#FreeCommunityCollege Series – John McGreal

This week, we’re running a series of posts on #FreeCommunityCollege from professionals from across the industry. The goal is to cover the basics and offer differing viewpoints to begin the conversation before our chat on the topic this Thursday at 9PM ET.

emchatjohnmcgrealToday’s post comes from John McGreal, Regional Recruiter for the University of Alabama. Read more about John here or connect with him on Twitter.

America’s College Promise —

The upside of the program is clear and present, however in the hours and days after the announcement was made I find myself conflicted over it.  The premise is fantastic! Give every student in America the opportunity to achieve an Associate’s degree or technical training without cost as long as they are willing to work for it.  Since the President’s speech, ‘willing to work for it’ has been defined.  Students would need to maintain a 2.5 GPA.  While this program sounds great in the abstract, there are a number of concerns that will have to be addressed.

The estimated cost for this program is 60 billion dollars in the first ten years.  The revenue for the program has yet to be identified.  State governments who choose to opt into the program will be required to pick up the remaining 25%; an additional 20 billion dollars.  For the federal government to come up with this amount of revenue, taxes will have to be levied or other programs will have to be squeezed.  This could mean the end of the Pell grant which makes a higher education affordable for roughly 9 million students at various points in their undergraduate education.  State government would need raise their share as well.  They will turn to funding to public/flagship institutions in their state, they will do away with programs like the MAP grant [Illinois version of the Pell grant], or again rise their income tax.

Student motivation and preparation is another concern.  Entitlement programs run into people not taking the desired advantage.  Students might not be as motivated to achieve high academic honors if they are not responsible for paying for their education.  The program does require a 2.5 GPA in order to continue to be eligible for it.  Hopefully this will incentivize students enough to strive to excellence while attending community college. However, students who benefit from a ‘gap’ year may not consider taking a year off before starting college.  For some students who need additional time to mature before heading off to college the gap year can be essential to their future success. With community college becoming an entitlement, some students may not think twice about whether or not it is the right choice for them.  An emphasis will need to be placed on career counseling at community to ensure that students are using their time and this opportunity to its fullest.  In the event that students do not succeed due to lack of motivation or lack of preparedness, they would also be saddled with a low GPA that will follow them during their entire education experience.  This will cause the students to suffer and the system of higher education to shift.

This would also cause a few tectonic shifts within higher education as a whole.  First, the community college system would be extremely taxed within the first few years of implementation.  If the program takes off the way it should, there will be an influx of students into the system.  This will cause class sizes to skyrocket before the colleges could afford to hire new teachers.  Smaller facilities will not be able to handle the number of courses being offered at one time.  This will result in the need for new, larger facilities to be built—again before the revenue is in hand.  Overcrowding could lead to falling scores within the curriculum.  Any study on educational best practices shows that smaller class sizes are more conducive to learning.

Secondly, the 4-year institutions will be faced with some interesting challenges.  They will see a dip in revenue from two areas.  With less first-year and second year students on campus, universities will need to focus on transfer recruitment and compact agreements between them and community colleges.  The new standard could easily be 2 + 2 agreements for bachelors programs [or even 2 + 3 programs that allow students to graduate with a masters upon completion. This is already happening to some effect with programs like 5-year MBAs, 6-year Physical Therapy Doctoral programs, and so on.].  Smaller colleges and universities could face large budget short falls that could cause them to close down entirely.   Student services offered at 4-year schools would also have to be evaluated.  With more students focused on entering their chosen careers first-year programing might have to be cut and less student activities offered. On the other hand, career services will become much more crucial to institution.  There will likely be many more students focused on their career and internship opportunities.

Lastly, admissions staffs and enrollment management professionals will have to rethink their processes within the funnel.  Less first-year students will consider 4-year institutions to start off their college career.  The transfer funnel is 6 months and you are usually working with at least two at a time.  Admission counselors and recruiters will have to adjust their mindset.  The office will undergo a reshaping to focus more on transfer recruitment.  However, more scholarship money could devoted to transfer students to aid them in completing their degree. This could greatly assist in the current student debt crisis in the US.

