Monday, December 29, 2008

Change in 2009

December 29, 2008- The subject of Change is certainly a big one as we start a new calendar year… new challenges, new opportunities, and indeed a new list of New Year’s resolutions.

Here is an early draft of my list…

1) Spend an extra 15 minutes at the gym each day, not each week.
2) Check in with my folks more often via phone, not just Facebook.
3) Shut my iphone off after 9pm, and not just on vibrate.

They’re not the most difficult New Year’s resolutions, and I promise to pick at least one. That is what I told myself last year, when I resolved to change my ways. Well, 2009 is a whole new year.

This past weekend while reading about 2008 wrap ups and 2009 predictions, finding a new year’s resolution seemed daunting. It’s all about a recession and regression. How long it will last, who it will affect the most, and what needs to be done to survive it.

While the financial world stole the headlines this Fall, and as we move into the new year, those of us in the education space are drawn to front page stories about dwindling funds for schools – both k-12 and higher education. Now with the spotlight on how well we are preparing our students, it’s time to take a look at what we can do in 2009 to make improvements – and stick to our resolutions.

This week, the New York Times ran a piece on the inequities in funding for education. According to the article, “LOCAL control of schooling — which means local financing of schools — is an injustice, masked as a virtue, so deeply ingrained in the American mind that no politician in either party dare challenge it. But America’s obsession with local finance, which made perfect sense in the 19th century, is now sinking us morally and economically.” The article goes on to remind us just how the affluent communities receive the most resources and the less fortunate districts, the ones that need the extra support, get the short end of the stick. The Times, albeit ambitiously, suggests that in 2009 the system must change – despite the political diatribe that enforces the status quo.

The problem is not a secret, and is far from being breaking news – but what is significant is the declaration that change is the answer. We have to stop relying on the old way of doing business when it comes to our students’ well-being… and what better time to change than in the face of an unprecedented economic short-fall which will force us to do so whether willing or unwilling. The time is now!

Since 2002, ConnectEDU has been about change to improve access for all students to reach their college and career aspirations. We provide our education platforms through college sponsorships so no school, district or student has to pay – we give EVERY student the edge they need to plan their future at no cost to them. The Times uses Detroit as an example of funding inequities – where students from low-income urban neighborhoods receive thousands less in funding per student than students minutes away in posh communities. In our network, students from downtown Detroit are provided the same web solutions as their neighbors in the suburbs – all through sponsorship of 16+ Michigan institutions of higher education intent on changing the status quo and leveling the playing field when it comes to accessing college and career planning solutions and relationships. Schools in our network are taking the steps to make change on their own… and it’s working.

Each year, we resolve to bring our web solutions to more high schools – and each year we’ve expanded the network; 100 schools in 2006; 1,000 schools in 2007; 2,000 schools in 2008; 3,000+ in 2009.

So maybe I’ll skip a day at the gym, post a quick hello on my mom’s wall, or fall asleep with the cell phone on my pillow, but one resolution I know I can keep in 2009- ConnectEDU will continue to welcome more schools into our network in an effort to level the access playing field now!

After all, some things never change!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Giving the Gift of Education

December 23, 2008- The oversized ornaments hung high from the ceilings. The loud music echoed from The Gap to Tiffany’s. Everything was just as big and bright as in year’s past at the mall. But where were all the shoppers? I’d like to think the shopping on the web had peaked, but on a recent trip to find the perfect holiday gift I knew it had more to do with the economy than with any promotion that Amazon, Overstock or eBay could have come up with.

No matter where you look, people are cutting back, including our friends in the education space. Education Week recently published an Associated Press story on the states bracing for the budget cuts to come, while also reporting on the 30,000 schools not measuring up to the No Child Left Behind standards. In a nutshell, schools are being asked to achieve more, and now they are learning they have to do it with less funding.

It might be that I’m watching too many holiday specials, but it feels that our schools are in need of a Christmas miracle. I’m sure many superintendents wish they had the good fortune of George Bailey. Unfortunately, for us it’s not about Mr. Potter taking the money. For our story, it is about state and district level budget cuts. So while some school leaders wait for Clarence to earn his wings, others are receiving the gift that colleges across the country are providing through sponsorship to high schools. One by one, colleges are at the doorstep of our network to offer their support to U.S. high schools. Far from a miracle, our career and college solutions take already proven technology to help students while saving our families, schools, districts and states money. Who knew sending electronic transcripts could save Bedford Falls the $8K Uncle Billy lost, in just one admission cycle?

Currently, over 2,000 high schools are benefiting from ConnectEDU’s no cost technology solutions to do more with less. Colleges throughout the nation are taking the lead and sponsoring the integration of Connect! into high schools in their regions. They understand the importance of providing students the resources, tools and information to make good decisions about college. They also now understand it shouldn’t be at their expense. These sponsorships are our college partners’ way of putting students first. After all, in the end it’s about providing a college education so our students can live a 'wonderful life'.

Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Up, Up and Away

December 16, 2008 - So why does Eric D. Fingerhut, Chancellor of Ohio's Board of Regents, think that the higher education system should take a look at the Wright Brothers model of success? Not because they revolutionized the world. Not because they showed how relatives could run a business successfully. Not because they gave an interesting history lesson for grade-schoolers around the country.

According to an article today in the Chronicle of Higher Education ( subscriber log in), Fingerhut “pointed out that they created their flying machine without government grants, a subsidized research laboratory, or even college degrees.”

Fingerhut was speaking at The Higher Education Government Relations Conference, "Making the Case", where some 170 lobbyists for public colleges and universities met here last week to prepare for upcoming state legislative sessions and to discuss how to protect their institutions from severe budget cuts in a nationwide economic crisis.

His take home: DO MORE WITH LESS.

According to Fingerhut in the Chronicle piece, institutions need to find ways to show they can survive, despite government cuts. Perhaps that is why the ConnectEDU National Network™ is gaining so much ground in Ohio. Influenced by leaders in the state, both high schools and colleges are taking matters into their own hands and rethinking how they operate in order to streamline inefficiencies and ultimately save money.

In This Sunday’s Boston Globe, higher education reporter Peter Schworm highlights the efforts of ConnectEDU in helping colleges save money by changing how colleges meet students. With our college partners we share a common goal, which according to Schworm “is a more affordable, efficient system.” More and more, colleges and universities are taking control of their own situation, despite mid-year budget cuts or the threat of them, and finding ways to do more with less.

