10 Aug Is your college worth the investment? Your value proposition statement conveys the answer
In just a few weeks, many college campuses will open for the fall term. It doesn’t matter if your campus is opening with a hybrid model or offering fully online instruction, students, parents, families, lawmakers and others continue to question the value of higher education given changing instructional delivery models and fiscal challenges. Now is the time to ask and answer the following question:
Why is the education provided at our campus still an important investment for students and families?
Answering this question will enable your leadership team to craft a compelling value proposition statement for use now, as well as throughout the 2020-21 academic year. Value proposition statements don’t have to be a certain word count. However, word economy is important.
Think of the value proposition statement as a persuasive sound bite.
Your value proposition statement is not only essential now for your campus but it also is important for higher education as a whole. After all, with a fiscal crisis looming due to the economic impacts of the worldwide pandemic, this is a critical window of time when we, as higher education leaders, need to collectively promote why higher education requires appropriate state and federal investments and donor support. We must convey very specifically how students, families, employers and local communities benefit from our degree programs. A well-crafted value proposition statement will not only benefit your students and families but it will also be a useful tool for your campus’ advocacy and philanthropy teams. Your statement will help them focus their messaging for impact and understanding to sustain support for programs and services.
When I craft value proposition statements with clients through my work with Parent Education Partners, I generally begin by helping campus leaders to shape a basic statement first. Then, I help them build out supplemental messages to compose a message deck that will resonate with external stakeholders. Here are my top three tips for getting started in shaping a powerful value proposition statement for your extended campus community.
Points of Pride – Value propositions are unique to each campus. Your value proposition statement should emphasize your campus’ main points of pride. Start by considering what your campus is best known for. Do you train the largest number of K-12 educators in your state? Are you known for STEM? Liberal arts? Students, families, and other stakeholders need to be reminded that your campus has exceptional academic programs and is providing an important service to the community.
Benefits for students – Whether your campus is planning to open fully online or in a hybrid fashion this fall, it’s critical to identify why the new educational delivery model is beneficial to students. With the fall term just weeks away and with COVID-19 cases on the rise in many parts of the country, parents/families are questioning the cost and value of online instruction, as well as the risks associated with hybrid instructional models. Some campuses have made a huge mistake in their communication with parents/families and students by emphasizing the fixed costs of instruction and operating/infrastructure costs. While these facts are important and justify the cost for tuition, these should not be your leading messages with students, parents, and families. I recommend that you start by emphasizing how and why an online or hybrid educational model is beneficial for students. The cost of instruction to the campus is an important secondary message that can be teased out in the message deck.
Return on Investment –Our Generation Z students are being raised by Generation X parents who, based on generational research, prioritize workforce preparation and success. After all, the parents of today’s college students have lived through economic downturns. Moreover, some may be adversely impacted by the pandemic and could be furloughed, unemployed or under-employed. Parents want to be reassured that the investment of their resources will result in their student graduating job ready and, if possible, employed or with job prospects in hand. Whenever possible, bridge your academic programs to workforce outcomes.
After crafting the value proposition statement with clients, I work with them to refine the statement with key internal stakeholders and then assist divisional leaders to incorporate the statement and the supplemental messages in their communication with students, parents, families and other stakeholders. This statement will be foundational to your continued communications efforts as your campus adapts to changing circumstances, while working to provide exceptional learning experiences and support to students so that they remain on the path to graduation.
About the author
Laurie Weidner, APR, is a national award-winning higher education communicator who has led parent and family education and engagement for more than 20 years. She and her team at Parent Education Partners, develop customized, research-based plans and strategies to help parents/families become educational partners who will work with your campus staff to ensure their student persists and graduates. Parent Education Partners specializes in devising culturally relevant solutions to engage the families of low-income, first-generation and students of color. Contact Laurie at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 615-436-4500.