Functional Examination of the Evolution of Universities' use of Hyper-Connected and Internet Marketing Strategies

Functional Examination of the Evolution of Universities' use of Hyper-Connected and Internet Marketing Strategies

Darrell Norman Burrell (The Florida Institute of Technology, USA), Sharon L. Burton (Grand Canyon University, USA), Eugene J.M. Lewis (Florida Institute of Technology, USA), Darrell Ezell (Heritage Solutions, LLC, USA) and Dawn Lee DiPeri (American InterContinental University, Schaumburg, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJHIoT.2020070103
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As the year 2020 emerges, many universities are facing declining student enrollments. Six private liberal arts colleges in New England in the United States have announced they will close their doors. Savvy techniques are needed to stop the decline of enrollments and reach new students. Institutions of higher learning are investigating and using effective marketing strategies to propel recruitment and maintain established enrollment number goals. Changing marketing strategies to include the use of media organizations is driven by the Internet to include social media and artificial intelligence. Robust advertising enrollment techniques to attract potential learners is game-changing. This article explores the 2020 function of Internet practices for branding and marketing purposes at colleges and universities.
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The competition for learners has recently intensified across universities nationwide. Digital marketing has taken a predominant roll in recruitment and the chosen technique of those colleges that have successfully met their enrollment numbers. While colleges have become increasingly more competitive, job openings have skyrocketed, which has resulted in the need for growth in education and training to secure those emerging job openings. Horsley (2019) reported that the Labor Department found an increase of 224,000 new job openings in June 2019 compared to May. This change offered capable job seekers their pick of open roles in several fields. Affiliate marketing, Analytical reasoning, Artificial intelligence, Blockchain, Cloud computing, Sales, Scientific computing, UX design, and Video production were just a few of the areas of expertise that were listed in open job descriptions of open positions (McKeever, 2020). Employers are in desperate need to fill jobs and are seeking the help of colleges to find student talent. The employer and university relationship are mutually beneficial since universities can claim higher job placements, and employers can find top talent. Post-secondary education is a competitive environment where new programs are being offered to fulfill industry needs. Potential students are marketed towards in the hopes that they enroll in new high demand university programs (Burrell & Grizzell, 2008).

Colleges and universities that operate under older marketing strategies, which include print collateral like flyers, newspaper and magazine ads, and out of home, as well as radio and television advertising (Williams, 2016), need to re-tool to be competitive (Burrell & Grizzell, 2008). This text walks through the development of a framework for Beckoning University, the fictitious name for an institution of higher learning. A fictitious name was established to protect the identity of the institution. Beckoning University represents an institution of higher learning experiencing declining enrollment. Beckoning University has seen a recent dip in enrollment of 1500 students. To determine a framework for improving recruitment, the project team worked through a plan to diagnose, design, develop, deliver, and drive a strategy.

Recruitment has its challenges as universities are overly saturated with over 4,000 different institutions of higher learning to choose from, so students have more choices. Still, their numbers are shrinking due to a lower birth rate, which has lowered enrollment across universities nationwide (A Guide to the Changing Number of U.S. Universities, n.d.). To further exacerbate the problem, for-profit institutions have been closing their doors due to lower enrollment and increased regulations and public scrutiny. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2020), over 120 colleges closed their doors between 2016-2018, with over 100 of those being for-profit universities. Colleges are struggling to stay afloat and must be proactive in their marketing to differentiate themselves.

Universities are a bridge between employers and students, but prospective, current, and former students are a stakeholder in this situation as well as university faculty and administration. Higher education is a top concern for multiple parties, and a close examination of census data points to a predicted continued decline in enrollments. Fain (2019) reported that college enrollments have declined for the 8th straight year. According to Slim, Hush, Ojah, and Babbitt (2018), enrollment can be predicted based on student and college characteristics, and many institutions have symptoms that point towards a downward trend.

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