Marketing to Attract the Best and Brightest

WHILE MBA students are aware of how competitive the job market is, business schools know all too well that the battle to attract the best students is growing fiercer. Nationally published rankings of business schools in U.S. News & World Report and Business Week have increased schools' efforts to promote their programs.

``Our marketing plan included two stages,'' says Thomas Moore, dean of the Graduate School of Business at Babson College. ``First, we had to do something worth telling about.... Second, we had to tell the story.''

To tell the story, Babson hired a full-time vice president of marketing. ``We have to keep asking ourselves who needs to know about what we're doing - students, other deans, the press, chief executive officers,'' Mr. Moore says. ``Each audience has a different need.''

Many business schools have invested in marketing managers, public relations directors, and new brochures, says Charles Hickman, director of projects and services at the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business in St. Louis. There also have been aggressive efforts to attract students from overseas, such as MBA forums in Japan and western European countries, he says.

Six years from now, 28 percent of the college-age population in the United States will be black and Hispanic, Mr. Hickman says. Currently, blacks and Hispanics account for between 8 and 9 percent of all MBA students. ``MBA enrollment will go down unless schools make more efforts to attract more of those students,'' Hickman says.

The Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., for example, runs a training program in total quality management for teachers and students at an elementary school on Chicago's West Side, he says.

``In the long run, all schools will have to come to grips with demographic realities,'' Hickman says.

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