The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode 75 · 5 months ago

Increasing Outcomes for Higher Ed Leaders Through Radical Collaboration


Businesses and organizations lose the most impact and productivity by not working together. The same goes for higher education. To solve big problems, you must be able to cooperate with others.  

Dr. Michael Horowitz is the President of TCS Education System. TCS is the community solution for higher education and is all about working collaboratively to advance institutional sustainability, student success, and community impact. Dr. Horowitz brings excellent insights into the ideas of collaboration and marketing within higher education.  

Join us as we discuss:

  •  What radical cooperation means in higher education.
  •  How schools can better use benchmarking and KPIs to set and achieve goals. 
  •  Dr. Horowitz’s advice to other colleges and universities. 

The High Red Marketer podcast is sponsored by the ZEM APP enabling colleges and universities to engage interested students before they even apply. You're 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, donor relations, marketing trends, new technologies and so much more. If you're looking for conversations centered around where the industry is going, this podcast is for you. Let's get into the show. Today on the Higher Ed Marketer Podcast, Mart and I speak with Dr Michael Horowitz of the T C S Education System about increasing outcomes for higher ed leaders through formal and courageous collaboration, and I love the conversation that we had with Dr Horowitz. Uh He is an expert on how to use benchmarking and also how to market to adult learners, and I believe he shares a lot of best cases for our listeners to do the same at their institutions. That's right, Troy. I think that there's a lot of really good information in this episode. Dr Horowitz kind of spend some time at the beginning talking a little bit about TCS and and how they do the radical collaboration with among different schools and and how they set that up as part of their organization. But I think it is really kind of critical when we get get to the point, maybe about five ten minutes into the interview, we start talking about adult learning and really some specifics on the expertise that Dr Horowitz brings with with his experience with adult learning and and how to market to them and how TCS does a lot of that marketing as well. I think it's really important to listen to that and really understand a little bit about how that radical collaboration can play out even at your own school. He is a great leader in interesting conversationalists and here's our conversation with Dr Michael Horwitz. Dr Horwitz, before we get into our conversation about the TCS education system, I would like to ask you is there anything that you've learned recently that's interesting or knew that you can share? Well, that's a great question, Troy. Interestingly enough, I've learned this morning in the Higher Ed press that two universities announced that they were going to try to form a nonprofit education system and we had to mention in the article and I'm excited to see that people are recognizing the power of the model and understanding it. A few years ago, when we were talking to the leadership of WASSK are major creditor, they asked me if we could have a hundred colleges within TC s and I said I don't know that that is our goal or should be, but I'd like to see a hundred systems like ours take hold. And so that that was a fun way to start off today. To read about that, of course, in a great way to segment, or excuse me, segue into our conversation if you would tell everyone who you are, your role and what tcs education system the model that it promotes and works under. Okay, great, thank you. So I'm Michael Horowitz, PhD. I have a doctorate in clinical psychology and trained to be a psychologist and a psychoanalyst. I got very interested along the way in the promise of psychology as an independent profession and became very active and spent many...

...years in schools of professional psychology and different roles, faculty, administrator, eventually president of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, and I served in that role from two thousand. In twenty nine I decided to found UH TCS education system, the community solution and higher education. I had wonderful colleagues and wonderful board members who supported that vision. What I came to understand is, even though we had had great success growing the Chicago School from about two hundred students to over three thousand and having a national footprint, that we needed to bring colleges and universities together in a formally governed model. And so in twenty Oh nine we created the framework and in twenty ten we went live UH and today we're up to five colleges and universities. Were on the cusp of a sixth university joining us in, and so we are an integrated nonprofit system and what we're about is working collaboratively to advance institutional sustainability, student success and community impact. Thank you. And I think one of the ways that you describe that is with the term the power of radical cooperation or radical co operation. Can you expand upon that? I'd love to, because it's uh it's our bread and butter. You know, there's that old saw that culture eat strategy, and when you create an integrated nonprofit system and you ask faculty, Staff Boards to work across the nation and really across the globe, because we've continued to advance our activity around the world. You have to double down every day on the notion of its one organization, one system. We're working to support each other. You know, Higher Ed is kind of distinct in being radically non cooperative, and that might be another podcast where we could look at the reasons for that. If you go to most sectors you know of of society, there's no way to solve big problems without working in what I would define as a radically cooperative way. I just read a piece on Uston having the most success in dealing with homelessness and of any of big cities, and what was striking as part of the discussion was various agencies and nonprofits that interface with that population had to work with each other in a cooperative way that they never had before. So radical cooperation means that's our our biggest cultural value. We're looking at each other as teammates. We're trying to figure out the best way forward for our students, for our colleges, and you asked about what I've learned recently, but I've learned things over many years. There's a great ted talk, one of my favorites, by a Boston consulting person, Eve Moreau, that talks about where businesses and organizations lose the most impact and productivity is by not working together. And so it's it's those are not things you can necessarily measure on a budget or in a patric but you can feel it and you will...