America’s College Promise could be a great program, but there will be many issues and road blocks that have to be addressed by the federal government.  If implemented properly, if state governments can be brought on board, this quixotic program can be a game changer for students across America.

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#FreeCommunityCollege Series – Ben Kohl

This week, we’re running a series of posts on #FreeCommunityCollege from professionals from across the industry. The goal is to cover the basics and offer differing viewpoints to begin the conversation before our chat on the topic this Thursday at 9PM ET.


Today’s post comes from Ben Kohl, Assistant Director for the Office of Student Financial Assistance at Kansas State University. Ben is also currently the President of the Kansas Association of Financial Aid Administrators and is completing his PhD at Kansas State in Student Affairs in Higher Education Administration. Read more about Ben here or connect with him on Twitter.

The concept of 2 free years of community college for anyone “willing to work for it” has now been talked about for a week. President Obama announced his America’s College Promise proposal on Friday, in Pellissippi, Tennessee. Since then, the proposal has been received with unbridled celebration and viewed with careful skepticism.

This plan is subject to Congressional approval and many consider it DOA, as reported in the Wall Street Journal. The plan depends on $60 billion from state governments over the next decade to defray tuition and fees for anyone who attends community college at least half-time, maintains 2.5 GPA, and is on track to complete an academic program or transfer to a 4-year university. The federal government would provide the remaining 75% of the cost of the program. If all 50 states choose to implement the President’s new community college proposal, it could save a full-time community college student $3,800 in tuition per year on average and benefit roughly 9 million students each year.

You are probably interested in understanding what this #FreeCommunityCollege proposal means for enrollment management purposes. As someone who has worked for over a decade in higher educational financial aid, I pose a number of questions I’m considering and seeking answers to before making a judgment about the proposal.

  1. How will free tuition at community colleges improve enrollment rates and student success? NCES shows that at community colleges (2-year institutions), 31% of 1st time, full-time students graduate with an Associates Degree or transfer to a 4-year institution within 3 years. Research demonstrates that tuition and federal/state grant aid do influence enrollment rates.
  2. How should community colleges prepare for the influx of enrollment and student success? Right now, 45% of the nation’s 24 million college students are enrolled at a community college.
  3. How will direct federal funding encourage community colleges to improve? Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind)
  4. How will America’s College Promise keep up with the increasing higher educational costs to effectively deliver higher education? Is there an inflationary factor in the plan to account for increasing costs of faculty and staff salaries, facilities, equipment, etc.? All the details of America’s College Promise that exist right now.
  5. How might America’s College Promise limit innovations from the private education sector? If the plan is only for public community colleges, it has the potential of becoming a public monopoly similar to our primary and secondary educational systems.
  6. What are the implications of America’s College Promise for 4-year higher educational institutions?
America’s College Promise may be up against tremendous political opposition. However, President Obama has introduced an innovative idea that could be written into law with some political massaging and debate. America’s College Promise may not be written into law soon, but I think we will see a similar idea as law within the next 5 years. Stay tuned and let your voice be heard.
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Resolution: Get a Mentor. Be a Mentor.

In keeping with the resolution theme, today’s post is focused on the value of mentors. I’ve made it a point to identify people (formally and informally) in all areas of my life who can help guide me to become the person I aspire to be. I regularly ping them for advice, grab a coffee or lunch, and gauge their collective responses to opportunities and challenges that pop up in my life, melding suggestions into options that work best for me. Through #EMchat, I’ve met a number of colleagues who have provided serious advice and have been instrumental in the decisions that I have made in my career.

mentorTo me, networking and collaborating with colleagues is the best part of the #EMchat community. And that’s why we’re looking to connect individuals on a greater level as we move into 2015. Over the next few months, we’ll be working on formally defining the online mentorship role that we know EMchat is already providing behind the scenes for so many. We’ve got some great ideas spinning and as always, we’re open to your ideas as well!

