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One Professor’s Five-Part Plan for Recruiting Students

photo of manager

​By Rick Rosen

Gemmy Allen had a problem. Two Management classes at North Lake College weren’t attracting students. But Allen, the coordinator of the Business and Management programs at NLC, wasn’t sure how to recruit students. She needed a marketing plan.

How Allen went about marketing the two classes and what she learned about recruiting students are lessons that other faculty members and program chairs can learn from.

The two classes that concerned Allen were Problem Solving & Decision Making and Cooperative Education, co-requisite classes. These cooperative, or co-op classes, are designed for management students who work during the day. Students are generally supervisors who want to gain more credentials or employees who want to become managers. The classes meet one evening per week.

Obstacles to Spreading the Word

Getting the word out about the classes was difficult. “In tech, especially co-op classes, you really have to make an effort,” she says. “People can’t just read the schedule and know whether to take the class.”

Also, while online classes are attractive for busy students, Allen strongly believes that students benefit from the in-class instruction that the co-op classes include. Cooperative classes also bring in a higher level of state reimbursement than regular classes.

Before, student recruitment involved visiting other business classes to talk about the co-op classes, handing out brochures and visiting local businesses.

photo of Gemmy Allen
​Gemmy Allen
​In addition to continuing other efforts, Allen’s new marketing plan had five parts:
 
  1. Attract free media: Allen was able to get the student newspaper, the News Register, interested in writing an article about the class. The article, “Student has ‘A-ha’ moment in class, was published three weeks before registration began.
  2. Advertise: Allen placed an ad about the classes in the News Register.
  3. Improve the website: She asked NLC’s Marketing staff to update the Management website with information about the classes. The grabber of a heading: “Earn 6 hours of college credit, taking classes just one night a week.” Also, on the front page of NLC’s website, Marketing added a story, "Become a manager at night."
  4. Make a video: She worked with the Marketing staff to create a video that introduced potential students to Management. The video included information about co-op classes.
  5. Blast an email: She sent a brief, attractive email to business and management students about the co-op classes. The email also was sent to the Professional Support Staff Association at NLC. 

The Launch: Getting the Media to Pay Attention 

To attract media attention, you generally need an angle. In this case, Allen had an angle: a great human-interest story.
A student had sent a written thank-you to Sammie Gatti, vice president of business development for David Morris International. Gatti was a speaker in a Business Management co-op class seminar. The thank-you said that Gatti had inspired her to change her career and pursue writing.
 
“I finally heard what my next step is,” wrote the student. “And, it isn’t rocket science, but for whatever reason, it was in your lecture that I had my ‘Aha!’ moment.”
 
Allen had the idea to try to interest the North Lake College student newspaper in writing about the student. The result: an article that increased awareness of the cooperative classes

An Email Timed to Get Results 

The marketing campaign included a compelling email. Allen worked with the Marketing staff on the email. “I wrote the email and Marketing chose the graphics,” she says.
 
The college’s Institutional Research department helped her zero in on which students to target. The parameters: “Anyone who had declared business or management majors and hadn’t had these two classes,” Allen says.
 
The Marketing department sent out the email in time for the opening of registration.

A Simple, Winning Video

The Marketing office put together the video. The video was based on a PowerPoint script that Allen wrote. She appeared on-air to narrate the video.
 
Allen repurposed a Management video that previously had been done by the LeCroy Center. This allowed Allen to save time and money. 

The Result: Success

Before the new marketing campaign, Allen generally recruited six or seven students. For Spring 2014, after the new campaign, the classes enrolled 17 students.

Four Ways You Can Learn From Allen’s Experience

  1. Think outside the box: Allen’s plan was broad, comprehensive and imaginative. She used traditional ways of getting out the word, such as sending email to students. But nontraditional ways include “pitching” an idea for an article to news media, advertising and creating a video that laid out the benefits of management and co-op classes.
  2. Use resources shrewdly: Her campaign was cheap. She repurposed a video for the new video. She enlisted the North Lake College Marketing department to help with the video and the email blast. 
  3. Don’t forget social media: She incorporated social media, such as a Facebook site, Twitter, Pinterest and her blog, to spread the word.
  4. Start early: “Planning was a big part of this,” says Allen. “You can’t just call up and have a video or whatever done. You need time to meet with others at your college who can help you.” She also targeted a semester ahead. For instance, she waited until after the 12th class day in Fall 2013 to see who stayed in Management classes. Those who stayed were her targets for the co-op classes for Spring 2014.

How She Plans to Improve

Allen hopes to incorporate more human interest articles, such as student testimonials, into future marketing efforts.
For example, students are assigned a project to complete at work. They write up the project objective and an action plan, complete the project and write an evaluation.
 
“If we could upload the projects and let social media vote on the best,” she says, that would draw student interest.
 
For more information, call Gemmy Allen at 972-273-3072 or send her an email