...see the impact on those matrics. Yeah, I think that's so interesting that you say that, Dr Harwin's, because I've I've worked with Lumina Foundation for Education for years and they, you know, they have had their their big goal, the goal where they want to see six of the you know, adults in the United States having a post you know, Post Post secondary degree of some kind, whether it's in professional training or or bachelor or otherwise. And I think sometimes about the idea that as higher education marketers, we get so worried that we're competing against each of us. A lot of times we're competing against life. Um You know a lot of students don't end up in our programs because of life and not necessarily because they go to the other school. And so I think that even as marketers, this idea of radical cooperation is appealing to me because maybe you can tell us a little bit about how I mean when I think about, you know, organizations like yours, I know a lot of this. The State Independent College Associations often have you purchasing, you know, agreements that they'll do with with large, you know, software vendors or I t or different things like that. But what you're talking about goes beyond just purchasing. I mean we're talking about radical cooperation in other aspects of the of the campus as well. Correct, absolutely so. I'm glad you brought up that experience of state associations. My ten years as president of the Chicago School I went to the Illinois version and there are always great aspirations to do things together. It seemed like the core emphasis, and that's my observation on most of the associations, was to lobby as a group for state funding. That's absolutely important and the right thing to do. I didn't see anything else of impact and part of my diagnosis or desire to do something different is you have to formally tie it together at the governing level. If you don't have buy in from the boards of trustees and the leadership the rest of it's not gonna work. There are too many competing factors. And so I started tcs from an academic premise, that bringing colleges with passion for their programs, their communities together. Uh, there was absolutely every expectation will will be better as a group. Um, and you're absolutely right that you should be able, and we do by at better cost or better quality, or both, by being as a group. And that that's one small part of it. Ah, but really the biggest part you have to get right up front is how's everybody at every level going to commit to this being a united effort? Then the purchasing is almost the easiest. Like well, of course, because but again here's where culture comes in. We we don't necessarily strive to say we're gonna save money. We'd rather create the biggest impact with our dollar. So often that means our colleges might be spending the same but for something much higher level. So as if you're going to do that with technology, you have to have the agreement. We can debate the system and then we're going to decide it's one system, because then then that's where the breakdown happens in my experience, when you don't have it tied up at the top level. So we're all in agreement. Let's look at different systems, let's have presentations and then let's agree we're gonna pick one so we can drive the best price, we can get the most expertise and off we go. And sure there's there are arguments to be made for system B, C and D...