Maybe you don’t need a mentor you can talk to every day. Maybe you’re just looking for advice on one particular topic or experience. Maybe you’ve had a fantastic career or just went through a super successful implementation of a CRM and have some tips to share. Maybe you just want to give back. Our goal is simply to create the pool and let the community take it from there.

Whatever the case, be on the lookout for updates and let us know your thoughts on the value you’d find in this!

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#ProDev and Predictive Modeling

We’ve had some great discussions centered around professional development this year; most recently, our chat with NACAC on prodev opportunities and career paths for admission officers. I think it’s also safe to say that #EMchat itself is professional development, whether it’s an article shared, a question answered, or an opportunity to network with colleagues from across the US.

Make a resolution this year to make professional development a bigger part of your life. And remember, some of the best prodev experiences are free.

A while back, we collaborated with the team at Rapid Insight to discuss predictive modeling—and a huge thanks to them for making it possible as a webinar! That chat was a great one, but the RI team has taken it one step (20 steps, actually) further. They’ve created a 20 part video training series for individuals interested in expanding their knowledge of predictive modeling. I’ve taken a look at a number of the trainings and have found them to be straight-forward and relatable, something that’s important for me in a world that is oftentimes exactly the opposite. They’re short videos (and some hands-on training, which is awesome) and absolutely worth taking a few minutes out of your day here or there to give your brain a data boost.

We all know that college admission is competitive for students, but as we continue to move in a direction that requires EM’ers to put a greater focus on data, jobs in the field will become increasingly competitive for professionals. Here’s an opportunity to give yourself a free leg-up and expand your own knowledge.

Caitlin Garrett does a much better job of explaining the training series in her recent post. Check it out and get your prodev on to kick off the New Year!

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My 1 Motivator — The End Goal

After my recent post on pushing through failure, I received some really positive feedback from the higher ed community to continue pushing through—and thanks a ton for that!

I also received a few messages and emails asking what it is that makes me want to push through. Where did the motivation come from? How do you pull yourself out of a failed attempt? To clarify, my startup itself didn’t fail. Has it taken off fully? Nope. But the failure I discussed was a huge setback in my race to launch.

Layout 1So to answer your question regarding what pulled me through my failure directly, Anthony, Jen, Christina, Jordan, and the random email I got that I tried responding directly to but couldn’t for some reason (whoever you are)—my startup is simply a step toward a larger end goal. Looking at it as a step in my career path rather than a career in itself allowed–allows–me to focus on the big picture. Of course, it took me a few months to actually realize this.

What’s my big picture? First impressions. That’s pretty vague, but that’s it.

In a not-so-humble-brag-kind-of-way (mostly because humble brags are actually more of a brag than a regular brag), relationships are my thing. Some people are good at accounting. Some are good at sports. Some can build the hell out of a house. I understand people. Really well. I’m also like a human CRM. I can have one conversation with a person and tell you a year later exactly what we talked about and connect them to a totally unrelated person based on a random commonality. In the end, all relationships start (obviously) with the first impression and the ability to manage that.

For many students, the college fair is that initial person-to-person impression that a prospective student has with an institution. leadpath works to improve a small piece of the puzzle. It’s a step. Other first impressions are ads, campus visits, or a simple phone call with a current student doing an admissions phone-a-thon. My big picture is to consult with institutions to improve first impressions—to make this process easier with technology and training. Each strategy is unique and each institution requires a different approach.  The challenges are incredible and something that I look forward to.

The business competition was a failure, for sure. But it was only a failure in the sense that we didn’t walk away with $50K. We did walk away with really refined pitches. We walked away with over 70 conversations with institutions spanning the education spectrum. We walked away with input from a couple hundred individuals who took the time to help guide the build out. We walked away with a ton of knowledge. And for my big picture, those things are worth significantly more than the initial $50K.

If you get discouraged with a paper, a project, a business venture, or some other personal challenge, it’s easier channel your disappointment into motivation when looking at the bigger picture, the end goal.

