The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode · 8 months ago

Bridging the Gap Between Higher Ed & High Schools in Disadvantaged Areas


College access is an issue in this country. 

Many potential students simply don't believe higher education is within reach.  

It’s this inaccessibility and the lack of awareness of educational opportunities that is one of the leading causes of the declining perception of the value of higher ed. 

Sujoy Roy, CEO of VisitDays, is aiming to change that. In this episode, he discusses how his platform strives to bridge the divide between higher education and high schools in more disadvantaged areas of the country. 

We discuss:

  • The problem of limited access to higher ed for lower socioeconomic populations
  • What the team at VisitDays is doing to help overcome the problem
  • The benefits of the platform for colleges and universities
  • Where the future of higher ed is going 

Mentioned during the show:

To hear more interviews like this one, subscribe to Higher Ed Marketer on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your preferred podcast platform. 

You are listening to the Higher Ed Marketer, a podcast geared towards marketing professionals in higher education. This show will tackle all sorts of questions related to student recruitment, don'tor relations, marketing trends, new technologies and so much more. If you are looking for conversation centered around where the industry is going, this podcast is for you. Let's get into the show. Welcome to the High Ed Marketer podcast. I'm troy singer and I'm here with my cohost and Newest Bangles Fan club member, Bart Taylor, and today we're going to interview s joy Roy. He is the CEO of visit days, and the topic that he's going to bring to us as making communication accessible to more potential students, and I think this is something that he does a very good job of, both laying out the problem but then also some of the solutions that are out there to address the problem. I love this conversation. Yeah, it's really good. I think sometimes we talk about, and I would call back to the conversation that we had with with nate at the Gates Foundation, just about accessibility for students. It's such a such an important topic and higher education and I think sometimes as marketers we get we get kind of focused in on, you know, the tyranny of the urgent and we're really trying to get you know, get get the messaging out and stuff. I think sometimes being able to step back and say, are we really is higher education really accessible to the vast majority of students in the United States who could best benefit from it? And I really like the conversation that's joy leads us through with the idea of talking about that. You know sometimes it might not be, and that that's actually challenged him to kind of create a platform that improves that for for students and ultimately then also helps us as highed marketers to be able to recruit some of those students that might not have been in our in our awareness, and I think that with some of the challenges moving forward, and and see joy does a good job of articulating this, I think looking for these creative platforms is going to be important. Thank you, Bart here's our conversation with joy Roy. It's my pleasure to welcome to joy Roy, who's the CEO of visit days, to the High Ed Marketer podcast. Thank you for being willing to be our guest to days to joy. Thank you for having me, Troy. I really appreciate it. You have agreed to come on and talk about the topic of making communication accessible to more potential students, but before we go into it, if you could just give us a brief background and then a both about yourself but then also visit days, absolutely well. So, my name is Hugh Joy Roy. I'm the founder of visit days. I started the the company visit days approximately a little bit over eight years ago and it's been one of the wildest and most amazing journeys I've ever been on. This is an entrepreneur. I have sort of benefited from this incredible American education. As an immigrant, I have benefited from them the opportunities in this..., and my big introduction into Higher Ed was through my parents, who are both professors at institutions in the US, and I started seeing a gap when it came to college access and being a benefactor of getting an amazing education here, I wanted to build a solution that would help millions of students around the world and around the country access education the way I did, and so I started my journey eight years ago and we're running still strong today. So if you can tell us how visit day's works and how the approach of how you approach the problem of limited access to higher education? Yeah, absolutely so. The way we sort of approach it is we sort of think about, well, who does, who has a lot of access to higher education? And when you sort of look into the lens of those that are going to really elite private schools or part of extremely good, well funded districts and public school education in the US, what you'll notice is that most of the administrators in the high schools have direct lines of communications directly to the college administrators around the country at top schools. That specific access is what what I define as college access, which really means that if you're going to a high school the can your counselor quickly make a phone call and call some of the best universities in a flash and have them on their high school within within minutes or within days? And if the answer to that question is either I don't know or know, you're most likely not getting the type of access other students have, and that's how I would categorize it. I would say that if your high school counselor can meet can make that happen for you, you have an incredible amount of access and if you don't, that sorts of visit a steps in. That's great and I think that I really liked that. You know, what you talked about is that there's kind of that that idea that there's I hate to use the word Elitism, but there's the idea of being able to you know, if you're in the right place at the right time, in the right you know prep school or right private school, things are opened up a little bit more for you and I like the fact that there's a little bit of a equal as or, you know, equality on visit days. You know, you're making a little bit more accessible for everybody. So I think that's really good. Tell us a little bit about how some of this really plays out, just, you know, in ways that we might not be aware of. I mean, you know, I think there's certain you know, probably socio economic plays into it, gender probably plays into it. To tell us little bit about that. Yeah, so I think there's probably two to three major themes. I think we should all in higher red take a focus and look at we're noticing that fear and fear students are going to college. That was a big sort of big news cycle, if you will, getting into two thousand and twenty two beginning of January. Secondary would noticing that, with test optional, there's a lot of discussion on how students are going to become seen by most of the colleges in the country, because most call is depend on the sets and college board to purchase names so they can... to most of the students in the country. So those are the two, I think, Major, major shifts that are happening. There's a decline in interest in going to college and then there's a decline, there's a there's a now there's got to be a new way to find and meet students across the country. And in the third I would say in more associated to the first, which is the decline is unproportionately happening towards males in the US. So that's a big area of concern when you think about what that could possibly mean in, you know, five ten years down the line, from just a from a from a socio economic levels where you know many, many men and adults going into college are just choosing not to not not to pursue higher education. And so I think those are the three themes that we sort of take a look at and we noticed that, by and large, it's getting hit in the in the worst districts in the country. It's getting hit in the areas that probably needed the least. Right like right, this is the time for them to use education to pull out of poverty, to increase their overall so socioeconomic standards. And so those are the those are the, I think, macro level themes that we're seeing across the board and what we are hoping for, at least what we're trying to identify is one of the root causes of the decline and interest in going to higher education and going to college is the lack of awareness and the lack or the feeling that it's really out of reach. And I think we don't recognize if you're living in a great neighborhood or you have a great high school, whether it's public school or private school, going to be some of the most elite schools in the country doesn't seem very frightening, it doesn't seem out of reach and you're very well aware that it's a very clear possibility for you and your future. But for most people and most children in America it's just not even something that they're aware of, like the fact that they could have a meeting with the you know, the counselor at Harvard or at Princeton. That just doesn't appear as a as a possibility to see. It seems so out of reach, and what we're hoping for it visit days is to bring that type of access directly to the decision makers at these institutions, to really everybody, right, and we think that if you can do that and if you can make admissions less about the rejection rate per college but more about the access and the opportunities that one can pursue, I think it would inspire more and more students, really starting early as eighth grade, to see this as a real option right and see this as very attainable and very approachable. And on the college side, we want to give universities a way to meet students outside of just potentially purchasing names or doing the other types of marketing activities that they're doing. We want them to have authentic meetings, authentic ability to get in front of a group of students that they not have even considered. See. One of the interesting things about...