Using technology in recruitment is just one way to making a difference in the bottom line. As colleges begin to think outside the box and challenge the “ways of yesterday”, our students will be able to soar to new heights; after all, it worked for the Wright Brothers.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Decisions…Decisions

December 12, 2008 - Last week, I…I mean a friend of mine, was telling me about his lunch. He stopped into McDonald’s even though there was a Burger King next door. Just this morning, I navigated three blocks north to grab a Dunkins black, 2 Splenda (sugar is bad for you) even though there was a Starbucks near my building. It got me thinking about how competition makes the world go round. With it, we get choices, value and benefits, of course, as long as we are making informed decisions. How would I know I preferred Facebook over MySpace, Coke (diet, of course) over Pepsi, and the Cubs over the White Sox (just kidding, Chicago office) if I hadn’t experienced both, right?

In our world of technology for college counseling, competition is now driving decision-making at the high school level. Last week’s NACAC list serve discussed some of the differences between ConnectEDU’s platforms – Connect! & PrepHQ - and the competition and, in so doing, demonstrated that in this economy high schools are doing their research. Here’s what they had to say:

We have started using ConnectEdu this year with our seniors. Our goal is to have our entire school (1200 students) registered and using Connect by the end of the school year. So far we have found Connect to be a useful tool and look forward to implementing it more in the future. It has helped us organize our college application process and improved our communication with the senior class. The kids that have really used Connect, seem to like it. We have not used (“competitive solution”), as a public school not having to pay for Connect was a real bonus.”

“We are using Connect here and are finding it very helpful to us. This is really our first full year of getting students actively involved in using the program. The support we receive is amazing! The cost effectiveness of this program is also extremely beneficial as we are facing a budget crisis. We cannot afford (“competitive solution”) and therefore only use Connect. I think it’s a great program.”

“We are currently using (“competitive solution”) and would be interested in how ConnectEDU could be a compliment or a replacement…”

“From what I hear, (“competitive solution”) continues to be a fine product, but we could not justify the cost when a free alternative was available.”

“…we switched to Prep HQ, which offers nearly the same services and is free. Prep HQ has now been bought by ConnectEdu. Customer service from Prep HQ has been outstanding, and that has not changed since their acquisition by Connect.”

“Prep HQ/ConnectEdu is free! So I’m saving money in my budget and using it. I have been very happy with it for the last 4 years. It has served our community well!


Clearly, some folks are making financial decisions in light of the looming budget cuts. They are realizing they can receive the same benefits through a solution provided by the sponsorship of our college partners – yes, no cost to the high school. As they begin to send electronic admissions documents, unique to ConnectEDU platforms, they’ll also cut existing costs associated with the college admission process. Sooner rather than later, the savings will run deeper than the competition’s purchase price. We already have some high schools reporting first-time savings of up to $10,000 dollars!

So as we all focus on tightening our economic belts during these struggling times we live in. ConnectEDU remains committed to saving high schools and students money.

Maybe that $1 menu isn’t so bad after all …

Friday, December 5, 2008

My Nightmare is All Too Real

December 5, 2008 - It was dark. I remember I was in a navy suit, but I had no shoes and I was climbing to the summit of Mt. McKinley. I knew it was Mt. McKinley because my assistant, Walter Cronkite told me so. OK, it was a weird dream, maybe more a nightmare, but when I got to the top I was confused and screaming at the top of my lungs about how I couldn’t afford to go to college. All I got was an echo.

I woke up in a cold sweat, checked to make sure my degree still had my name on it, and turned on the evening news.

All dreams mean something, so they say, and making a career out of helping colleges cut costs is coming full circle. This week the media frenzy around The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education's Measuring Up 2008 Report shows that people are now listening. No more echo.

Just take a look at some of the headlines:


New York Times - College May Become Unaffordable for Most in U.S.


Christian Science Monitor - A Push to Boost College Graduation Rates

Boston Globe - Tuition Hammers Bay State, Study Says

Kansas City Star – Here’s a No-Brainer: Families in Missouri and Kansas are Bearing More of the College Cost Burden

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - National Study Finds State Lags in Working-Age Adults in College

Huntsville Times - Alabama Students Found Less Likely to Go to College

While every region of the country is examining their state of affairs, the national trends are clear. According to Patrick M. Callan, President of The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, “The key findings this year reveal that the nation and most of the 50 states are making some advances in preparing students for college and providing them with access to higher education. However, other nations are advancing more quickly than the United States; we continue to slip behind other countries in improving college opportunities for our residents.”

The results prove that while we are making small strides in opening access to higher education, cost is becoming a major deterrent. With the cost of attendance outpacing family income, students are not earning degrees at acceptable rates. Colleges are now realizing that spending is not going to improve retention, boost graduation rates, or open access. While luxury dorms and oversized student centers attracted students over the past decade, these expenses only increase tuition and unfortunately, don’t help students with their climb up the ivory tower. With a financial crisis on our doorsteps, it’s time to find practical ways to cut costs to make college more affordable. With the mountain growing steeper every day, we can’t afford to have more students turn back and lose their way!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

November 26, 2008- In a matter of hours, I’ll be seated around a festive Fall table reflecting on the past year and, as is our tradition, sharing with my family the many things for which I am thankful. My nephew will take the lead and let us know he is thankful for his mom, dad, teacher and 12 soccer goals… as always, a tough act to follow. Beyond those things in my personal life that I am thankful for, I wanted to share some holiday thoughts with my ConnectEDU family…

This has been a fantastic year for ConnectEDU. If you’ve read previous posts you know that our network has grown by leaps and bounds – resulting from lots of hard work. Less than a few years ago we were virtually unknown, and after months of knocking on doors, I am thankful that we no longer have that problem.

Thankfully, this Fall we’ve seen a shift in the network as it begins to grow on its own. In the old days (less than two years ago) the team did plenty of leg-work to get a school to join. Lots of school visits, voice mails, emails, and presentations and then more follow up presentations, school visits, voice mails and emails. It was an era of long sales cycles, sore knuckles, and living out of a suitcase. Nothing unusual for a start-up, right?

So while the son in me will be thankful for my parents; and the husband in me will be thankful for my wife; and the brother in me will be thankful for my extended family; the CEO in me will be thankful for the small milestones that represent a new era for ConnectEDU like:

• I am thankful that we’ve more than quadrupled the number of students visiting Connect! in last three months and are beyond measurement relative to a year ago.

• I am thankful that high schools join the Network within days of their online demo.

• I am thankful that one of our champion colleges invited over 50 high schools with the network’s new invite to Connect! tool in one day, demonstrating their ability to impact these problems directly.

• I am thankful that a high school in Michigan could send nearly 60% of their transcripts electronically in their first admission cycle using the Network as a result of our rapidly expanding college partnerships.

• And, I’m most thankful for the wonderful people that give their heart and soul to our organization and mission! As well as the fantastic counselors, admission officers, students and parents that we have the privilege of working with on a daily basis.

Happy Thanksgiving! 'Tis the season of thanks!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Braving The Cold

November 21, 2008 - It was a busy night for a cold Monday in Boston. I thumbed through a photo album from mom; my room is now their office? I did some holiday window shopping; a vacuum or a set of knives? I paid some bills; who made a call to Ecuador? Then I got us some take out; Italian or Chinese?