Also, I’m a big Stephen Covey fan. His book on The 7 Effective Habits of Highly Effective People was written two years after I was born and I have read it a number of times. It’s every bit as true as the day it was published.

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On Failure and Following Through

About a year ago I had an idea brewing in my head. Get rid of paper road cards and replace them with a system better than the current scanner tech on the market. I’ve sat through countless college fairs as a student and alumni representative of my alma mater—students hate them. It’s not a secret. I have also probably entered thousands of road cards as a student employee. I hate them. And so, I thought there had to be a better way.

I’ve got a serious passion for higher education enrollment management. I love marketing. I have an MBA. What better way to combine these things than by creating a business product that solves a problem in the higher education industry?

So I went about building a team. As a team, we went about creating detailed financial models, extensive technical specifications, and exhaustive marketing analyses. We met with institutions and school counselors in person, online, and over the phone. We got lots of feedback but one overwhelming response kept coming in: this is fantastic.

And so we entered a business competition because we needed some money to hire a developer. And also, why not enter a business competition?

Well. We lost. Like, didn’t-make-it-to-the-second-round kind of loss.

And six months later I’m here–finally okay with the fact that we lost–writing about it.

After we lost, the reality of losing really set in. I didn’t know how to respond, personally. The product sat in a state of stagnation for the entire summer. Sure, we still had some great conversations with schools and reps and continued to refine our pitches to always be prepared for that random angel to give us a call. But I personally struggled with how to move the company forward.

As I come up on the date when the idea first hit me, I’m reminded that this setback will be the first of many. A strong competitor will enter the marketplace. Development will be delayed. The team will change. The idea will evolve.

That’s the business of starting something. But the real business is following through.

Over the past three years I’ve made significant connections on both the institutional and corporate side of this industry. As leadpath moves into its next phase with renewed energy, I just want to extend thanks to everyone who has offered advice along the way, whether it was business strategy, product development, or simply allowing me to ping you with a million questions. It meant—and means—a ton and I’m excited to see what the future holds.

And if version 3.0 doesn’t come to fruition in the way I hope, well, I suppose I’ll just keep following through.

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#EMchat – #ProDev for EM and School Counseling Pros

The role of #EMchat–since the beginning–has been to provide a structured platform to discuss hot topics in higher education enrollment management. While each  moderator has their (our) own opinions, we try to guide a conversation that is open to all sides of the topic. I’d like to think that we were successful in facilitating that last night.

Heated debates are fantastic. Twitter is a sounding board for professionals who are truly passionate about their careers and industry. #EMchat, #SAchat, #FAchat, #SCcrowd, #SCchat, #HESM — These are all communities where you see thought leaders even more. And typically, you also see more divisive opinions. That’s the world of education. That’s how it is.

But here’s what I took away from the chat last night. NO ONE is serving students or setting a positive example for young professionals when we place blame on a whole sector of an industry (both sides)  instead of collaboratively working toward a goal.

You typically see conversations centered around professionalism and identity more in the #SAchat realm. We’ve never had an actual #EMchat on it. I like a debate. In fact, I love a debate. I work on Capitol Hill. What I don’t like is name calling, generalizations about professionals (or anyone, really), or diminishing the role of someone–or group of people–with sweeping, juvenile statements. BOTH sides were guilty of this last night. Some people handled it well and some didn’t.

Basically, that’s not what #EMchat is about. We facilitate. We network. We learn from one another. I took away some great points from the chat last night, and I think there are topics that can definitely be expanded on in future chats. But I also took away a sick feeling that I somehow contributed to promulgating a highly negative conversation between two professional career tracks that I greatly value.

I’m sure we’ll see more #SCcrowd and #SCchat chats on professional development opportunities for school counselors. We’re discussing the EM career path with NACAC directly in December. I encourage everyone to check it out.

Here’s a little background on the High School Counselor Challenge:

And here’s the link for the transcript!


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