...the test optional piece is that historically, the fact that the set's existed and that their average scores at all of those things are so highly publicized. It actually prevented a lot of students to even think about applying right they didn't even think about it. It just seemed so out of reach or just didn't seem like even an option. But I think with the decline of of I should say the the rise of test optionality across the top institutions around the country, there's going to be a whole new crop of applicants that are going to come out to specific institutions that never saw them before, and what we're hoping with us, with our initiatives in our programs, is to make that meeting far more accessible and far more approachable for both parties. So you've accurately described the problem and I love the solutions that you're trying to get to. If you could help us understand how visit days actually bridges that gap? Sure. So what we do is we have approximately one thousand eight hundred universities that have a profile and visit days. That means that they are able to get their counselors to connect their calendars onto our platform. Almost think of us like a booking platform. Like you would with with the health characters, with ZOC DOC, or with restaurants with open table where you can go onlining, you can book a reservation right away. Similarly, we're trying to make all the individuals that are the administrators in the college, College Reps and college administrators at the universities around the country accessible. So our platform has around seventeen to eight united universities that can make their counselors accessible. They can do presentations, they can do programming, videos, content that explains everything that prospective student may need to know about the institution, but also the process in which they can apply, in the process in which they will be measured or the factors in which they will be measured. So everything can be very, very public. And what we do is we take those seventeen to eight united university profiles and the institutions programming and we take them to districts. We provide our software completely free to universe up to the districts itself. High schools, if you're a public and private high school in the country, visits is completely free for you. And the way we monetize is that universities that are participating in specific districts and they want their profiles to be available to those students and their availabilities and all the content. Pay US a very small subscription fee per year to get access to those individual districts. Visit days is not sell leads. We don't have an advertising play where purely based on a BDB business model with the universities that get access to the districts that we partner with. I love that. I love that model because I think it's students first and providing a service to the students first. You know, we've talked to several other folks on the High Ed Marketer podcast asked to know one that that that we talked about earlier before we recorded.

