This is the full transcript of Podcast #50 “Strategies To Get The Regulators Off Your Back” hosted by Gregg Meiklejohn, Shane Sparks, and Tom King of Enrollment Resources, with special guest JP Smith, President of Celsius Marketing | Interactive.
Gregg: Welcome everybody. My name’s Gregg Meiklejohn. I’m a co-founder with Enrollment Resources and with me today is my business partner, Shane Sparks, our VP of strategic services, Tom King, and the president of Celsius Marketing as a special guest, JP Smith. Today, what we’re going to be doing is, our housekeeping for the day is we’re going to be talking about something that not a lot of people talk about in education. It’s kind of a different way to get regulators off your back and to get your schools performing at a higher level.
Gregg: It might be surprising once we get into the content, but we want you to just hang in there with us. It’s going to be an interesting conversation we have today. Everybody is muted and if you want to jump in and ask a question, if you have the courage to do that, we’ve got several smart people on the call here. You just have to press star six and then just go, “Hey, I have a question,” and kind of butt in and we’ll answer your question. If you want to wait till the end, you can do that too. We’ll have some informal time at the end of this conversation to take any questions that people might have on the call. Without further ado, gentlemen, what we’re going to talk about today is the prime hook on this is how to get regulators off your back.
Gregg: So the notion, we’re going to present a couple of notions today. The primary notion is that you can get the regulators off your back. You can lower your marketing media by costs in half. You can improve the metrics of your admissions rep and have employers lined up to hire your graduates. And you can do that by asking the question, how do we make our school world-class? How do we make our school world-class like Apple attempts to do with their products like Tesla attempts to do with automobiles? Now, this question, Shane, doesn’t necessarily require snap answers, but what can be uncomfortable is, in order to make a school world-class, they have to relentlessly stay in the question, how do we make our school world class? And it’s often never an easy answer.
Gregg: Care to expand on that?
Shane: Sure. I’m going to do by way of a story. Last week I delivered a workshop for a management academy. There was about 20 or 30 different school groups represented at this workshop. At the end of it, we did a session around a fictitious school. How to fix a fictitious school that had revenue growth problems. What I found fascinating was that many of the attendees were more operational kind of people. They were campus directors, VP operations kind of people, and some marketing people mixed in. Their inclination towards how to fix this school really started with what we would call product. It started with culture reorganizing programs in a way that made more sense, both through the student and for the profitability of the school, dealing with staff that were maybe no longer a fit for the needs of the organization and just overhauling that engine first before fixing things like their lead generation systems or their admissions processes.
Shane: It struck me that inclination among more operational type people was really a powerful tool that us as marketers we could use. Does that make sense?
Gregg: Well, Shane, yeah, it does make sense. Really, going back to those of us on the call today that have been to business school and taken basic marketing classes, they’ve always talked about the four Ps of marketing, and they’ve always said the most powerful P was product. Tom King, along Shane’s point, product, as it relates to career education is a little bit jello hay because explorer prospective students, once they sign up and become students, become product, that people argue that the employers of the product, there’s … Oh my gosh, product is a kind of a gooey thing in terms of higher ed. Would you not agree?
Tom: Yeah, absolutely. A lot of people think that their product is their classes and the programs that they offer, when really, I think the product, as you hit on the head, the product is really the students that we produce that can go on to great careers out there. Also, those employers that really, they buy our product, which is hiring our students, but they’re also part of the product mix that we have.
Gregg: Yeah, so JP along what the guys are saying here, and to Shane’s initial point is, in your travels and working with schools and owners and C level people, you don’t see them very often getting really relentless around how to create a world product like Elon Musk is doing with electrical cars. There’s no kind of a relentless electric energy, no pun intended. Would that make sense? JP, are you there? Okay, let’s move on. The working pieces when it comes to the education “product”, there are different elements that make up the product as it relates to EDU. Now, JP, are you back on the call by chance? Okay, we’ll go and we’ll talk about the obvious thing, and that is, Tom, the program, the pedagogy attached to the program. Prentice training for automobiles that are teaching people about carburetors versus fuel injection. That would be an example of a bit of a blacksmith program. Why don’t you speak to that.
Tom: Oh, sure. I think when you’re looking to put together a world class program and a world-class school, it does start with the programs that we offer. It’s putting those together, not only the right mix that you can be successful with, but also creating a culture around how we train, motivate those students and how to really give them value or provide them with enough value to make them more valuable than going anywhere else or the same type of training or something similar and creating something that is absolutely unique, and again, having that value where your explorer, your prospect is someone who can’t wait to start and realize that this is just a must have for them as opposed to, oh, it’d be nice to get that degree or it’d be nice to go that area. You want to create something that’s a must have.