And I did it all from my laptop while lounging comfortably on my bed. So I spilled marinara on the duvet. Type in Google “dry cleaners park plaza Boston.” Problem solved.

More and more aspects of our lives are being made easier with the Web. For a younger generation– they are simply growing up online and can’t imagine things being less convenient. I know, up hill in the snow with no shoes. But it’s true and their transition from high school to college is no exception.

The web has opened up a world of possibilities to students. I had never even heard of Brown University when I was growing up, let alone imagined I’d spend four years (sorry, make that five) there. Now students are using the web to search for colleges using individualized data to determine a best-fit. They are hearing about colleges for the first time because colleges are seeking them out – not because their dad’s second cousin went there in the 70’s.

Technology is changing the landscape of college admission. ConnectEDU is playing its part in bringing students the tools they need to explore. We’re linking students to opportunities that even my generation could not have imagined.

This week, thousands of students in the ConnectEDU National Network™ accepted our invitation to attend College Week Live – a virtual college fair recently featured on ABC News.

No more circling the convention center for city parking that doesn’t actually exist. No more missing hockey practice and your chance to start because there aren’t two 6pms. No more walking aimlessly up and down endless 200’ aisles to stuff a bag with view books. No more missing the “perfect opportunity” because you live in a rural environment and college fairs don’t make their way to your hometown. No more missing the opportunity to meet a college because you live in Detroit, MI and the perfect college for you is 9 states away but doesn’t come to your high school college fair.

You can leave the car in the garage, hit the ice at 6, and toss your sneakers back in the closet – as long as colleges are using web technology to make the process better for students, we’re bringing it to them virtually and literally every day… and in so doing, leveling the playing field and making the world a little bit flatter.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Getting from A to B

November 19, 2008 - What’s worse than squeezing onto an airbus for the first leg of a cross-country flight? Maybe sitting next to a guy with a carry-on Big Mac. Then, once I survive the ketchup spills, the “just an air bubble” take off, and the near crash landing I get the pleasure of trying to find my connection so I can do it all over again; of course, with 3 hours of downtime in one of the terminals super-soft seating. With luck, I get the gate change in time and actually make it to my destination. I’ll take a direct flight any day, but for a variety of reasons, it’s not always possible.

Now picture the same logic being applied to community college students. If you have the resources to start at one of the nation’s 2,475 4-year schools, you’ll be directed differently. But, if you start at a community college with intentions of transferring to a 4-year school, it can be a labyrinth of wrong moves, changing info, delays and confusion – enough to not only cause you to miss your next flight, but to just turn back home. All this lack of attention, despite the fact that about 40% of all U.S. institutions of higher education are 2-year schools.

This month’s issue of University Business addresses the importance of improving the transfer process for community college students. UB reports that according to the National Center for Education Statistics, one out of five students who enroll for the first time in a 4-year college is a transfer student. And, according to the article writer Ann McClure, “community colleges will become more important to a wider variety of students if the combination of a weakening economy and increasing tuition continues.”

Having spoken to the community college partners embracing our technology to prepare for this trend, it’s the perfect time to address the issues – issues that clearly proliferate higher ed. Even the ubiquitous Wikipedia reports that, “transferring credits can sometimes be a problem” backed up by Michelle Cooper, President of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, who says in the article that "less than 30 percent of students who want a BA get a BA.”

The good news is that change is coming.

Cooper notes that, “community colleges have been very responsive to the concern about transfers.” We see that every time one joins the nearly 40 community colleges already in the ConnectEDU National Network™. They are taking steps by using our technology to make change. We see that in the forward-thinking initiatives our partner UMASS Boston is creating to provide transparency to its transfer students at Boston area community colleges. Technology is helping make connections, guide students, and open doors.

The more resources we provide students, the more tools we make available, and the more information we make accessible – the more success our transfer students will have getting from A to B – without a layover.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Self Reported Data, Take Another Look

November 17, 2008- 6’, 190, sandy blonde hair, likes long drives and loves Mexican food.

Well, for starters, my insides can’t handle chili. I’m prone to car sickness; even worse if I’ve had chili. And my hair hasn’t been sandy since my last vacation to Bermuda.

With the web, it’s easy to take some liberties when creating a profile – luckily for me, I met my wife long before online dating.

Today’s most popular social networks are using the same profile logic to match college-bound students with college admission officers. Now, in its first admission cycle, online enrollment marketing is proving to be a cost-effective media for finding prospects. Unlike the Facebooks and MySpaces of the world, new sites dedicated to college recruitment are flooding the market. Students log on and self report a profile, then colleges pay to meet them. Sounds ideal, right? Quick, easy, and to the point. No more 13 points of contact in the recruitment funnel. No more overflowing mailboxes. No more inflated costs per student acquisition.

If you’re a college recruiter, new studies highlighted in The Chronicle of Higher Education last week should make you think again. Subscriber’s can log in at: http://chronicle.com/daily/2008/11/6695n.htm?utm_source=at&utm_medium=en

According to The Chronicle, “The papers, being presented this week at the annual conference of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, found that many students paint a distorted picture when asked in surveys about their own academic success.”

Furthermore, “the papers' assertions have serious implications for higher education. Many education researchers rely on college students' accounts of their own performance because of the difficulty of collecting school transcripts and other academic records.” The student trend on how students self report data is now documented. But what if there were a way to populate these profiles with actual academic data from the student’s school transcript? In comes ConnectEDU.

We’ve built our model on a seamless integration with high school student information systems so the profiles of the students at our 2,000 high schools come from their high school, not their memory or their best intentions. There’s no more white lies when it comes to test scores, grades and academic performance, no matter how badly a student wants to get the attention of a college.

As we continue to hone best practices in building our network, we’ll continue to focus on the movement of data to help our students and our college partners make better informed decisions. Take a test drive of ConnectEDU’s Enrollment Marketing to preview the levels of verified data students make available in their profiles.

So while there’s no social network out there to verify whether or not I’m still at my high school wrestling weight (phew), in our student network you’ll always be sure that what you see is what you get when it comes to academic performance.

Community Colleges To Be Hit Hard by Budget Crisis, Report Finds

November 13, 2008- Unless you just got back from an extended Caribbean vacation where the only news you got was a weather report, you’ve probably been following the financial crisis as it unfolds. Although seemingly distanced from the mortgage industry and stock market, those of us entrenched in the education space are quickly seeing its effects as it hits close to home – especially among our community college partners.

A recent survey previewed in this week’s Chronicle of Higher Education reports that community colleges in nearly half of the states will probably face midyear reductions in their appropriations. State budget cuts, which are looming, will only compound the issues that higher education, as well as secondary education, began to experience in the past year.

