A Brave New World: The Biggest Takeaways from the AMA 2019 Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education
The 30th American Marketing Association Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education just concluded at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. This year’s themes were especially interesting. They included:
- Yield, retention, admissions/enrollment management and the adult student are all becoming areas of focus in 2020.
- The conversation around the value of education in general and the value of liberal arts education, in particular, needs to change.
- The declining population/enrollment bust is “new world order”, with the second impending “drop off” anticipated by 2025, is opening new conversations on the need to re-imagine what higher education – or overall education – in America should really look like going forward.
- The idea of looking for answers/direction from outside the category is no longer a taboo strategy. In fact, it is likely imperative for survival. Since schools can’t continue to raise tuition, it’s paramount they discover new ways to cut costs to offset declining enrollment and a reduction in state funding.
As the opening keynote put it, “down or flat is the new up.”
It’s a new day in higher education. And this is not a drill.
But it really wasn’t all doom and gloom as the above recap might lead one to believe. In fact, there was a lot to celebrate throughout the three days we were there. It was refreshing to hear some of the keynote and breakout presenters speak with transparency about what we are all facing, both as practitioners and as advisors. And another common theme we heard is that we can do it better, faster and more successfully if we all work together – engaging our university and college leadership teams – to work to pivot together. Cross-campus collaboration makes all marketing efforts from admissions to advancement stronger and more cohesive in terms of brand expression and brand experience.
We need to rethink the way higher education is delivered going forward — not just for the sake of the Gen Z students and their younger counterparts yet to come — but for the 95 million adults in the US with a high school diploma and no college, or some college, and no degree.
I think that makes this an exciting time in higher education. A time to rise, to get back to our core mission and values, and work together in new ways to make a college degree truly achievable by all.
To once again quote the first morning keynote, higher ed evangelist, Brandon Busteed, “What we really need to be focused on is to be aspirational, affordable and accessible.” And another keynote quipped that for once “what happens in Vegas should not stay in Vegas” because we need to keep this conversation going.
I couldn’t agree more.