Gregg: Shane, along those lines, must have, there are elements that are kind of almost magical where people will line up to go and have that must have experience, whether it be an automobile, a smart phone or career education. Care to expand on Tom’s comment there?
Shane: Yeah. If only it were easy. Hey.
Gregg: Yeah, and that’s why we have to relentlessly stay in the question because it’s not some snappy little brainstorm session. It’s a thing where a brilliant insight pops in by reading a John Le Carre novel about spies, and there’s a disassociate of connection of thought that bangs home a huge insight around how to make your … it goes there. Hey, it’s a very esoteric process. Would you not agree?
Shane: Well, it is. Yeah, it’s a very creative process. I think the foundation to it really is probably leadership and management culture. That’s what creates the conditions to be exceptional because, somebody had said good is the enemy of great, which I thought it was really a powerful way to think about it. If we can be good, right? Hey, we’re good. Compared to competitors, we’re pretty good. But it’s like that prevents the lateral thinking and the stuff that elevates some businesses so much above other ones. If you think about Apple as an example, the most visible example now, what drove that company was a genius, Steve jobs. Now, Steve was also a very difficult person and was no charmer by all accounts and probably a difficult guy to work for, but set the tone and attracted people that wanted to do exceptional creative, innovative kind of work.
Gregg: I think that the term is relentless when you’re speaking about good is the enemy of great in that, it really is just … it’s like, okay, ha, ha. It’s kind of flaccid I guess.
Shane: I forget the name of the fellow had written it, but he’s the same guy that wrote that book good to great. Had written a book about companies that were exceptional in terms of returns over the long-term and found that the culture in the company was the biggest indicator of that. And often started by a strong individual personality that infiltrated their culture with stuff that were … they were nuanced to that business but created differentiation. Another example, just really quick, is Walmart, right? Huge company, makes ton of tons of money. The executives play coach and they share hotel rooms. That’s the culture of that company is that the money savings comes down, even at the executive level, nobody’s getting their own hotel room because they can save some money, and which is a cultural expression of the values of that business.
Shane: The challenge with your school, how do we do that? What is it that we believe that we can be relentless about?
Gregg: Here’s a personal example. As a hobby, I [inaudible 00:11:50] canoes and I’m in a training group of around 30 or so people. We have a coach who is on team Canada. What she’s been doing, in a lateral, the leadership capacity has been reading about the Navy seals and all the other special forces kinds of groups. The one thing she’s brought back to our training group is she’s basically said to us, “When you feel uncomfortable, “when you feel sick and you’re in the middle of the ocean, you’re 40% of the way to dying.” I was like, “Whoa.” Now what she’s saying to us is basically when we feel like we’ve had enough and we’re at 100%, we’re at 40% and she’s basically reframed or reset our expectations around discomfort.
Gregg: And so we used to struggle to do a 10 kilometer training run. Now we’re doing 20, 25 kilometer training runs because we’ve reset that 100% of misery is in fact just 40%. Now that may be a bit of a dumb analogy, you guys, but …
Shane: 40% debt.
Gregg: 40% towards debt. I guess with schools, I would argue that many of the people we run into are just simply lazy and they don’t have that burning desire to really make their school great. I think because they’re too many, the regulators pick up on it. And maybe even worse, the consumer protection people at the state level, that could be the real problem for higher education going forward. I think-
Tom: Greg, just the jump on that real quick too. It was Jim Collins that wrote a good to great. Just to back your point up, one of the things he brought up in that book was a kind of first who then what, which is basically get all the right people on the bus and then figure out where to go. It’s really based upon getting people that want to all row the thing direction, that are going to work hard for you and then get going. That’s a big foundation of what you’re talking about.
Gregg: Perhaps the really the core, what you wanted to do as a leader is assemble people who are, Shane likes to use the word intellectually curious, combined with relentless and then foster that, a lot of people to fail and try goofy things with an eye to maintaining that intention of intellectual curiosity combined with relentlessness. That’s an obscure thing, but without core elements, you guys that are sitting within your leadership group are a little bit of …
Shane: Well, here’s what you’re left with, well two things. One, and hopefully JP is back because I think he made a muting issue so maybe he can pipe up in a sec. What you’re left with if you don’t pursue that is you’re left with operational excellence. That’s the only way to make gains. That means you got to run a tighter ship than next guy or the next scale. That’s all there is. Yeah, JP is that you?