...that we didn't choose, but you're gonna get the high impact from that commitment to being a team right. And is it true, too, that the idea that that even with Um, you know, said earlier when I set up my question, that you know, we're often competing against life. I think, though, that in the nature of the way education is going. I mean we've seen radical shifts and, you know, telephones and other industries, computer and how you know, there's you know, somebody comes in with like the iphone came in and it totally upended everything that we knew about a mobile phone. I think that we're on the cusp of something like that happening in Higher Ed and I think that's going to be outside of what is known as the traditional Higher Ed. I mean we've we've heard talks from Google and other large corporations about ideas that they have to fix the brokenness of of of higher education. And so I think in some ways, Um, you know, people are always going to need an always want to have traditional higher end, that the experience, the student experience, everything that there is in traditional higher end. That's always going to be something that's going to be wanted. But my fear is is that if we're not doing this radical cooperation and we're just kind of putting our head down the sands and doing our own things, something big is going to come along and gonna shift the entire playing field. Is it? Is that part of what you were talking about or thinking about with the with the TCS system as well? Uh, I agree with most of what you said. I'll temper. I'll temper with that. Higher Ed, for better or for worse, has been resistant and resilient in fending off a lot of innovation. So again, that that that requires a few books to be written about it, because it's got to be more than ten years ago where Clayton Christensen h wrote that and he's a great theorist. But basically, you know, America and the Higher Ed's going to get wiped out and we're just going to see big for profit online take over everything. And you know, and and he had good presentations sort of explaining how, for a while the American car industry got wiped out by innovations coming from Japan and other countries. So in a way I'm gonna say not so fast. I'll focus in on what we do right. We were affording high access two adult students, by and large seeking important professional degrees. So these are degrees and professions that are overwhelmingly licensed. They take a big commitment, whether it's becoming a psychologist, a lawyer, a medical doctor. So the way we're teaching in those spaces absolutely is getting transformed by technology. But you're not going to be able to go online and, you know, take a course oftwered by a tech company and then like Hey, I'd like to practice medicine. So it's it's UH. Doug Liederman, one of the founders of inside Higher Ed, made a good point uh at a West conference a few years ago, that the public thinks of the American higher education system, there is no higher education system. There's multiple ecosystems. So TCS lives largely in this word world of passionate adult students seeking pretty sophisticated levels of education. So how we market, how we teach, how we enroll, absolutely shifting in response to technology.

At the same time shifting or staying static in response two regulatory agencies professions that will have as big as, say, as as the tech companies. So that that I'm a big embracer of technology, but we we make a mistake with higher ad uh, they're the quickest to change, you know. But now we're saying, as we learn about layoffs in this economy, the tech companies are going to be the first to contract and we're not. Everyone is training to work at Google. We're all going to use Google, but not everyone is gonna earn their living or be fulfilled or get a job there. We talk a lot about it on the show. Schools are really struggling today that make the same at spin work. CPMS are up eight year over a year. On facebook and instagram. Our College clients are no longer looking for rented audiences. They're looking for an owned community where they can engage students even before they apply. This is why Zemi has become so crucial for our clients, with over one million students, close to ten thou five star ratings consistently ranked as one of the top social lapps and recently one of Apple's hot APPs of the week. There simply isn't anything out there like it, and we have seen it all. Ze Me not only provides the best space for student engagement, but the most unique and actionable data for their one sixty college and university partners. We know firsthand from our clients that Ze me is a must have strategy for Gen Z. Check them out now at colleges dot Zem dot com. That's colleges dot Z E M E dot Com. And yes, tell them Barton Troy sent you. Thank you, Dr Horowitz, and I'm going to encourage our listeners to investigate and research tcs and what you're doing there, because I think they're a lot of great that is happening that others can learn from. I do want to switch gears a little bit because I want to make sure we offer some advice for the schools that aren't, uh, in a consortiution like yours. But we also know that you have some expertise in benchmarking and would like to ask how you feel schools can better utilize benchmarking and attain progress within what they're currently doing. Yeah, I mean, I'm pretty basic in this regard. I'll give you a few. I'm sometimes amazed that people are not using these benchmarks and I will say on any given day not everything we do works in a given day, a given year. So our arrows aren't always up from one standpoint. If you're a nonprofit college, you need to be operating with the goal of the surplus each and every year. That's a pretty basic metric. It's it's stunning actually how many colleges don't and then they're wondering why things are getting tougher, why they're discounting more. I mean there's a lot behind that. Get Your Business Model Right. If you're losing money every year, there's it's it will start to spiral out of control. We're so lucky. We're not lucky because I think we choose people well. Our colleges do. Our leaders are really committed to that. Sometimes there's a tough year, they don't have it, but because you know the year they are they have that cushion. We are laser focused on student success. The most important metric is how many students complete and graduate, and then a further metric is people. Hopefully, since we're meeting for the first time. You won't be tired of me talking about it. People get tired me...

