Residential colleges and universities are ceding the debate with our silence

If there is one thing traditional colleges and universities have failed at it is helping to craft the social narrative about their contribution to the general welfare of society.  It’s not that we’ve done anything wrong as much as we’ve not done anything at all.  Media outlets have thus filled this nothing-at-all-space with almost gleeful stories about the coming higher education disruption bubble.  There is no doubt that there is room for improvement, but American higher education is ceding debate without a fight. Continue reading

Everything I need to know about recruitment, I learned at a flea market

In my past life, I owned and operated a flea market. I had a booth of treasures, sold popcorn and ice cream, performed magic tricks, and met a lot of interesting people. Maybe I didn’t learn everything about recruitment during this time, but looking back, there are a lot of skills applicable to undergraduate recruitment.

Be honest

Whether you’re selling leaky buckets or repaired inflatable swim toys, to the right person, there’s value in these items. Being honest goes a long way. It’s the same with higher education. Michigan Tech is far away, snowy for most of the time students are on campus, it’s hard, and it’s expensive. Be honest and show the value in what most see as hurdles. “We get a lot of snow and our students love that they get to ski every day, or try something new like snowshoeing.” Tell a story. Help them picture themselves at your institution. Continue reading

Best Visit Ever

“Thank you – Best Visit Ever” was the subject line in an email I recently received from a parent. The mother went on to write that the son they visited Michigan Tech with is the youngest of four children, and as such they had attended over a dozen campus visits at other colleges in multiple states. “We were so impressed with so many things.”

She called out the fact that I personally drove them in a van for our upper campus tour (we had overflow that day and it was all hands on deck). Their student tour guides were friendly and informed. At lunch in the residence halls, a staff member overheard her comment about her dietary restrictions and went “above and beyond” to explain the options available for her in the dining hall. “And if this was not enough, our ONE ON ONE (!!) department visit [with faculty] was amazing!” Continue reading

Michigan Tech Launched a Brand Today

I’m fascinated by brands. Not the cowboy kind, but the kind you see on a polo at a conference. The business kind. The kind that’s become a buzzword in our consumer world.

There are many definitions of brand, and if you found 10 brand experts and stuck them in a room together, odds are even they couldn’t agree on what exactly is a brand? But certainly no one would underestimate the power of a brand. And not a single person would argue a brand isn’t necessary.

A brand is vital. Continue reading

An Investment Worth Making

Attending college anywhere is a big decision and a big investment for students and their families. With cost of attendance being over $13,000 for Michigan residents and over $29,000 for non-Michigan residents, attending college at Michigan Technological University is a very significant decision and investment.

Like any investment, it would not be recommended that you just throw your money in a random fund and hope for the best. College can be treated the same way, in that you should be able to research the school and its outcomes to better estimate your return on investment. According to, the average starting salary for those graduating from Michigan Tech is $62,800, the seventh highest in the nation among public universities. The Princeton Review also listed Michigan Tech in its 2016 book, “Colleges That Pay You Back.” Michigan Tech, which was among 200 schools listed in the book, was evaluated based on academics, cost, financial aid, graduation rates, student debt, alumni salaries, and job satisfaction. Continue reading

Service Innovation

An August 2015 Business Insider article about the 50 best colleges in America indicated that “when it comes to assessing the value of a college, the most important factor to consider is how much that school helps students succeed in life.” According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, help is defined as “to do something that makes it easier for someone to do a job, to deal with a problem, etc.: to aid or assist someone.” As an institution of higher learning we have the great reward every day to aid and be of service to our customers, the students. It requires everyone to be a team player and the “behind-the-scenes” work/preparation is just as critical as the event and/or time in the classroom. Many of the courses on college campuses incorporate an element of teamwork or cooperative learning. The same should hold true at the institution, in fact with have a responsibility to model the way before them. The age-old phrase “do as I say and not as I do” is out the window. If students see teamwork and service incorporated within our organization they can’t deny its effectiveness. Continue reading

More on Michigan Tech and Social Mobility

A survey released earlier this year from insurance firm Haven Life and research organization, YouGov cited that only about 13% of Americans believe that today’s children will be better off financially than they were when their career reached its peak.

There is plenty of evidence to point to which helps substantiate this worry. However, there are outliners. Michigan Tech is one of those outliners. The average household income of Michigan Tech freshmen this fall was about $89,000. surveying indicates that today, Michigan Tech alums at mid-career currently make $99,900. So it’s reasonable to conclude that a Michigan Tech education enables social mobility. Continue reading

STEM and social mobility: Not who you know, but what you know

One of the issues in this upcoming presidential election is that of the shrinking middle class. The Pew Charitable Trusts has found that the middle class has shrunk in every single state between the years of 2000 and 2013. In Michigan, the study found that the median income shrank from inflation adjusted $61,551 in 2001 to $48,273 in 2013.

One can expect to hear common drumbeats from the presidential contenders; from fortifying the minimum wage to decreasing payroll taxes have predictably already been employed in stump speeches. In my view what we don’t hear enough of is the role that a STEM-based education can play in social mobility. Continue reading

A Simplistic, but Foundational Review of Return on Investment

After many years of debate, in September the White House finally released its College Scorecard website. The scorecard includes information about colleges such as six-year graduation rates, retention from freshman to sophomore year, repayment of loans, post-graduation earnings and cost, as well as demographics on the student body, academic programs offered and typical test scores of admitted students.

For people in my profession, one of the best features of the new site is that the complete data set is available for download. Using this data set one can begin to create their own comparative review of colleges and universities. One would expect to see a myriad of websites start to pop up that tap into these data to give the student consumer a set of robust tools to help guide their college search. Continue reading

We wore hooded-sweatshirts

Last month I attended a national college fair in Minneapolis. The fair, held in a large convention center downtown, featured hundreds of universities from across the country, and for three days university representatives met with hundreds of students looking to make an important decision about their future.

I saw mostly stuffy, traditional, conservative, (and a handful of edgy) university identities on full display–most had the same “we’re unique like everyone else” messages for the swaths of high school students they encountered:

“Your adventure awaits.”

“Find yourself.”

“Ready to thrive.”

You get the idea. Continue reading