You know, campus tour, campus visit. They you know with with Alex Boylan. We've also talked with, you know, Zeemi. Similar in the sense of really having that place where students can come and find their information, find the answers to their questions, and I love the fact that you are really focusing in on those school districts that might not always be, you know, where the students might they might not have the accessibility that should be there. The school districts getting this for free. It gives that ability to everybody in the school district, all the students and parents and things like that, and then monetizing that through the through the small fee with the colleges. I think is really a really good way to go. Are you finding a lot of schools that are finding benefits in that? I mean certainly, like you said earlier, there's a lot more students that are going to be applying and interested in some of these schools that maybe historically they didn't think that they could reach, but now that they've got this this accessibility, this relationship that they can build on this platform that. How does that change things? I think that universities are starting to you have to keep in mind, you know, universities have been doing recruitment for the last maybe fifty to sixteen years the same exact way right. So this is it. We're in a TI tonic shift in the way administrators and college administrators are looking at it. I mean, I was just on a call maybe a few days ago where the VP of enrollment at a university that I work that visit these works with said, you know, they've had to make pivots before, but this has been like they've never had to make fast this level of a pivot in their in their business model and their approach in their entire careers, which have spanned maybe two to three decades. So I think we're still in the beginning of a major shift in the way universities are going to operate in the future. Having said that, I think that most universities, especially, I would say, the top schools, are really embracing the fact that they need to they need to reach out to the community to find the right students for their class and they need to make the effort to make sure that this the areas that in which they did not have a huge representation or they don't have a relationship with the high school counselor that's making a phone call and asking them to come to a high school visit. You know, those are the areas that now they have the ability, through visit days, through a virtual platform, to be available and to be accessible in a way that they didn't have to before, and it's relatively easy for them. So we're trying to make sure that a college is not overburdened because they're also, you know, they are also dealing with their own staffing issues, they're also dealing with their own series of sort of administrative things that they're trying to adapt to, and so we're trying to make sure that our platform scales well for them so they can be in more places in much shorter period of time and much lower costs, but at the same time we're trying to make sure that they're finding the types of students that are really going to be the future leaders of tomorrow. I'll give you a good example. We also partner like like we do with the school districts, we also partner with CBOS, and one CBO we recently partnered with was Philadelphia Futures.