Stephen G. Katsinas, a Professor of Higher Education and Director of the Education Policy Center at the University of Alabama, who, along with Terrence A. Tollefson, a Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at East Tennessee State University conducted a survey of members of the National Council of State Directors of Community Colleges. According to The Chronicle that previewed some of the findings, “The study paints a bleak picture of a widening fiscal crisis among state governments, which started in the most recent budget year and is expected to have a major effect on all higher-education sectors.”

The Chronicle reports among the surveys key findings, “Of six key community-college functions, including general education and remediation, budget cuts are expected to have the greatest effect on vocational, occupational, and technical education and the fine arts.”

For the past year, ConnectEDU has been focusing its technology on this segment of higher education and the importance of workforce development in preparing students for the future. As a partner with ConnectEDU, Dr. James Kellerman, Executive Director of the Council of North Central Two Year Colleges, has been advocating for technology to streamline community college operations while enhancing services to career-minded students and REDUCING OPERATIONAL COSTS. In fact, some community colleges are realizing that the deployment of ConnectEDU’s Connect! and integration with their primary employer partners could actually result in a profit center. Very exciting in these times!

Like many of his colleagues, Dr. Kellerman understands that there are ways to streamline inefficiencies for long-term cost benefits. Implementing technology now will help change how community colleges recruit, admit, service and graduate students into the workforce while potentially creating a new source of funding.

Read Dr. Kellerman’s recent editorial on how technology is streamlining workforce development efficiency.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Finances Must Be a Part of the Decision Making in This Economy!

November 5, 2008 - While standing at the chip bowl (my favorite location) at a family party recently, I overheard a discussion that intrigued me – it’s a conversation I hear more and more, both at work and just about everywhere else I go.

It went something like this… (just an excerpt)

(Parent A)- “Johnny” is applying to colleges and I’ve started to take a look at how much some of them can cost – did you know that XYZ colleges is $50,000 a year?

(Parent B)- Yah, our daughter, “Cindy”, was slated to finish last year at XYZ college, but she didn’t have all of the credits for her double major so she has another semester to go. It’s going to cost an extra $20,000?

(Parent A)- The thing is, I don’t know how to engage “Johnny” in this conversation. He’s not sure if he wants to go to medical school or he’s been talking about being a teacher too. Medical school can cost as much as another $50,000 per year. I was doing some quick calculations on how much all of this could cost and …

Instead of just finding the dip and moving on, I couldn’t help myself … I jumped into the discussion.

Never before has it been more important for families to address the college decision making process with a firm grasp of the financial tradeoffs. And, never before has it been more critical for students to understand the relationship between the debt that they will incur by comparison to the median salary of the career (or careers) that they might desire to pursue.

The transition to college has never required more foresight than it does now. Will a biology major at the regional university lead to a good medical school? On a starting teacher’s salary, will Johnny be able to repay the hefty debt burden after earning an education degree from a private four year college? And, will Johnny need to go back to school to get a master’s degree in order to fully maximize his earning potential in his teaching career? Or, would two years of community college and then transferring to a more expensive college be a more cost-effective option? Can we make the numbers work?

While in decades past, many of us like Johnny’s parents attended college to figure out what we wanted to do after graduation. We had the wiggle room to try things out, change majors, test the waters so to speak – of course all at an expense far less than the cost of a college credit today. Now, with an education becoming one of life’s most significant expenses, knowing the direction prior to enrolling in college just makes the most sense.

Additionally, families need to consider that the average duration to graduation in the United States is over 5 years. (In fact, I was on the 5 year plan myself) And, that when you are calculating your family expenses, there is no reason to plan that your child will out-perform the national average. And, ideally, you should probably plan for the worst … that is to say, plan, from a financial perspective, that your child might take a little longer than 5 years. Stranger things have happened.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Go West!

October 30, 2008- This famous motto of the nineteenth century has become a part of our own manifest destiny at ConnectEDU as we look to expand the ConnectEDU National Network™ westward. In the last sixty days, we have added colleges in new western states including Utah and Idaho to our network, expanding opportunities for over one million Connect! users.

Just last month, we welcomed Honolulu Waldorf High School (Hawaii) to the ConnectEDU National Network. And, many folks at ConnectEDU have expressed interest in personally visiting them to welcome them into the network – Aloha!

Check out the ConnectEDU National Network, including 275 colleges and 2,000 high schools.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Colleges and Universities Getting Smart During Budget Cuts

October 22, 2008- Just this past week, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington reported that “21 states were expecting budget shortfalls totaling nearly $9 billion for the fiscal year” according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Fresh Rounds of State Budget Cuts Hits Higher Education”, October 21. With 21 states making cuts already, this is just the beginning as the credit crunch makes a direct impact on higher education. The warnings have already been issued…

  • Massachusetts – Governor Deval Patrick announced 5.6% cut

  • Pennsylvania- Governor Edward Rendell announced 4.25% cut

  • Virginia- Governor Timothy Caine announced 5-7% cut


  • Ask any leader at a public institution. They’re bracing for program cuts, project and hiring freezes. Unfortunately, they are at the mercy of a national economic crisis. In fact, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, the public-policy research arm of the State University of New York, “warns that tax collections in many states could fall even further this year, making a bad fiscal situation even worse for much of the nation”. The problem is not going away soon.

    Progressive college officials are doing their homework and finding ways to cut costs, with as little impact on students as possible. Over 270 colleges in our network are doing what they can in admissions and enrollment to eliminate waste, streamline inefficiencies, and adopt a more cost-effective way to do business. For large colleges that spend up to $25 processing transcripts in the admissions process, they are seeking solutions such as ConnectEDU to remove this expense and inefficiency. For colleges who spend up to $4,000 per student in the recruitment process, they are looking for more cost-effective methods to identify and engage prospective students by working with solutions such as Connect!.

    Colleges are finding themselves in a perfect storm of a tightening credit crunch, short-falls in family funding options, shrinking endowment and financial aid resources as the markets drop, depleted state and federal funds due to a declining tax base, and a shrinking 18yr old population as we come off of the Baby Boom Echo. Never before have colleges needed to be more prudent and efficient with their internal processes and procedures. ConnectEDU stands ready to assist our college partners, students and high schools that make up the ConnectEDU National Network™.

    Thursday, October 16, 2008

    Invigorated from NACAC

    October 16, 2008- With another great NACAC Conference under our belt, we returned from Seattle energized and ready to begin the home stretch for the fall admission cycle. I am pleased to report that the NACAC Conference was a success on several fronts for ConnectEDU. First, it was a lot of fun welcoming several of our new Prep Headquarters high schools to the ConnectEDU family. While in Seattle, we also had the opportunity to speak with many of our Award for Excellence Winners.

