Community colleges don’t always get the press they deserve in higher education. In this podcast interview, we discuss how you can ramp up your community college marketing!
Because I live in Indiana, I’m really familiar with Ivy Tech Community College.
Historically, Ivy Tech has been a significant part of the state of Indiana.
In fact, it’s the largest singly-accredited statewide community college system in the country and the largest post-secondary institution of higher education in the state of Indiana.
Unfortunately, like most community colleges, Ivy Tech simply doesn’t command the same kind of respect that a university system receives.
Rather than the quality and outcomes of their programs, community college marketing has largely emphasized the dual benefits of affordability and transferability.
In other words, students pay less per credit hour, and they can transfer the credits they do earn at a community college to the more prestigious 4-year college or university.
Bottom line to traditional community college marketing: Get the same education for less.
But Ivy Tech decided to break the mold.
And they’ve been seeing some great results!
So we had a conversation with Jeffrey Fanter, VP of Marketing & Communications at Ivy Tech Community College.
During our talk, he explained why community colleges should establish that they are not just launching pads for an education, but also launching pads for a career as well.
This sounds absolutely right to me, and the numbers at Ivy Tech seem to back that up as well.
Let’s dive in on some of the highlights of our conversation here.
But as always, you should check out the podcast episode here!
Launching a Job… or a Career
Like in most community college marketing, Ivy Tech had established in their messaging the fact that students could use Ivy Tech as a beginning point for their higher education journey.
The whole idea of community college revolves around the concept of making higher education a real possibility for everyone – no matter their socioeconomic status or background.
As a first-generation college graduate, I truly appreciate this aspect of community college marketing.
My higher education experience has made all the difference in preparing me and my family for success, and community colleges are a great door for many people to get started.
However, Jeffrey Fanter suggests that community college marketing doesn’t always do well at showing how they can launch someone into a career rather than training for a job.
For most people, community college is where you go to learn a trade, so you can get a job.
You go there to make a “step up” in your life.
What Ivy Tech Community College has done exceptionally well is establish the fact that this is not necessarily just your launching off place for a four year degree.
This is a launching pad for a career.
A career is much different than a job.
A job may not be worth the effort and expense of going to a higher education institution.
But launching your career certainly is.
Jeffrey explains this concept further in our interview.
A job may potentially be the earnings to simply put food on their table, which is an important thing. But to take your family to another level or take your experience as someone who is the breadwinner in your family or the leader of a family to another experience – that’s a career to me.
A career is when you can start to support your family, support yourself, support other endeavors that you want to do within your life. A career gives you the means to do that; [whereas] a job gives you an instant satisfaction, what you need right at that moment.
Another difference that Jeffrey pointed out between a job and career is the fact that people tend to have many jobs over their lifetime – but they will only have a few different career paths.
A fast-food restaurant, your local ice cream store – all of these could be a career, but for most people, they’re just a job meant to pay the bills for a time.
A career is an investment of someone’s life over years in an industry or sector such as higher education or athletics.
Positioning Yourself to Launch a Career Not a Job
It’s obvious that having a career is much more valuable than having a job.
Jobs are short-term; careers tend to be much longer.
You’re no longer the steppingstone to yet another job.
Your community college is now the door to a lifetime of job satisfaction, personal growth, and family success.
These days people are becoming more aware of how a community college can be the entrance they need to a satisfying career, not just another job.
Does your community college marketing reflect that growing reality?
The Real Problem with Community College Marketing
All community colleges have a “perception challenge issue.”
For some reason, prospective students don’t always see their true value.
Lots of parents and students think they are simply a trade school.
How do you break that barrier?
Jeffrey and his team did the research.
[Our team] learned that our audiences simply didn’t understand the value of a community college education.
They just don’t understand what an Ivy Tech credential can get them.
They understand it’s affordable. They understand that credits transfer. But they don’t understand the value of an Ivy Tech credential.
“What does an Ivy Tech credential get me?”
We learned in speaking to our audiences, that is the question they want answered.
And they don’t want [their question] answered with “marketing speak.” They need data and support behind [that promise]. They need proof. They need to see what are those “high-value jobs” and show me how much money you’re going to make.
The answer for Ivy Tech was to become “outcomes driven” in their community college marketing.
They changed their messaging to inform people of what an Ivy Tech degree gets for them in terms of average dollars earned within those fields.
We’re trying to shift to informing people: This is what an Ivy Tech degree gets you based on the amount of money our graduates make, based on the types of jobs our graduates have, not just potentially what that type of job can get you.
These are real numbers from real graduates.
Now when you read Ivy Tech messaging, you know the exact value of an Ivy Tech degree.
This “outcomes driven” approach has made a huge difference for Ivy Tech, and I’m sure it can do the same for your community college marketing.
Discover more when you listen to the podcast!
Like all of our blog post reviews of The Higher Ed Marketer podcasts, there’s so much more to learn in the podcasts themselves.
Listen to our interview with Jeffrey Fanter to get even more insights into:
- How community colleges are adapting to changing times
- Showing outcomes and impact in community college marketing
- Focusing less on competition in higher education
- Seeing prospective students and families as customers
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Images via ivytech.edu