JP: Yes, I’m sorry I had some technical difficulties apparently, but I’m here.
Gregg: Folks, welcomes back.
JP: The key piece to this is the incorporation of people and your programs, the study, your school. The P that you’re talking about equals people and leadership has the challenge, and more importantly, has to make a commitment to the incorporation of people in the right places, but at all times and not … but to enhance it, to provide the runways or the OnRamps for people to make their product better. I’ll give you an example or a simple question. How many, at the end of a given year, calendar year, academic year, what-have-you, how many people go back and gathered their best graduates to reconstitute certain pieces of their coursework and programs to make them legitimate in the eyes of their potential or their current and potential students through the acts of their employers.
JP: You have to work at being able to provide that platform to do that. But that’s out of the box thinking. But once again, we look at it as, oh, we’re going to ask students to recraft our programs. Why wouldn’t you? They just experienced them. Or go back a year or two years or three years of your best graduates who are out in the field and actually becoming and/or your advocates in their places of employment. Being able to incorporate them into constructing courseware, and more importantly, programs that are relevant and current and applicable in today’s marketplace now becomes authenticized through those people.
JP: Yes, we have accreditors, we have regulatory bodies, we have all of these people that put stamps of approval on your program, but the best place that can be approved is yes, through your employers, but more more importantly, your graduates. [crosstalk 00:17:40].
Gregg: You’re really speaking about reverse engineering. So with a school, the reverse engineering to having a world-class program does not start when the student graduates. What you’re suggesting is the reverse engineering for a world-class program within a school starts five years after graduation with HR experts, graduates from programs, etc, coming together and reconstituting programs after they’ve taken the program and then experienced it in the workforce. Is that what you’re getting at?
JP: That’s what I’m getting at. You can do that every year as part of a strategy to virtually endorse your program by the people that were there, and more specifically …
Gregg: That was …
JP: Go ahead.
Gregg: That’s an easy thing to execute on, to implement, but what is difficult is having a leader open that conversation up or resetting that process to say that our programs are going to be built, not from grad day back, but five years past grad day. Some leader has to go in and say that and then it’ll work like a trip wire. It’s relatively easy to implement, but what is difficult Shane is to have somebody go, aha, like JP’s thinking there, is blue sky thinking that requires ….
Shane: [crosstalk 00:19:13] drive on that idea.
Gregg: To drive on that idea.
Gregg: Here’s another. I’ll flip to Tom. So admissions people, they all intellectually understand that once the explorer becomes a student, then they become part of the product in a career oriented school. Yet, they continue to let people in who will not be an ideal representative of the school. Quick story before I go to you Tom is, we have a client who’s in Phoenix. Tom, she works with you. Oh my God, the name’s slipping my mind. You will know her. Her admissions reps, what she did was she said, our students become our product and if we send less than savory graduates out into the world, when we go to the employers we’ll get met with mediocre response. All she did was she created a list and said, there are eight things we’re looking for in terms of an explorer for a beauty school and if anything is off the list, you stop the meeting and send them out and have them reflect.
Gregg: It was things like having a monogram t-shirt, chewing gum, glancing at your cell phone, these kind of habits that she had managed to correlate between a less than optimum student. It’s really quite something. How she explained it was that if an admissions rep saw that someone was chewing gum and they were glancing at their cell phone, stop the admissions visit immediately and to go, “This is what we’re looking for to let people into our school. Here’s the list. You’ve passed on six out of eight, you failed on two. Why don’t you go ponder this, and if you’re interested, come on back and have all eight of these issues looked after before you walk in the door.”
Gregg: Then she went on to say, “Our graduates are renowned and viewed in a very high manner. They make top money, and we’ve realized that a starting point is these things. These eight things have to be looked after.” The prospective students often are just shocked, they’re shock that they’re getting booted out and it reframes that salesy kind of energy into, well, if I’m lucky, maybe I can get in here, and they would leave. Almost all of them would come back a month later and they would be dialed in. Tom, you want to … that’s an example of where an admissions leader will go and insist that the product be protected through the admissions process. I’m ranting here, but please jump in.