And so Philadelphia Futures, if you're not aware of them, they're an incredible organization. Obviously in Philadelphia they have approximately there. They're consortium of multiple high schools in that in the city of Philadelphia, and they are a program that basically has a hundred percent student graduation from high school. I think a ninety nine percent reticulation from college. Like these are some of the brightest students in the city of Philadelphia and generally not in great circumstances right and so we allow our platform to be completely free for all CBO so Philadelphia futures signed up with visit days and they had an incredible showing of and then close to a hundred universities participating. Close to four hundred students joined and now are a part of the platform. One of the things that makes our platform different is that where year around, so you don't have to be on a specific day or a specific hour to show up, and so for us, the home model is this is a platform that exists year around. The universities can publish live sessions whenever they want, they can make themselves available throughout the year and so students can find them through a trusted source like the CBO or like their district in high school and be able to use and use the platform whenever they want. It's not something that forces them to have to be on a specific day specifically there. They can just use it whenever to get access. That's great. That's great. High and you kind of touched a little bit on the idea of the future and I think that, yeah, we often have guests come on and talk about, okay, you know the future. You Know Two thousand and twenty five with the enrollment cliff. I think a lot of people talk about that, talk about generation Alpha, what's coming there just and also just the idea of, like you said, you know, the news feed of the beginning of January as this idea that is there still value and higher education. What do you say to that? I mean, what? What? What? What's your thoughts about where the future of higher at its going? So, I mean, I'll be honest, as a person, from a personal standpoint, I am a son of immigrants, I am an immigrant myself and you know, I've come being in the United States getting American High School Education and college education. It's it's the greatest gift America has to give to its future. It just is. I mean, do I think that the cost of education is out of control and that needs to be reigned in? Absolutely, but this sentiment that education or higher education is not valuable or potentially can be foregone is going to be at the worst detriment for us and US as individuals and as a country. I mean that is our I think that is the biggest competitive advantage we have and if we look at how much the rest of the world is ramping up their education focus, ramping up the focus of higher education, I think the the sentiment and that which I think is proliferated at least more so in the last five six years, which higher education does not matter or is not as important as it used to be,... very dangerous. Do I think you can get other forms of education and doesn't have to be a typical for your degree? Absolutely. Can you do apprenticeships? Can you do trade schools? Absolutely. I don't think there has to be a one size fits all for all populations, but we as a country have to get our next generation into a form of higher education, thinking and knowing that that is valuable, because that's what's going to make us as a country stronger and more competitive. That's great. That's great. As we wind up to show, are there any other aspects of visit days that we haven't talked about that you would want to mention before we close? Yeah, I think the last thing I would I would sort of leave everyone with, is called like we're right now working on an incredible effort throughout the state of Texas. We are working with e SC, the Educational Sir Service enters, which is which are all the consoortial, all the groupings of all the districts in EESC, ten eleven, and we're expecting most of Texas to be running on visit day soon, and in that effort I have sort of seen how much it takes of all the high school counselors and the college administrators to come together to make this work, and what I would leave off with is that this effort is going to really help the next generation. I think that if we can solve and if we can address this gap in equity and help every student in the country and parent in the country feel like they are welcomed into higher education, that it is not too far away, that the it is in their grasp, and we do it early enough in the in their journey through high school and potentially Middle School, we're going to see a future that is brighter and stronger than ever before, and visit he's is going to do everything it can and its power to make that happen. I'm inspired. Thank you very much. See Joy. What would be the best way to reach you if one of our listeners would like to connect, so you can email me directly. It's to joy. It's Su joy at visit thesecom. That's the easiest way. You can find me on Linkedin or you can go to our website and schedule a call right on our website. So joy again. Thank you for being such a wonderful guest and letting the world know about visit days. Thank you for having me, Joy Bart. Do you have any closing thoughts that you would like to share? Yeah, I thought that sue joy did a great job articulating some of the challenges that are in higher education right now, as well as what is coming down the pike. I think everybody understands that, you know, it's not getting easier to be a higher ed marketer or a higher administrator. There's challenges involved in recruiting students and with pools shrinking and with, you know, just the the attitude toward higher education slipping and changing in some ways. I really like the fact that there's a lot of a lot of thought and intentionality going into people like sue joy and visit days and another ones that we've talked to. I've really trying to address this problem and staying out in front of it and I think that, even even if we take away, you know, a lot of the culture...

...real issues, even things like text test optional and some things that have come out of the pandemic that are just changing the nature of the way that students are accessing and having accessibility to higher education. I like platforms like visit days and how they can bridge that gap and they can, you know, provide resources for those students to be able to get more information, to be able to, you know, get into those places and start those conversations in those relationships. It's it strikes me, Troy, is that we've had so many conversations on the hired marketer podcast about the importance of relationships, whether it's relationships internally with internal teams, marketing teams with enrollment, marketing teams with development, or even if it's just, you know, admissions counselors with with prospects and families, relationships or where it comes down to. And I love the fact that visit days starts to facilitate those relationships in a way that might not be possible for some of these students. So really appreciate you being on the show days. He Joy. It's been a pleasure, or right, it's been my leisure to thank you, barn in Troy. That brings us to the end of the episode. The hired marketer podcast is sponsored by Calo solutions and education marketing and branding agency and by Think, patented, a marketing execution company combining personal reason and customization for higher ed outreach solutions. On behalf of my cohost barred Kaylor. My name is troy singer. Thanks again for joining us. You've been listening to the higher edeter. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you're listening with apple PODCASTS, we'd love for you to leave a quick rating of the show. Simply tap the number of stars you think the podcast deserves. Until next time,.

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