    Another interesting development that I noted at this year’s conference was the impact that the recent economic downturn is having on high schools and colleges. With serious budget cuts looming and uncertainty in the world of higher education financing, high school counselors are seeking us out wanting to know more about our FREE solution. And, colleges seemed very eager to learn about how ConnectEDU can help them reduce application (i.e. transcript) processing and enrollment marketing expenditures.

    And yes, with all of the meetings, presentations, and inspiring conversations I had with our new friends as well as some old friends, I was pretty much sleepless in Seattle. In fact, it’s been pretty sleepless since I returned from Seattle as well. Good stuff happening.

    Check out video footage from NACAC

    Monday, October 13, 2008

    Reducing Budgets by 10K the Green Way

    October 13, 2008- ConnectEDU just released a new Green Paper, our version of a white paper but of course with an environmental topic. Yes, marketing’s attempt to be irreverent, but what we learned was pretty serious.

    We already knew that college students were motivated by eco-friendly solutions. Just read The Higher Education Resource Institute at UCLA’s Annual Freshman Report, which is now reporting on student perspectives towards the environment (27% believe they should get involved). It’s not a coincidence that campuses across the country are building green dorms, modifying their waste programs, and rethinking their energy sources. Students want change.

    What I found most interesting was nestled in the electronic transcript case study on one of our pioneering high schools- Farmington High School in Michigan. If you have visited a busy counseling office in a high school, it’s understandable why departments don’t regularly calculate the cost of sending transcripts. For our Green Paper, we did it for them and found a high school with 300 seniors can spend around $10K (conservative estimate) each year to deliver transcripts with a college application. With over half of their transcripts being delivered electronically in their pilot year, FHS has saved a significant amount of money, not to mention an estimated 21,600 sheets of paper in the process. It’s easy to make an impact in a short amount of time.

    The Green Paper can be downloaded at StudentsPlantTheSeed.com for a snapshot of what our students have to say, and what high schools can do to Go Green.

    Lockett Named EIU's New Executive-In-Residence

    October 9, 2008- Jane Lockett, our Senior Vice President of Customer Operations, is a leading example of what we are about at ConnectEDU – on the front lines with students, faculty and administrators building relationships and not providing key insight into the college admissions process from the sidelines.

    Jane was recently appointed the new Executive-In-Residence at Eastern Illinois University’s School of Business and had the opportunity last week to meet with students, faculty and top administrators as well as teach several classes during her time on campus.

    Kudos to Jane for her dedication to helping students make better decisions relative to their college and career planning – this is what we are all about at ConnectEDU.

    Read more

    Monday, September 15, 2008

    Looking Forward to NACAC in Seattle

    September 17, 2008 - In just one week, many from the college admissions community will be gathered in Seattle for NACAC 2008. NACAC is always an exciting opportunity to catch up on the latest trends and challenges in the college admissions industry. I always enjoy participating in the numerous presentations and discussions that make-up this conference as well as gathering with thought-leaders from the industry.

    We are proud to have several of these presenters in our network. In fact, we will be recognizing a handful of these partners with a ConnectEDU Award for Excellence – presented to those partners that have distinguished themselves with their innovative and progressive deployment of technology to facilitate the transition from high school to college and/or career.

    I will be on hand throughout the conference. Both in and out of our booth (#732) and participating in a handful of presentations … let us know if you are going to be in attendance so that we can meet/catch up.

    I look forward to seeing you in Seattle … and, yes, I’ll likely be sleepless!

    Check out ConnectEDU’s Award Winners

    Real Excitement for Student-Athletes and Counselors in the ConnectEDU National Network™

    September 13, 2008 - As we all know, learning takes place in a lot of different environments for high school students – on a playing field, in the midst of cleaning up a park, on a stage. At ConnectEDU, we believe that the growth of a student’s personal and educational development is directly impacted by their level of involvement in activities outside of traditional classroom learning. And, as a former Division I, college athlete (wrestling) I can relate to the importance of these lessons on a personal level.

    As a result, ConnectEDU is pleased to announce that we have partnered with the NCAA to make it easier for student-athletes to continue their pursuit of non-traditional learning opportunities as student-athletes. ConnectEDU and the NCAA have partnered to allow students utilizing one of ConnectEDU’s college and career planning solutions (Prep Headquarters, Connect!) to send their academic credentials (i.e. transcript) directly to the NCAA Eligibility Center electronically. The simplification of this process will help students and counselors cost-effectively send, track and monitor the receipt of their transcripts to the NCAA. Another WIN for students and counselors… something that we hope these future student-athletes will get used to… WINNING!

    Learn more about our partnership with the NCAA Eligibility Center

    Friday, September 5, 2008

    The Coolest Schools in the Country

    September 5, 2008- I just got word that congratulations are in order for the University of Vermont, a leading college partner in the ConnectEDU National Network™. According to a Sierra Magazine research study, the University of Vermont ranked as the 3rd “Coolest School” in the nation. The magazine’s rankings are based on a college’s efforts to stop global warming and to implement eco-friendly practices on campus. The University of Vermont has not only been a leader in higher education for Green Admissions with Connect!, but as the article points out the institution is also applauded for other eco-friendly initiatives.

    Great to see our college partners being recognized for transforming their campuses into greener, more efficient environments- congratulations to Chris Lucier and his team.

    Read the entire article to find out more about the nation’s “Coolest Schools”.

    Friday, August 29, 2008

    Looking Ahead to NACAC in Seattle

    August 29, 2008- As we approach another well-deserved Labor Day weekend, I am excited about the chance to catch up with family and friends and spend some time relaxing before we ramp up for what is to be a busy Fall admissions cycle. This particular weekend also reminds me each year that NACAC is right around the corner. This year's conference is sure to be a little different than the first time I stepped in the exhibit hall at NACAC 2005 in Tampa!

    As the ConnectEDU National Network™ has continued to expand over the last few years, so has our presence at the Annual NACAC Conference. At this year’s conference in Seattle, nearly 1 out of every 10 attendees is a member of the ConnectEDU National Network. Over 150 institutions from nearly 40 states nationwide will represent our network in Seattle. Some of the pioneers of our network along with members of our expanding senior management team will be on hand. So, whether you are a current member of the network, or would like to learn more about what we are up to at ConnectEDU, feel free to stop by Booth #732 (located directly in front of the NACAC Booth) and say hi to us.

    Look forward to seeing you in Seattle!

    More information on NACAC 2008

    Thursday, August 21, 2008

    Big Year Ahead for Electronic Transcripts

    August 21, 2008 - You’ve been hearing for a while now that the electronic transcript movement is approaching a “tipping point” in our industry. More high schools and colleges are realizing the numerous benefits associated with streamlining their admission process through the use of innovative technology. Over the last year, we have been preparing for our “tipping point” as our high schools are eager to continue to have colleges in the network to which they can send True Electronic Transcripts™. As well, the 250+ colleges in the ConnectEDU National Network™ are excited to begin receiving transcripts from their feeder high schools and from high schools throughout our network. So in preparation for this “tipping point” we have come prepared to this year’s Fall Admission Cycle.

