growing concern over institutional effectiveness comes from the combination of high unemployment rates, concerns with student loans, and the national level of student loans.
The use of intuitional effectiveness gives students and schools a qualitative measure of quality among colleges. Colleges can benchmark their institutional effectiveness as compared to similar colleges. When superior results for a similar college are identified; other colleges can study that college as a model of how to improve their own institution. Higher education institutions can become aware of what programs are performing best in placing students into jobs after graduation; the results may indicate an area that the school can give more emphasis.
Quality in Advertising
Institutions can promote quality through advertising. Informing potential students how the college and degree programs attempt to achieve the potential students desires can achieve quality. For example if a student would like to become a mechanic, the school can illustrate how they are qualified to help a student become a mechanic. The advertisement could discuss the background of the college and the instructors. The advertisement could give examples of past students results after finishing the program. The ad could include information about the programs institutional effectiveness.
Colleges can proactively pursue students that are a good fit for the institution through accurate advertisements and promotions. The promotional material can take a bigger emphasis on what career the programs prepare the student for instead of promising career possibilities. Advertisements can be targeted the segment of students that would be ideal candidates for the program with information in promotional material that discusses the type of student the program was designed for.
The content of advertisements are of extreme importance to convey accurate information and set expectations for students and parents; however, where colleges advertise is of extreme importance also. It would be better for Seminaries (graduate school for pastors) should target people that are involved in a specific church or denomination. For the colleges that work with traditional students should advertise among young adults aged 16-20, where as schools geared towards non-traditional students would target an older demographic.
Admission requirements can assist in ensuring proper alignment between the college and potential student. Admission requirements that help ensure proper alignment can include grade point average (GPA), assessment results, essays, reference letters, or experience. The college needs to understand their typical student and their challenges. Some colleges specialize in helping underprepared students excel through specialized programs to prepare those students for further academic programs and vocational aptitude. The college needs to define whom the school fits in demographic and academic terms.
An essay that requires the student to explain their motivation for applying to the school and why they are a good candidate allows the admissions counselor to make a judgment about institutional fit and at the same time allows the applicant to internalize and express how their goals align with the colleges. Essays can indicate the potential students ability to follow instructions for writing papers and indicate their grammatical ability. The entrance essay can indicate the student’s level of motivation, if the application process becomes delayed by the essay requirement that indicates that the student either needs encouragement, further educational support, or lacks the motivation to the complete the essay in a timely manner.
The GPA requirement can vary among schools depending on the degree and type of school. The requirement varies from a minimum GPA to be able to perform college level work to more specific transcript and grade requirements. The minimal purpose would be to not admit student who appear to be incapable of performing college level work an school policy that closely relates to entrance GPA. Other programs may need to see an overall good GPA in addition to specific grades and types of classes taken, in the case of engineering degrees.
Reference letters help colleges see if anyone will vouch for you and who vouches for you. To ensure proper good institutional effectiveness the school would like to see that the student has already begun to network in the right places or that they are least networked. What a school many times does not want to deal with someone who creates problems everywhere they go and has no one willing to refer them.
Assessment results typically come from SAT or ACT achievement test. Schools that work with older non-traditional students will many times find other assessments because of the time lapse from when the student was in school and when they were last assessed. Although assessment results are important, they are a piece of the whole picture of the student’s ability and fit for an institution.
The experience admission requirement helps ensure that the student has the ability to perform the profession that the school will be teaching. Many degree programs do not have specific experience requirements, however, the experience aspect can be imperative for some degree programs. Several programs that require experience are MBA (Masters of Business Administration), MFA (Masters of Fine Arts), and other specialty programs for both undergraduate and graduate levels.
The admission requirements help the school identify ideal students for the their program. Many times schools find their specific niche appeals to a specific type of student looking for a specific program. Once the student and the programs for the school are identified, the school can create programs to increase the effectiveness of the pairing of the school and the student. For instance if a school specializes in educating underprepared students the college can create methods to help the student through programs, remedial classes, tutoring, and vocational preparation. The schools can also build sections of the needed training into the curriculum of the classes.
The need for continuous improvement in the quality of higher education admissions will help universities to adapt to the changing needs of the school and students. The expectations for higher education have changed over the years to have a vocational emphasis, which merits different assessment of effectiveness than how education was assessed in the past. Quality in admissions will help align the goals for the school and student to accomplish the shared goals. For example the current trend of measuring education institutions by the percentage of graduates acquiring jobs in that should lead Universities to cultivate relationships with employers in the areas that the school specializes in.
Quality in admissions for higher education comes from proper alignment between the student and the school. This alignment should be cultivated in an enrollment and marketing plan that clearly articulates the unique programs the school offers and excels. The plan should also include the detailed segmentation of ideal students. The increased attention on higher education’s effectiveness comes from marketing schools as one sized fits all for one-sized fits all students. The needs for the alignment will change as the students needs change while at the same time different industries will change.
The difficult part would be to focus on unique programs instead of popular programs. For schools to stand out from other schools they must provide something in a way that another college does not offer. Many schools will want to offer the popular and general education courses to not loose potential students while at the same time they will need to place emphasis on their unique programs.
One of the challenges would be the impression of higher educations view of the admissions office. The admissions office needs to be able to advise schools on issues further than sales and marketing. Specifically, with higher education admissions, academics, institutional effectiveness, and educational rigor are all interconnected. The more emphasis that colleges place on their unique programs coupled with admission requirements that admit the best students for the programs will increase the colleges retention and institution effectiveness numbers. With better retention and institution effectiveness, the school will attract more ideal students, which will create a stronger program. Implementing quality seems difficult in the beginning and requires support from senior leaders. However, the difficulties are worth the results.
Jason Crowther is currently the Dean of Enrollment for Grace College of Divinity. He has a background of starting businesses and operational roles at other companies. He is currently pursuing his MBA in entrepreneurship from Regent University.