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My Data Button Initiative for Education

The Obama administration announced a plan to help students access their own data from various schools via a simple button. The so called “MyDataButton” initiative is building on the success from the Green button for energy conservation and Blue Button for veterans to access their own data.

The plan has several objectives:

  • Standardize education data
  • Allow students to easily and quickly access records from multiple institutions.
  • Allow for the tech community to build new applications and strategies with public data
  • It will allow students to download their financial aid data so it can be imported to other programs

The initiative could lead to new funding opportunities for local communities, it could also give us a much better picture of how students perform by race, income level, location, household income etc. This data could also be used to preemptively spot lower performing students and provide them with more tutoring.

This series of initiatives could run into potential FERPA regulations but the government is treading lightly in regards to privacy issues. To find out more about the MyDataButton please visit the Chronicle.com or the Whitehouse’s official statement on the Data Button.

Schools not working leads?

Leads360 recently published a white paper entitled “Failing grades: Evaluating admissions processes at for-profit schools.”

The data in the report is shocking. It states most of the schools in the for profit sector are just not working their leads efficiently at all.

Here are some key findings:

  • Most schools did not follow best practices when sending out emails or calling back in a timely fashion
  • Some schools called leads too often, up to 82 times.
  • Some schools took too long to make first contact, allowing for the lead to become cold.
  • Optimizing process can greatly reduce waste.
Being a vendor in the education space for many years I often wondered what really happened to all of the leads that were being sent into the schools. These days all you hear are stories about the leads being over marketed to, when the real story is that most leads are not being marketed to enough.
How does this affect the industry from an economic perspective?
If you look at this from a macro perspective. If leads are universally being worked inefficiently, lead prices will remain low since the overall quality is always low.
Even though EDU has been hit hard with regulation, new competition continues to come into the market, continually pushing media prices higher. This in essence means that the vendor side of the industry is being squeezed on margin because the costs are going up and revenue is staying stable if not declining.
For the schools, several of them have cited lower growth in their quarterly reports due to massive changes in how they handle leads and the enrollment process. They changed compensation plans, and they also changed scripts to make them more compliant with the DOE regulations. What this has lead to is a focus on the process after a student is on the phone and perhaps taken a bit of attention away from actually getting the user on the phone first.
If enrollment rates and growth forecasts are dropping, it seems to make sense to look at the entire process rather than isolate one component.  I think there are lots of things that can be done to optimize the process flow at the for-profit schools. One of them is using better lead management and routing tools like Leads360. Outside of a technology solution, I think it makes sense to also have new funnel metrics for the vendors to help them enhance leads by setting expectations. I for one know a lot of vendors would love to have insight into how their leads are being worked and if they can enhance the process. For the most part the vendors do want to help or better understand the process. A more collaborative environment will make marketing more efficient but also more ethical in the long run.
There are a few considerations one should take into account when reading the Leads360 report too. They mentioned a school like AIU does not send out any emails. This could simply be part of their strategy. I suspect this was highly analytics driven a while ago and needs to be re-evaluated since the market has changed so much in the past 18 months.
The other part of this equation is that, we should ask more about what the consumer wants. Email and phone are somewhat old mediums of communication these days. Perhaps people want to be contacted on Facebook, Twitter or through IM? The Millenial generation is going to start demanding these new paths. It will be up to the advertisers to keep pace with their audience and develop new best practices. EG – what is the optimal number of times you can SMS a person before getting them on a phone call? What is the social etiquette about contacting someone on Facebook or Linkedin and how does that relate to advertising? How does a brand get invited into a user’s inner circle online?

Education Compliance

We recently came across this article on Education Compliance which was actually pushed out by an affiliate network. The article covers what can and can not be said in online education marketing quite well.

In our opinion I think the article reflects a popular set of rules and opinions. I think the most glaring issue in our industry right now is that there are a lot of marketers making changes to their campaigns to be compliant but there is little consistency between the schools in terms of how they view the laws and how they enforce them.

Here is the blog post from Media Trust.