    Last year at this time we were around the 600 high school mark, providing access to higher education for 500,000 Connect! users, and sending thousands of electronic transcripts through our network. Currently, we stand prepared to launch the Fall Admission Cycle with 2,000 high schools – in various stages of deployment - serving 1.1 million students. As our high school network continues to grow and both high schools and colleges become increasingly comfortable with electronic transcript exchange we anticipate a big year ahead. With our newest college partners, we are focused on providing them with a volume of transcripts that is digestible and that allows them to understand the impact of receiving actual data vs. PDF or paper transcripts. For our “veteran” colleges, they control their destiny relative to the number of transcripts they can expect as they build out their networks with their high school and community college partners.

    Good times ahead …

    Monday, August 11, 2008

    A Picture Says a Thousand Words...

    August 11, 2008- This summer, you may have noticed a neat new feature on our web site. If you haven’t had a chance, check out the new ConnectEDU National Network™ interactive map. This new map provides you with a snapshot of our network growth at ConnectEDU. Thanks to a neat Google Maps application, this growth is illustrated through a fun and interactive timeline.

    With this new feature, we show you the location of each and every high school and college that is a part of the network. In just a quick glance at this map, you are able to observe our continued penetration into New England, the Midwest and Alabama, as well as growth in new states such as Texas, California, and Colorado. More importantly, this map illustrates our clear message to colleges from the time we launched the Connect! platform in 2002 - when college partners come on board and actively participate in the collaborative effort to bring high schools in their service area into the network – results are achieved. The visual relationship between high school aggregation and college partner location is clearly exemplified in the interactive map.

    We will continue to update the interactive map on a quarterly basis … stay tuned and watch as we continue to grow!

    January 1, 2007- High School Network



    July 1, 2008- High School Network


    For more information, check out the entire ConnectEDU National Network.

    Tuesday, July 29, 2008

    Shareholders Excited About Accelerated Growth

    July 29, 2008- I was thrilled to welcome nearly 60% of our shareholders to the ConnectEDU Annual Shareholder’s Meeting held Thursday, July 24th at the Ritz-Carlton in Boston. Our half-day meeting and discussion focused on a recap of the last 12 months, and provided our shareholders with an overview of the accelerated growth we are experiencing in the following areas:

    1) Our Senior Management Team which now includes:

    • Jane Lockett, Senior Vice President of Customer Operations

    • Frank Vastola, Senior Vice President of College Sales

    • Rick Bradanese, Vice President, Finance

    • Gary Southard, Vice President of Technology

    • Katie Drew-Adams, Vice President of Human Resources

    • LeAnn Coe, Vice President, Strategic Partnerships

    • Sheri Meyer, Vice President of High School Services


    2) The ConnectEDU National Network™ which now includes over 200 colleges and 2,000 high schools – the largest “going-to-college-to-career” network in the country… up from just 55 colleges and 600 high schools a year ago.

    3) The ConnectEDU product line which now includes both Connect! and Prep Headquarters - together making up the most comprehensive network in the industry serving high schools, colleges, employers and data partners and offering college, curriculum, financial aid, and career planning tools for students, families and counselors as well as electronic document exchange and targeted enrollment marketing for colleges and universities.

    The team received a great deal of positive feedback from our shareholders, a group of folks engaged in our mission and excited by the accelerated growth that we have enjoyed at ConnectEDU over the last twelve months. As I left this year’s meeting, I couldn’t help but be inspired in knowing that our goal to ensure that all families have the resources they need to maximize their post-high school opportunities is shared by an excited and committed group of shareholders. Always fun to watch the progress!

    Monday, July 21, 2008

    Acquisition Highlights Our Focus on Superior Services

    July 18, 2008- As you may have read recently, ConnectEDU has acquired Prep Headquarters, a college planning web service that is deployed in over 700 high schools nationwide. With the acquisition, the ConnectEDU National Network (TM) is now the largest “going-to-college-to-career” network in the nation with over 2,000 high schools. In addition to our deep market penetration in both the Midwest and Northeast, we now welcome high schools throughout the South and West.

    We welcome all of our new high schools along with their counselors, students and families to our network and look forward to the opportunity to provide the tools needed to navigate educational and employment transitions.

    In addition to the exciting opportunities that this expanding network of high schools brings to our college partners, employers, and new high schools, the acquisition of an industry leader in customer support clearly indicates our focus on the level of service we provide to our users. All members of the Prep Headquarters support team are now part of the ConnectEDU Professional Services Team. We are committed to continuing to provide the highest level of service and support to all our users!

    More info on the acquisition and Prep Headquarters


    Frequently Asked Questions

    Tuesday, July 8, 2008

    Keep Movin' The Needle

    July 8, 2008- For those of you who have followed our growth at ConnectEDU, you have realized that momentum builds fast around here – real fast. The 2008 fiscal year has been no different. In a short time, the Connect! National Network™ has grown to become the nation’s largest integrated data bridge between secondary and post-secondary educational institutions.

    As we wrap up this current admissions cycle, allow me to provide you with an update on the network’s progress over the past year.

    From July 07 – June 08, ConnectEDU welcomed over 500 new high schools to the network, including nearly 200 high schools in Q2 alone - an average of over 40 new high schools a month! The growth of the network has included expansion in existing states such as Missouri, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont and Massachusetts as well as penetration into new markets such as Alabama, Illinois, Kansas, Ohio, California, Texas, and South Carolina. In Alabama, we became the largest college planning tool for high schools in just 3 months – adding over 50 high schools in that timeframe.

    On the college side, over 160 colleges joined the Connect! National Network during the last year at an average of over 13 new colleges per month. Now, with over 200 colleges and 1,000 high schools nationwide, our network of over 400,000 students, counselors, parents, admissions officers and transfer advisors are actively changing the way college admission is processed in this country.

    Congratulations to all involved in movin’ the needle this past fiscal year … we have big expectations as we begin the 2008-2009 admissions cycle.

    Tuesday, June 24, 2008

    More Success Stories to Come in Michigan

    June 24, 2008- In just a short time since the launch of the Connect! Network in Michigan, we have already begun to see steady progress from both our college and high school partners. This past academic year (07-08) was the first full academic year that implementation, training and document exchange were in full swing throughout Michigan. As the school year now comes to a close, we decided to examine some of the early impacts of Connect! in Michigan.

