In pursuit of revenue and prestige, colleges have ramped up their marketing machines. Many now generate thousands more applications than are needed to select an economically viable and talented freshman class.
College and university leaders—trustees, presidents, chief academic officers—have the unenviable responsibility of ensuring their institutions’ continued financial viability … In this pursuit, their strong turn to the competitive marketplace is understandable. But it is also clear that more is happening here. There is an insatiable appetite for prestige and status that accompanies the drive for revenues. What we see now is that marketplace competition has escalated to the point at which it threatens to become the mission rather than to serve the mission. And for what gain?
An institution can achieve short-term market advantage through aggressive marketing, but in due time competitors will match and then surpass that edge. The escalating competition raises institutional costs, invariably resulting in higher tuition and a greater need to admit students whose families can pay full price.