...saying the loan default rate is is critical and people say, well, that's kind of away from education. Like now most students are borrowing money. It's a big commitment to get to a certain place in life. We hope not only to have a rewarding profession, but they've been changed and impacted by learning and practicing that profession. We want to see them finish the program get licensed, if they're in a license your program, and pay back the loan. That tells us that all the way through it's working, so that that those are first and foremost among the metrics, the student ones. If the student ones are working, if you're graduating most of the students, they're paying back their loans. The rest will follow. On the budgets, we we have remarkable, you know, data and reports. So we of course look at inquiries and applications and conversions, but at the end of the day we don't care if we have more inquiries or less. We want to get applications from qualified students and, more importantly, get them to where they hope to go. Yeah, I think that that's such an important thing when you talk about benchmarking, because I I often talk here on the podcast, we've had a lot of conversations about it as well as just direct conversations when I talk with my clients, is just, you know, what are those key performance indicators? I mean you've talked about some more um macro, you know, benchmarking with with default loans and you know, retention to graduation rates and things like that. But I think even when we get down into the marketing, uh, you know, when we're looking at, as you just kind of alluded to, you know, those campaigns of what are our conversion rates? What are what are we looking at and having the ability and the tools to be able to set up those key key performance indicators, know the ones that we should be looking and looking for. I still find a lot of people are confused on, you know, whether impressions are important or conversions are imp important. I mean, you know, I'm more concerned about how many students I have in the fall or in the next cycle rather than how many people saw my billboard on the interstate. And so I want to make sure you're exactly right. Don't don't get confused by the glitzy right and now your core markers. Right. What what are we interested in? Enrollments of qualified students. We I mean, I know enough to be dangerous. I do love marketing, but we have great leadership in our marketing team. I rely on them for the expertise. But I know that currently we're experimenting with really dialing down lead vendor, as an example, and really focus on better quality applications. The best ones, you know, are the ones that will find us through our own websites. So yeah, if inquiries go way down but we end up with equally strong or hopefully better starting class, then that's even better. The other thing recently and we I think it's critical from a culture standpoint to always look at what's going on in the larger world. So we we have an annual operating review with all of our college leadership teams. We had a great marketing panel of some of our major outside vendors and the representative from Google made a really interesting point in the way that people could get she asked someone how they got to the meeting that day and the person said, you know, I drove my car, and she said, but yeah, what about the highway? What about the traffic? How did you get there. So what we realized, what was really tangible, is someone may have clicked on our website but they had eight different engagements that we haven't captured because they talked... an alarm, they went to a healthcare setting and their psychologists. It wasn't alarm. They maybe saw the billboard. So it's uh, that was a very interesting point. The other one she said is that now cent if I'm rembering correctly, of time online is spent looking at videos. Oh, that's really interesting. It's it's fast. Yeah, I may have gotten I maybe don't hold me to that number, but it was very high. That certainly suggests that we should be producing compelling video. I agree with you and I know that TCS spends a lot of times focused on on adult learners and and a lot of the work that that Um, you know, I have experience in is is kind of in that small to medium sized school because a lot of times those schools are the ones that are really leveraging the adult learning and the online modality to make sure that they can kind of, you know, increase their net revenue. And so I think that, Um, you know, I'm curious when you start thinking about everything that tcs is doing too, to kind of serve those schools for that adult learning, you know, as you put it, the professional and the licensing types of things with nursing and psychology and those types of things. I feel like it's some you know, there's a lot of probably the biggest thing that I could say, and I guess I'm trying to get you to kind of validate this, and what I'm hearing and what you're seeing is that, Um, you know, you have to you have to market differently to adults than you do traditional students, and I think a lot of schools fail to think about that. They think it's as easy as just, well, if we buy some Google ads and we're good and we're set right. I mean we just run them through the same I agree with that. I'll take it. I shared with our marketing team recently. Another organization I admire is the Zingerman community of businesses and their CO founder, Ari Weinswag, has a new interesting weekly email where he both sells his product, their food business, but has kind of a philosophical take on business, and what he wrote about recently was marketing with dignity and what you're describing when you when you do the Google ads. Where's the substance? To me, marketing with dignity is where authentically and transparently conveying what is positive about our institution, what the program is. There's historically been this thought of, you know, let's hide the information and then they'll want it more, and that we're living in an age where we have to be very transparent the costs the benefit. Here's how the program works. So to market well, you have to the institution has to be geared to that student. You have to have faculty that are embracing of the student. That comes with work and life experience. So I'm at a great interaction at Pacific Oaks, one of our colleges. One time a m a prospective student was being brought through with admissions and I happened to be with my wife, who is an early childhood psychologists a very resident with what Pacific Oaks does, and we stopped and had a chat about you know, this student was currently working as an early childhood teacher and my wife was well, you're gonna love it here because you know those are the students that come here. You're gonna get to apply what you're doing every day with the classroom. The faculty really worked that way. You could see her face brightened, because a lot of institutions, I don't think of that. And so it doesn't matter how many Google ads the student comes in and I've literally seen faculty at some institutions say no, we don't want any prior experience. You know, the students an empty hearten and our job... to fill it. Right. But you know, the other thing I'll say about the nomenclature. The majority of American Higher Ed today are working adults, even the UNDERGRADS. Uh, I think the last number I saw was the twenty five years old and most of them have jobs. So the the campus with the eighteen to twenty two year old it's still a big segment. It's not the majority. So I'm not sure why we're talking about that. Is Traditional. Maybe traditional is right. It's certainly not the norm. And so yeah, we we have to approach students fundamentally different way and that will of course inform the marketing. Yeah, I think that's a really good point. I mean it has to be a whole different way of looking at the student and the experience rather than just saying, oh well, the only difference is the modality in the age. Well, now there's a whole different way of looking at it from a marketing standpoint and what their needs are, how they make their decisions, how they respond to you know why they respond in the way that they do. I mean they're checking off boxes that I need to get this done, I need to do this and I need to go do my laundry. I don't have time to yeah, and then and and they you're absolutely right, when you stay competing with life. Uh. And we're going to do a project with Google analytics in the coming years, led by our chief academic officer and some of our other great leaders, to try and understand if we can earlier in the journey. Is it academic? Is it financial? Is it personal? What can we do to intervene and help? A right? That's Great, Dr Howarts, that's really fascinating when I think about how adult students are different, and I think that it goes back to and and you know with your background in in Um psychology and different things like that, there's a true Um psychology of marketing. Could you talk on that for just a moment, because I think a lot of times, as hired marketers, we tend to forget that and even at some of the smaller faith based schools there's a tension that they feel like, well, I'm manipulating someone. Talk about that a little bit. Well, that and that's why I absolutely believe in Ari. WEINSWAG's idea of marketing with dignity. I don't want to trick anyone to coming to our school. I want, in fact, I want, a hundred percent knowledge and awareness, because the program won't be easy, it will be it will be very rewarding. Um, what does that mean? Personalized information at every touch point. So our marketing team, which produces incredible content. You know there they have both print and digital magazines as an example. Different students have different interests, so I want to know about the faculties, I want to know about the time to do degree. So we have found a way to personalize it. And then, of course, we're ending UH, the way we learn. I think we follow this all the way through. We have a fabulous instructional design team working with our faculty, because they're going to be some students need more of you know, printed instruction and summer are going to do better with videos. I think a core thing for us, going back to our name the community solution, if you want to call it selling, and it has the benefit of being true. We want to convey. Come to our programs, you will have a sense of community and the most thrilling thing is you see that when you go to our graduations. The alumni, the new alumni, will talk about this. What got me through was this feeling there were people like me. The Faculty and Staff Really supported me, uh in, in the very difficult circumstance of being a parent, having a job going to school. I always...

