In her most recent NY Times Economix blog, UMass Amherst professor Nancy Folbre analyzes the strategy of state universities to attract higher paying, out-of-state students. According to Folbre, emphasizing recruitment rather than retention can backfire for several reasons and result in efforts that do little to increase the quality of education.
Intensified marketing campaigns are aimed at out-of-state students, who typically pay higher tuition and fees. This well-meaning strategy can backfire for several reasons.
Administrators can feel pressure to invest in new facilities that look good on the glossy brochures — like a new recreation center — rather than improving student advising or course availability.
If many institutions ramp up their marketing and recruitment at the same time, their efforts can cancel one another out. They all spend more money but none of them gains a competitive edge. In a period of economic downturn, fewer students can afford out-of-state tuition.
If more students are added without increasing the number of faculty and staff, students get less individual attention and can’t get into the courses they need to graduate. Some students thrive despite these problems; others get demoralized.