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Enrollment Marketing for Higher Education

Hundreds of higher education professionals attended Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nov. 10-13, to learn from leaders in the industry on enrollment marketing trends and best practices during the 2019 American Marketing Association’s Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education. Paskill Stapleton & Lord (PS&L) was selected to present on diversifying enrollments in an audience engagement session, led with partner the United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA).

Jim Paskill, President of PSL, joined Susan Bibeau, Executive Director of Marketing at the USCGA, presented, “Our Commitment to Diversity, Their Commitment to Enroll” at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12. Attendees of the session learned how a national marketing campaign engaged underrepresented minorities and females to apply and enroll at the USCGA. Technically a public school, the Academy is highly selective: cadets pay nothing. The cost is a commitment to serve. Enrollment isn’t an issue, but a diverse class is a federal mandate.

Every year thousands of students apply to the USCGA, and only 300 enroll. A small school, the Academy is selective and for good reason: not everyone is capable of completing its rigorous program designed to educate, train, and inspire future commissioned officers of the Coast Guard.  While proud of its student body, the Academy sought an applicant pool and class that more closely represents the geographic and ethnic diversity that is America today.

With partner PS&L, USCGA increased inquiries from URMs in record numbers through a comprehensive and integrated media campaign.  Enrollment marketing strategies included an enterprise website overhaul (uscga.edu) where visual storytelling abounds and cadet life is central; a highly personalized digital marketing campaign; and an alumni relations effort that connected prospective students with successful graduates. Thanks to these comprehensive efforts, cadets in training to be guardians of our nation now better represent our nation.

Attendees of the session learned that when it comes to an issue like diversity all marketing efforts matter. The digital marketing tactics must support goals and creative must engage, but key to success, including increasing ROI, is connecting prospects with current students in meaningful and authentic ways.