Tom: Oh sure. Obviously your students are your product. In order to create a great product in any field, you’ve got to start with great resources. If you’re building something, you kind of had the right iron, the right metal, the right resources to put together something great. Well, when it comes to your students, the same thing applies. It’s having those key traits that you want to see that you know can hopefully lead someone to be successful and be a great representation because we don’t want graduates, we want advocates. We want people that will go out and sell from the rooftops, how great that school was because it helped mold them into something fantastic. They got a great career with an employer and they’re living out their life’s dreams.
Tom: In order to do that, you’ve got to identify what it is that really, that makes that? What is their why? At the core of them, what’s their motivation for doing this? And you’ve got to have a great process where you qualify well and you get beneath just the surface answers because people will tell you what you want to hear in many cases and some of these interviews are the qualifying portion of it. We’ve got to dive deeper and get to their core why and what really drives them to determine how motivated they are. I really believe that as long as you get a highly motivated individual, even with some flaws on some of the other end, if they’re motivated to be successful, they will overcome whatever hurdles and there’ll be a sponge for what you provide to them and they will become a great student. [crosstalk 00:24:09].
Gregg: But Tom, if I may jump in, that’s all dead on, but you need a person at the C level or VP level who is sitting and staying in the question. In this case, the question would be, how do we stay relentless in letting in students who will support our world-class product. In other words, if you’re sending in students that you know are going to be issues with faculty or are going to be late or are going have less than ideal attitude while going through school and they somehow get through school and they take that crappy energy out into the world that really hurts your brand.
Gregg: Over top of what you’re saying needs to be one person who is going to be given permission by an owner, in case of proprietary schools, or even more courageously, by a dean in a not-for-profit school. That’s a risky maneuver for a dean to go to the person who’s in charge of admissions and enrollment management, and say relentlessly protect our world-class product by not letting in people who could damage it. Shane, so that is a real high level kind of crappy conversation in a way.
Shane: Well, yes and no. I think it probably attracts more people than it repels. What struck me as were talking was that really culture determines what you can get away with. Because I was thinking of an example and it’s sort of like a contrary example to the one you gave. The gentleman I met at some random conference a couple of years ago and his model was to have no admissions process. So what would happen is the prospect would come in, he would say, :Great, well let’s sign you up.” They go, “Hi, I thought …” he says, “Well, you’re here for a reason. Let’s just get going. Now, he’s the only person I’ve ever heard that does it that way and I wouldn’t recommend it, but hey, that’s what he determined worked for that guy and then sort of built his business around that approach.
Shane: They put in some controls in the backend so that if it’s not a fit, they can get rid of them. The students got an out. If it’s not a fit, there’s a trial period. But it’s an unusual approach, but it was told to me with such confidence that I believed that it worked for that particular guy, but he was very strong, his opinion about how things are and very clearly had imposed a culture on his school that was unique. Does that make sense?
Gregg: Yeah, it does. The other one comes to mind, the Vancouver Film School/ they deemed themselves to be the Harvard of film schools. An explorer comes, says, “I want to be in film production.” And then, they’ll have a person working with him and saying, “Okay, I’m going to put you in front of a panel, an admissions panel, and the admissions representative. You have to have everything organized correctly or else they’re going to yell at you and kick you out and we have to start again.” So this person was there to coach, to get them through the admissions process. And they had to have all of this criteria and in place, they had to rehearse a speech, they had to do a five minute YouTube video and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. What would happen is they’d be given their instructions and then a meeting would be set up, personally as essentially in appointment center.
Gregg: They would sit in front of the admissions rep and they would go through this list and go, “Okay, let’s see your YouTube video.” “Oh, I didn’t do it.” And the admissions reps had the green light to yell at the explorer, and go, “Look, we’re the Harvard of film schools. Sally, she gave you the list and how to prep for this meeting. You failed. Get out of my office, come back when everything is together.” Now, part of that is reversed image selling. Fair. But the overriding pieces that the Vancouver Film School survives by its reputation of its graduates. The leader of that school has instructed the admissions leader to organize things in such a way that they will absolutely protect the brand by not letting in goofballs. That’s pretty harsh. JP, that’s pretty harsh, man, wouldn’t you say? I think he’s .. oh.
JP: it is, but I think it’s part and parcel to … can you guys hear me?
JP: Okay, good. I just want to make sure my technology was working. It is harsh, but in the same context, there’s a a certain level that people want to aspire to, and it starts with the assumption that people want to make those changes in their lives to aspire to that. Over time, you create an environment where people believe internally that that’s what we are, the student body. It believes that as well, but they also believe that people innately want to improve. So therefore they don’t have to be at a certain level to be there, but they have to act and behave and move in a direction, somewhat to what Tom was saying, in the context of self improvement. That lends part and parcel to being motivated and it’s determining how motivated are people or what is motivating people before they enter into your school.
