It’s such a conundrum.
If you explain the college pricing game to otherwise normal, rational people, they’ll tell you that it doesn’t make sense.
They’ll tell you that they’d prefer more transparency.
They’ll tell you that we shouldn’t do it this way.
But they’ll also brag about the scholarship their child “earned” through hard work and dedication.
This high price / high discount model is a game, and everyone knows it. Students and parents included.
Yet, if there’s a game happening, people want to win.
Which means scholarship amounts that seemed unthinkable even five years ago are now baseline, and the definition of a “good” scholarship keeps ratcheting up each year.
I’m reminded of a recruiting meeting I had with a parent in 2010. (A lifetime ago, in the world of college admissions!) I was speaking with a father in a financially privileged situation. In 2005, they would have been full pay, and wouldn’t have had a problem affording it. But, our biggest overlap school had given them a $3,000 “extra-curricular scholarship” – and that was the beginning. This dad, who recognized the limits of financial aid dollars, who recognized their lack of need, admitted to me that even though he did not need it, he couldn’t help but push to see how much more he could get. He specifically said, “it’s like a drug – now that we’ve had a taste, I just want more.”
We are locked in an arms race that we can’t leave.
And everyone’s in on it.
We won’t be able to solve our enrollment problems by playing this game better than our peers. While some of us are slightly more or less optimized than others, we’re all essentially in the same league.
Instead, to come out ahead, admissions leaders need to embrace innovation, reinvention, and investment in yield. I’ll explain how in a webinar on July 25, at 4:00 eastern.