    As a reference point, Connect! is the college, curriculum and career planning tool being used at 20% of the state’s high schools, by nearly 500 counselors, servicing over 129,000 students. We have 14 college partners in Michigan including the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Eastern Michigan University, Northern Michigan University, Oakland University, and Henry Ford Community College.

    To measure our top performing high schools in Michigan, we assessed the schools based on their outcomes to date - # of curriculum plans created, # of college lists researched, and # of electronic transcripts delivered. Currently, Allen Park High School tops the list for the most curriculum plans created in Connect! Troy High School leads the pack with the most college lists researched, and Farmington High School has sent more electronic transcripts through Connect! than any other high school in the state.

    As the Michigan network continues to expand, we applaud the progressive institutions that have led this “revolutionary” change in the way that students, parents, and counselors experience the college planning process. Michigan partners no longer are “imagining” a paperless admission process – rather they are making it happen every day. This collaborative effort taking place in Michigan represents the first data bridge between high schools and higher education.

    Congratulations to all our high school leaders in Michigan – in particular to the Top Connect! High Schools – Farmington High School, North Farmington High School, Troy High School, and Lakeview High School who achieved top 10 status for each education outcome in Connect!

    Bravo…

    Learn more about how the admissions process is changing in Michigan

    Friday, June 13, 2008

    Nebraska Momentum

    June 13, 2008- As a child, I vividly remember the adrenaline rush on Saturdays as Tom Osborne and the Nebraska Cornhuskers would come charging out of the tunnel into a sea of over 80,000 fans at Memorial Stadium. Growing up an avid Husker fan, I continued to follow Nebraska football through college and up until the present day – yes even when wins have become harder to come by!

    Recently, we welcomed two new colleges from the “Cornhusker State” to the Connect! National Network™ as we continue to expand in the Midwest. Two of the top colleges in the state- Creighton University and yes, the University of Nebraska have joined our network and are leading the way as we streamline the college admissions process for students in the Midwest. We welcome both colleges to the Connect! family. Go Huskers!

    Thursday, June 12, 2008

    Today’s Parent- A Student’s Support Beam

    June 12, 2008- I recently attended Brown University’s Hall of Fame Induction Dinner, an event that honors the achievements of Brown’s most successful student-athletes. As I sat and listened to each new inductee address the crowd, there was a theme that continued to emerge- these successful student-athletes were most thankful for the unconditional support that their parents provided them throughout their lives; and in particular during the formative years of high school and college.

    I found this theme to be very encouraging – for it served as an important reminder to all the parents and future parents at the Awards Dinner. This group of inductees - CEO’s, Managing Directors, Actors, Community Leaders, Professional Athletes - were all highly successful human beings. In most cases they indicated that they had propelled themselves to a higher standard of living than the reflections of their childhood indicated. And to the inductee they were most thankful for the essential ingredient to which they attributed their success – the SUPPORT that they received from their parents!

    In a time when parents are adjusting to a changing and challenging college admission landscape, tuition prices are skyrocketing, and the competition seems unbearable, it is easy to blur the lines of pressure and support. If there was one consistent theme from this group of successful students and, now adults, it was that the unconditional, non-judgmental SUPPORT they received from their parents had propelled them to reach amazing heights!

    Refreshing to see … thank you, mom and dad! Happy Father’s Day!

    Friday, June 6, 2008

    CDU Continues to Grow in Maine

    June 6, 2008- The state motto of Maine is Dirigo – which is Latin for “I lead”. According to wikepedia.com, “prior to the New Deal, Republicans claimed, ‘As Maine goes, so goes the nation.’” Based on our recent momentum in the Pine Tree State, I certainly am looking forward to what is to come this year in a state that may serve to be a model for other states in our network.

    The Connect! Network in Maine - a network already consisting of partnerships with state and non-profit organizations, over 60 high schools, including all Gear Up high schools, just got a big boost as the seven institutions of the University of Maine System have joined the Connect! National Network ™. Read more about the recent announcement.

    We welcome the University of Maine System and thank all those who have worked hard to build the infrastructure for success in Maine. Dirigo!

    Monday, June 2, 2008

    Things Are Hopping Down on the Bayou

    June 3, 2008- As the Connect! National Network ™ continues to expand in the Southeast, high schools in the State of Alabama are coming on board quicker than I can say “Roll Tide”. In fact, over 60 new high schools in Alabama have partnered with ConnectEdu in the last 60 days- including the Baldwin County Public Schools, which includes 9 high schools and over 25,000 students. In addition to our one high school per day pace, we also recently added the University of Mobile to the Connect! National Network.

    Congrats to our partners and colleagues in Alabama … we’re looking forward to spending a lot of time supporting the students, counselors and colleges of the Bayou!

    Friday, May 30, 2008

    Fresh New Web Site at ConnectEDU

    May 30, 2008- If you hadn’t noticed already this week, our corporate web site has been given a facelift. As I am sure you will appreciate, the new Web 2.0 design and functionality clearly moves us forward and allows us to provide timely, easy to access information on ConnectEdu services while also having some fun and looking sharp in the process.

    With the launch of this new site, I am excited for a few reasons-

    • Our partners voices are heard -the folks we serve (i.e. students, high school counselors, admissions officers, transfer advisors, employers) tell the story about what Connect! can do


    • Our success stories are growing - success stories continue to multiply as the network grows (i.e. check out that ticker on the home page) and our partners at the high school, college and community college levels work together to help improve the college admissions process for students and their families


    Whether you are a college bound student, a high school counselor, a college admissions officer, or a human resources director, our new site will get you started learning about ConnectEdu. You will continue to find valuable resources and tools about our services which will help make your life easier. We will also be introducing more interactive features along the way that let you get involved as we collaborate to make the college and career transition process more efficient. I encourage you to check out the site (www.connectedu.net). If you have suggestions for us as we move forward further developing the new site, don’t hesitate to email us at info@connectedu.net.

    Monday, May 12, 2008

    Students Go Green


    May 12, 2008- Today, we launched the greenest version of Connect! to date, to expand upon our eco-friendly web solutions. Along with our students, we are committed to building GREENER ADMISSIONS.

    GreenConnect! has been released in conjunction with the launch of StudentsPlantTheSeed.com, a resource for students interested in taking action to encourage GREENER ADMISSIONS. Connect!’s new greener admissions rating system lets students know which colleges are converting to paperless admissions and which have yet to join the network. A link to StudentsPlantTheSeed.com lets students tell colleges they want them to convert.

    Although Connect! is a secure member-based network, StudentsPlantTheSeed.com is a public site available to all students who want to encourage paperless admissions. Students not yet integrated with Connect! can petition their high school administrators to get Connect! at no charge. With Connect!, they get a comprehensive curriculum, college and career planning solution… all online. When they want to learn about colleges, they do it electronically. When they want to apply, they do it electronically. It’s the first step in eliminating the quarter billion pieces of paper processed in college admissions each year.