JP: If they understand how the lanes are going to be drawn for them to help them improve, then they’re more apt to move in a direction within those lanes that is positive for both themselves as well as the institution. But when the lanes aren’t drawn and it’s not discussed what the expectation is, as far as rising to that level to be the Harvard School of Film, then they’re never going to be able to understand exactly what is the pathway and how do I get there. One of the things that’s not explained very well in admissions, at least I find, are what are those lanes in? And How do I get there? Because no one wants to upset or turn away anyone or dissuade somebody from moving forward with their life.
JP: It really is in the eyes of the admissions representative in some admissions department, there’s a fear, there’s a theory if I tell people how we are going to operate and where we’re going to go and why that behavior is important and how you can do it, no matter where you’re starting from, if you have that will to move forward, then we can do that and we can do it in a way that’s successful for many different types of people. But I fear that that is not communicated effectively. In fact, it’s probably done in reverse where they push people away in a takeaway environment and that’s not what today’s younger millennial is looking for. They’re looking for inclusiveness, no matter what level the school is at.
Gregg: That’s interesting. If one can articulate the pathways to success and be very clear and transparent about the processes required, when the employers of the graduates catch wind of the rigor that is involved with explorers, prospective students, then guess what? The employers get excited, Tom, right? They get excited because they know that the people that are coming into an educational program are dialed in. They’re dialed in, they’re on track, they’re prepared to suffer a little bit, and they understand the process that they’re of good stuff. The employers, Tom, start to line up because they want the outcome at graduation time.
Gregg: That’s where it starts to tie together. Tom, you want to just build on that notion I’ve just presented.
Tom: Sure. Pressure make diamonds. When you’ve got a rigorous program and it’s an active program and you do a great job, obviously you’re going to create a great product. The more you act like the Harvard of dot, dot, dot, schools, and if you want to put yourself in that category and you actually carry that out by students that you’ve qualified well and a great program and you motivated the students, when you get those employers, they’re the ones that are going to create your success. When they hire your students, and they want to hire more, and they want to sponsor your program, and they want to get more involved with you, and they want to provide referrals of additional people that they know that would benefit from you, now you’ve got advocates, not only of students, but you’ve got advocates of your employers.
Tom: And they’re really one of the keys to your success and they’re probably one of the keys that most people ignore. There’s a lot of people who are just wrapped up in, I need more leads or I need more marketing, or I got to focus on my students, where many times it’s the employers that many cases are driving your business.
Gregg: Yeah, so let me play that out with a little tiny practical example and let’s see where it goes. We have these high quality people who are highly qualified to come into the programs. The employers catch wind, they get excited and they start to hire these people and then you draw them into like an ambassador relationship. The employers and the graduates as JP alluded to earlier. And then, what you do is you ask the employers to come in every two weeks for 30 minutes to sit with a class and talk about how wonderful the industry is going or with the direction the industry is going. So through a 10 month program, it’s maybe 15 or 20 of these employers find a way into the classrooms. They remotivate, hang in their gang, this is a great industry. So here’s the byproduct of that.
Gregg: The byproduct is a 62% grad rate for an a proprietary school or a 20% grad rate for community college. If anyone’s listening who’s involved in that, spikes an additional 15%. The graduation rates spikes an additional 15%. So the schools have these stellar grad rates and the state and federal regulatory people that are looking at that metric with an eye to trying to put someone on cash or probation go, “Oh, this is outstanding,” and the regulators get off your back. Makes sense? If the employers are back channeled and stitched into the student body and start to get connected with these high quality students, the career services people have a much easier job to place these students with the employers and then the placement rates.
Gregg: Now, we don’t have an issue with placement rates at the moment, but if the Democrats get in and control everything, we sure will, yet again. And so in advance of that possibility, one can go and start to actively stitch in the employers into the curriculum. You solve a problem before it arises because even though the feds might get off the backs of the schools, there are all this myriad of attorney generals at the state level as an example, consumer protection people at the state level that are trying to just knock proprietary schools in particular off the pedestal.
Gregg: You get them off your back by doing world-class work. The regulators are trying to knock Tesla off their pedestal. Go ahead JP, sorry.
Tom: No, this is Tom, but if I may …
JP: Go ahead, Tom.