...felt there was a community surrounding me for success. So it turns out you can actually market that, uh and that that's I think, and I think when you talk about adult learners. But I would guess that's gonna work. There's eighteen year olds are looking for a certain thing too. So you want a Taylor to what? In that case, maybe parents. You're marketing to parents. We we don't market as much to parents. It's an interesting for some of our younger students there maybe an element of still parents are the consumer, but what we want to talk to them about. We're gonna envelop you in a in a learning and professional community that we know has a high chance to get you out on the other side. That's great. Thank you. We want to close our conversation with you, Dr Horowitz, by asking you if there's a piece of advice that you would of other marketers that they could implement right away. That comes from your TCS system. We've talked about this for years. Don't try to sell things that you don't have authentically in the education. So just because you saw a great add a great magazine, a great video from another institution, before you go and copy that, say can I support this all the way through? Marketing is so important. It's how we tell the world about ourselves. Make sure you have an authentic message. If you say I'm going to recruit working adult students, okay, ask yourself. Have I set up evening and weekend classes? Do have online maximized to the extent that program allows? Do I understand why the students in this program will need in terms of support? That then the marketing becomes really fun because then you can you can you can ask the students in the program, you can ask the graduates. I mean some of our best videos, our videos that we we take interviewing students as they graduate, and it's and you can they will describe for our future prospective student what was so great about the experience they had at our colleges. So I guess I'd say marketing critically important and connected to everything else in the organization approach these key areas, like finance, like marketing, like enrollment academics, in a cohesive way. Dr Horowitz, thank you very much for being a guest on the hired marketer podcast. We appreciate what you've brought to our listeners today. For our listeners that would like to reach out and contact you maybe get more information about what you offer, how would they best do that? Well, first of all, let me thank you, troy and bark very engaging conversation. I would love it if people would come to our website, TCS E D system dot e Du. It's gonna tell you a lot about how we radically cooperate and you'll be able to be able to click through to each one of our colleges and their websites as well. And then I'd be happy if people would take a look on my linkedin at Dr Michael Horowitz. I publish regularly in the Forbes Nonprofit Council and I link the articles there on my Linkedin, as well as podcasts and other content like this great discussion we've just had. Thank you, bark. Do you have any final fonts? Yeah, I thought this was a great conversation and Dr Harrowitz, thank you so much for being on the show.