Tom: … one of the things to jump in with on the employer side, and one of the points of this talk was surviving without title for and getting regulators off your back. You know what? If you lean on your employers by providing a fantastic product that they can’t get enough of, you don’t need to worry as much about additional funding because you’re going to find that many of your employers are going to step up with tuition reimbursement plan and other funding sources. Again, I can’t stress enough that employers in many ways are the keys to the kingdom for many schools. They can help you recruit, they can help supply you with product, they can help you with scholarships and other funding sources.
Tom: They’re the forgotten piece. Mostly people will just view them as an end to a means as opposed to they are really the means to an end for your school.
Gregg: Yeah, so a quick story to support that and then you guys can jump in with your stories as well. But prior to Shane and I starting this business in 2003, I worked as an internal consultant with university of Phoenix. One of the things I remember I did was I brokered a deal between University of Phoenix and the Canadian Navy. What I learned was that if you’re in the Navy for 20 years, you and your family, children and spouses will have 80% of any higher education paid for by the Canadian Navy. So, I was like, whoa. So I created this back channel arrangement with the Canadian Navy because the University of Phoenix had an ideal learning process where they could go and support people while they were on a ship for six months.
Gregg: The university of Phoenix, if you were a 45-year old junior officer and you wanted to go and get a degree in business, you would send your papers to their 140 people, English majors at the time, and they would go and edit your papers so that it had university rigor. There was bibliography and cross-referencing and then they shipped it back. And then, you’d have these tweaked up papers that you’d present to the profs, so you wouldn’t get fail because of that. After four or five of those submissions, students caught wind of it. It was pretty easy. They did a real innovative thing back in the day where they would take a textbook and they would go, page 32, paragraph three is a explanation to this question.
Gregg: So they would create almost like a course notes on these big textbooks. Shane and I were talking about at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. They became famous for flipping classrooms. What they did was they had a Deepak Chopra who I’m sure most of the people on the call know, give a lecture on Ayurvedic medicine, Ayurvedic nutrition, and he gave three lectures live lectures. They were recorded excellent lectures. He just picked up the really good ones. What happens is the students who were studying that part of the program would get on the phone with the teaching assistant and say, I’m stuck here. And the TA would say, go to textbook, page 23, paragraph two, go to the Deepak Chopra lecture to go to five minutes and 32 seconds and watch for a minute. So the TA had basically memorized that the solutions to the typical questions.
Gregg: My point being is that’s setting about to become world-class, flipping the classroom, going in, doing those little deals with the editors at University of Phoenix. Easy to do, everybody. Shane, you want to jump in about that or?
Shane: Well, yeah. Okay. The Integrative Nutrition is an example. The product’s interesting, but it’s really the business is interesting. If one of the topics is how to thrive without title four, well, one of the preconditions to that is reevaluation of your business model. If innovation is the marching orders, then everything’s on the table. With those guys, they were also one of the first, I think it’s $5,000 program or there about. You get an iPad that’s preloaded with all your curriculum. They’ve sought out these noted experts that that to record the videos they never could have got on campus.
Shane: They built a delivery system that’s both systemizable and scalable much more than a typical school that can fit 30 people in a classroom. That product innovation, so not only do you get … Hey, you get instructors you’d never in a million years get otherwise because Deepak Chopra is not coming to your campus deliberate in a way that they can scale at a price point that’s well below in-person training. So those three things created a scalable … that they can also sell across the world. Right?
Shane: They don’t need title four. And the reason they don’t need a title four is they built a different kind of model. It’s still an education company. It’s just a different model. That’s the other opportunity maybe in this whole equation.
Gregg: Here’s another example, yet again. Few years ago, Georgia Tech loaded everything online and they sold a course at a time and you can get your master’s in computer science for 6,000 bucks. They suck the oxygen out of the entire world’s masters in computer science world and they got like 230,000 applicants and they just knocked it out of the park by simply stripping out all the owners, administration, inviting people to buy a course at a time or call it $1,000 at a pop. University of Phoenix says that too. The people purchase just one course at a time. These folks at Georgia Tech, they just wiped out the competition by simply going and reframing the whole education experience, taking it online.
Gregg: Arizona State University is in the process of doing this as well. If you work at Starbucks for a year, you get a $250 credit per course to go to Arizona State University and take any course through that. There’s 77 programs. You work there two years to get 500 bucks, three years, you get 750, four years, you get the entire course paid for. You can get a a degree in business at Arizona State University for free if you’ve worked at Starbucks for four years. Chrysler has created a back channel deal with Strayer University. Sorry, [crosstalk 00:44:58] JP.
JP: Starbucks did that for employee retention purposes and major corporations and a lot of them that have big employee loads are getting creative like that. For the practicality of this call, there’s all kinds of different gimmicks that you can do and things you can add. But something that is really forward thinking is moving the back to the front. What I mean by that, we wait for career services, why not help your incoming students get a job in the field when they start? Where you work with three, four or five employers to start with and it’ll grow? But instead of waiting for them to get, or graduate and move through the program to get placed, because a lot of kids will and people have problems with retention because people need a job and/or they change jobs. The piece of controlling all of that from the very jump of when they’re looking, more importantly, it becomes a great marketing piece as well.
JP: But you work with employers where they go work at lower level jobs within those organizations that they wouldn’t get, or excuse me, that they would be too qualified for once they graduate. But to the employer, now they get what I’ll call tryouts. The students now get tryouts in an organization that they could potentially go work for. And along the way, they’re going to get employee benefits while they’re in school. You arrange schedules with the employers themselves to fit within that school schedule you’re delivering and they won’t compromise it.
JP: In our industry, everyone’s been so fearful of of people jobbing out, I don’t want to help somebody get a job while they’re in school because if I do, they’re going to drop and it’s a negative all the way down the line.
Gregg: JP, what you’re really talking about is lifting the finely tuned best practice of the apprenticeship model used to create plumbers and electricians and what have you and bring that in for business, IT, allied health. You’ve got in a red seal, a program, like in British Columbia, there are four levels. Go ahead.
JP: I have clients that do this and it’s not an internship and they’re not calling it their apprenticeship. They’re working with employers that legitimately have jobs for people and the lower levels and they’re certainly, in many cases, much better than the positions or jobs they would have currently anyway. The employers have agreed to not take those students, but to encourage those students to keep continuing because they’re going to be a much more valued employee. In some cases, instead of tuition reimbursement, if they’re on onboard long enough, they will pick up a student loan payment instead.
JP: The risk is mitigated by the school, and more importantly, the employer rather than just you full-on tuition reimbursement. If they have student loans, we’ll continue to pay that student loan for you or with you while you maintain your employment with us. But they’re getting-
Tom: [crosstalk 00:48:30] value proposition only.
Gregg: That’s a tremendous value proposition. There’s other things to do too. There’s one school, it’s Sprotshaw in British Columbia that give graduates a five year access to the career services department. Another version of what you’re just saying, JP, is taking into account Moore’s law and that an associate degree at the end of the associate degree, what they’ve learned at the beginning is becoming partially redundant due to the encapsulation of information. Why not set up? It’d be very easy to set up a five year continuing ed program that graduates could use for free and you deliver it webinars style and you bring in the vendors who provide a lot of the technology and expertise and material to deliver the webinars, let the graduates jump in for free four times a year.
Gregg: Now, of course, the byproduct is that holding relationship with students five years after graduation, guess what’s going to happen? The default rates on student loans are going to diminish because there’s a continued relationship, top of mind awareness, halo effect with these graduates. The graduates that go and stay on this continuing ed activity, in turn would be more inclined to go and refer their friends back into the school. So referral rates improve. I think really as we’re getting close to the end of our hour here, we’ve popped the lid on a few simple ideas that just require you to think a little crazy. And then, if these things in fact happen where you have like, for instance JP’s client experiences of shared parallel job and training or flipping the classroom or extending graduate services or continuing ed or what-have-you, you can create a world-class offering and then if you’ve analyzed how it plays out, the metrics that these pinheads with then government use to try to wipe out at schools wash out.
Gregg: If you have continuing ed and they’re happy to getting served, the value proposition is greater. then, guess what? More of these kids will pay their bills. They’ll pay their student loans off, which takes pressure off of unhappiness and what-have-you. Instead of trying to hassle people to pay their student loans instead, go and love them up for five more years and they’ll pay their bills because they’re getting value. Simple. Tom, I’m going to go to you first as we wind this call down. The three of you guys can have a word and then we’ll see if anyone has a question and then we’ll pack it in. Tom, anything to say?
Tom: No, just really that the key for me is, especially for this call and what we’re talking about is really focus on two areas. One, making sure you’ve got a great product, which is your student and you’ve done a good job qualifying and training those people, but really focused on, for at least the purposes of today a little bit, really focused on those employers and leveraging those partners in education of yours to help drive your business, create a world-class reputation and get them helping you drive your programs a little bit more and you’re going to find some fantastic results, I think if you focus that direction a little bit.