A couple of things that I wanted to kind of point out as as takeaways for our listeners, and if you need to go back and listen to part of this again, I would encourage you to do that. Talked a lot about radical collaboration and I think that the what Dr Harrowitz and the and the TCS system are doing is pretty phodomenal and I think it's a it's it's something that's going to need to continue to develop. I think he had kind of said at the beginning about the idea of being able to see more and more of those types of systems happening. But I would also challenge you just internally in your own college, in your own cabinet level, radical collaboration anywhere is going to benefit everything, and so being able to work together as a marketing team with the enrollment team, being able to work as an enrollment team with the student success and student life team, everyone working together and collaborating in a radical way for the end user, the student, is going to really make a big difference in your institution. So I would really really take that up. On on some of the ideas that Dr Harrowits has talked about, I would all so really like to point out the fact that we talked a lot about the idea of unique and authentic messaging and especially we talked a lot about the adult students and the idea that there's gonna be different audiences, the idea of creating different personas and different marketing aspects of to these audiences and being able to deliver your authentic message. I think to Dr Her it's his point. You need to really be authentic and to define who you are as an institution. You're not going to attract every student out there, nor should you. You should attract the ones that are going to succeed the most at your institution and being authentic and leading with that. I think that's going to be the key for you to really have some success in that. And I think another thing just that kind of is the overarching thing that we've talked about here today that we didn't really define, but there's a great book called story brand and it's the idea that when you are doing any kind of marketing, you want to use the your end user, as the hero and and and your school then is the supporting it's it's kind of like the Luke skywalker and Yoda. Your student is the Luke Skywalker and you're gonna help them with their journey and you're gonna be the Yoda to come along. But when you're doing your marketing, it's not about you as the school, it's about the student and where they're going to be at the end of the day because of the experience that they had with you. And so we want to make sure that everything that we're doing from our marketing standpoint, it's radically collaborating with others on campus. We're delivering our unique and authentic story and we're focused on the fact that the student is the hero. So thanks again, Dr Harvards. It's been a great pleasure to have you on the show. That was a great summary and something for me to learn with that reference. Thank you for a great conversation. The Higher Ed Marketer podcast. It's sponsored by Kaylor solutions and education marketing and branding agency and by think patented a Marketing Execution Company combining print, digital and mailing for Higher Ed Solutions. On behalf of Bart Kaylor. I'm troy singer. Thank you for joining us. You've been listening to the Higher Ed Marketer too, sure 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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