Gregg: Excellent. JP, any final words?
JP: I’ll simply say this. If your career services department is reporting a number at the end of every week and every month to the leadership team versus that same career services person publishing to your entire organization, the names of the people that got placed this week and where they went to work, do you have a cultural issue that needs to change if you want to grow and really flourished to the level that you can? Because at the end of the day, if all we are is chasing numbers, that’s all your people ever know is that we’re chasing numbers. Therefore, they’re not enhancing the delivery and the execution of people moving forward, more specifically the services that we provide within our institutions that move people forward.
JP: The other thing is people can’t buy into a number, but they can buy into a culture and make it better. So if we’re only worried about reporting numbers every single week, and that’s what we have our career services people doing and not recording the names of people succeeding, that right there is a lesson to go to school on.
Gregg: Humanizing. I got to tell you, when this next recession, North American recession hits, and it will hit probably hard, the career services department will become the most important department in the entire school in a way. Shane, question for you to wrap up. Why do all the marketing companies that we know in love and the sales training people that we know and love that are out in the education industry, why do they not talk about this important topic? I don’t understand.
Shane: Yeah. I don’t know. I really don’t. Maybe because it’s hard. Well, okay. Okay. We use the Harvard of as an example. Are you going to be the Harvard of this, the Harvard of that? Which begs the question, why is it Harvard? Why are they the name brand? And I’ll tell you why. Because they were the first, they were the very first school way back in 17, whatever it was. They were the very first school in North America or in the US. Yeah. [crossgtalk 00:55:07].
Gregg: They were the first ones. And they were private. They were proprietary seminary school.
Shane: Yeah, it was a seminary school. [inaudible 00:55:12] was the trade school. Right.
Shane: But they’ve been around the longest. And so, that being the first at something makes you the name brand, if it’s big enough. Now, there’s not a lot of name brand slots left, but the nature of marketing is that the product and positioning, the uniqueness of that product is the thing that has the biggest influence on marketing and sales performance. That’s what it is.
Gregg: You’re talking about fracturing market’s positioning in the light.
Shane: Yeah. That’s right. This topic really is about, how do we be something worth buying? Right? Maybe it’s a harder conversation to have and it’s certainly a harder thing to sell, like it’s way easier as a marketing company for us to sell leads, right? Everybody wants leads. Hey, we got leads, we’ll sell you leads. That’s an easy way for us to make money at it, which is maybe why that’s mostly the topic, but it’s not the truthful thing. The truthful thing is-
Gregg: No, it is to help people become world-class.
Shane: Well, it is. You and I have, I would say quirky personalities that are idealistic, so maybe that makes us uniquely suited to this, hosting these kinds of chats. I don’t know.
Gregg: The thing is, is if you focus on becoming world-class, then referrals spike and then the need for those crappy third party leads greatly diminish and then your media buys drop, and then you can go and reinvest in employer relationships and tutelage as JP alluded to earlier. So, when you start to scenario plan, you can see, what happens if we become world-class? How does that play out? Well man, you cut your marketing costs, your lead gen costs in half, and then guess what? The regulators that want to go in and cap your advertising for title four funding, that problem goes away. So, it all plays out. Just needs a little bit of scenario planning, a little bit of, if we do this, what will happen there?
Gregg: Because we’ve analyzed this, we know that focusing on being world-class is favorable. Favorable metrics, getting the regulators off your back and lowering marketing costs. The admissions people can be true counselors and not salespeople. The faculty people can focus on being world-class. The employers will line up to hire your graduates. It all plays out favorably. And folks, if I’m wrong, if I’m half wrong, but I’m half right, you’re still way ahead if you take the advice of the panel, and it’s only half right, you’re going to be way, way ahead than you presently are. So there’s no downside in just staying in that question. How do we become world-class? And not letting it go. All right.
Shane: We are at 11:59 and 30 seconds.
Gregg: So we have time for one or two questions. If anyone wants to jump on you, just press star six. Otherwise we’ll collapse the call. Any last a minute quick questions. No, I think we’re done. So anybody has any questions, reach out to Shane or I at Enrollment Resources or Tom, or JP at Celsius Marketing for clarity on any of these ideas. We’re pleased to go and put some meat on the bones. Everybody start thinking about it. How can you become world-class stand? Stay in the question, don’t leave it. Have a great day.