    To celebrate the 1,000 high schools that have gone green over the past two years by implementing Connect!, ConnectEdu is replacing 1,000 trees. Our donation to The Nature Conservancy will continue to grow as our network grows. When a high school or college joins the Connect! National Network™, based on a student request through StudentsPlantTheSeed.com, we will make a donation to plant a seed. Join us in changing the way students approach college admissions.

    Tuesday, April 22, 2008

    Think Greener Admissions On
    Earth Day


    April 22, 2008- As we approached Earth Day, we recently conducted a survey of our Connect! students to gather their thoughts on college admissions and the impact this process is having on the environment. We were surprised to learn that 65% of our students – made up of the greenest generation of our time - had not thought about the impact that all of the paper they receive and send in the admissions process is having on the environment. But, they were astonished when we told them!

    We've been approaching high schools and colleges about Connect! for several years now with the benefits of eliminating the paper and moving the admissions process into the 21st Century. Save time! Save money! And, now, Save the environment!

    It's no secret, students are driving green initiatives on almost every topic under the sun. They recycle. They conserve. They truly strive for sustainable living. And protecting the environment is a major concern of theirs. But now they are able to marry two of their chief interests – their college options and the environment. Students in the Connect! National Network are using Connect!, not only because it streamlines curriculum, college and career planning, but because it eliminates paper, therefore helping the environment. And they are asking colleges and high schools to join them in this effort.

    High schools, like Maynard High School in Massachusetts, are bringing Connect! to their students as an eco-friendly solution. High schools are leading the charge and asking colleges to join the network so admission offices can receive transcripts electronically, high schools can stop printing paper and recruiters can meet students who want to meet them, without bursting their mailboxes with unwanted mail. And colleges are responding!

    Knowing that 90% of our students are concerned about protecting the environment, and 55% want to apply to a college that practices greener admissions, we are in the process of making enhancements to Connect! to create a “greener”, more “eco-friendly” version, if you will.

    For example, our students will be able to evaluate a college's green admissions practices with our GREENER ADMISSION rating system. Each of the 4,200 college profiles in Connect! will feature ratings of each college’s carbon footprint as it relates to their admission processes and the sending/receipt of paper documents vs. electronic transmissions and meeting students through electronic enrollment marketing. Colleges in our network are noted and receive additional recognition and rating benefits based on their level of electronic integration.

    Plus, students who want to tell college administrators they should join the network can do so through Connect!, empowering our students to invite their high schools and colleges into a greener, more eco-friendly world of college admissions. It’s a win, win, win … for our students, for our colleges, and for our environment!

    Friday, April 18, 2008

    Building and Maintaining Relationships
    is the Key

    April 18, 2008-At the Annual AACRAO Meeting in Orlando a few weeks ago, it was refreshing to see how we had grown (our network, our staff) since AACRAO 07 having developed numerous relationships with colleges throughout the nation. At AACRAO 07, we focused on discussing the inefficiencies of sending and receiving paper transcripts. In fact, we stacked approximately 600,000 pieces of paper in our booth last year, and color coded those documents that get lost as well as those that suffer data entry mistakes to drive home our point. The message we delivered last year was powerful...and many attendees commented as they passed our booth this year- “Where's the paper?”.

    At AACRAO '08 we were again busy delivering an important efficiency message as well as highlighting the fact that the Connect! offering has expanded to include both electronic document exchange and enrollment marketing!

    Colleges around the country spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year trying to develop relationships with potential students. Colleges buy names and addresses from multiple list management and testing companies and then begin the marketing onslaught. Often times these names are purchased with a limited amount of information on the student- zipcode, age, a standardized test score. From there, a college crosses its “fiscal” fingers and hopes that all the mail and emails that they send will result in a relationship.

    Never mind the fact that today's generation of students does not monitor an email address - it's their cell phone or social network. Good luck with that!

    On the flip-side, potential students have no say in this process and almost no ability to stop the direct mail onslaught. They simply take a standardized test, fill out a career interest survey at school, or enroll for FAFSA advice and the next thing they know they are flooded with direct mail. Routinely, the student has no interest in a college that blasts them, or the college may not even have the student's intended major, yet their mailbox fills up with direct marketing. The worst of it- a student and their family can't opt-out or scream “Stop” when the mailbox is full.

    And let's not even mention the dollars that get spent on this stuff. We're talking literally thousands of dollars per student!

    It's crazy!

    As we discussed with colleges at AACRAO, there indeed is a more cost-effective and targeted method to build actual relationships with students. Colleges can now build relationships with an interested student earlier in the college preparation process... yes, before the sophomore year!...And save time and money in the process.

    Check out how colleges are meeting the Next Generation of Students with Connect!

    Thursday, April 17, 2008

    Federal Student Loans Suspended in Massachusetts

    April 17, 2008- It’s happened in Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania and now Massachusetts. College loan programs are being suspended due to the escalating credit crunch and weakening economy that continues to unravel every week. And just last week TERI, one of the primary guarantors of student loans declared Chapter 11. As reported yesterday, nearly 15,000 students in Massachusetts that previously qualified for the low-interest Stafford Plus loans from the Massachusetts Education Finance Authority (MEFA) will not be receiving money as of July 1st. MEFA was forced to suspend the loan program and now joins more than 50 other student lenders who have had to close shop.

    In addition, FICO score requirements are tightening, meaning that families will have to clear a higher hurdle to be approved for financing. And with home mortgages and home values being hit, it will be difficult to secure funds from home equity.

    The time to make your financing decisions is now, before the market continues to ripple and worsen! We are encouraging families to make use of the Connect! Finance Manager tools to ensure that they maximize scholarships, government loans and low-interest alternatives. In addition, be sure to utilize the Connect! budgeting tools so that you have a full perspective of your 4yr financial burden and can plan accordingly. But, by all means, take action NOW to secure your funds for next year!

    Log-in to Connect! and utilize the Finance Manager! Call us if you have any questions or need assistance.

    Check out the stories on the MEFA Announcement

    WCVB-TV, Channel 5 (Boston, news clip)

    WCVB-TV, Channel 5 (Boston, article)

    WHDH-TV, Channel 7 (Boston)

    Monday, April 7, 2008

    CDU Welcomes Kim Clark from U.S. News & World Report

    April 9, 2008- Last week, Connect! students and parents were able to attend a free CDU Webinar that was presented by U.S. News & World Report writer, Kim Clark. Kim is an expert in the area of higher education and financial aid. She has launched a web site called Financial Aid Letter.com designed to help families with understanding the complicated financial aid process.

    Kim spoke to Connect! students and parents specifically on the topic of understanding an award letter. She provided our users with key tips for making sense of the letter and even offered Connect! users the opportunity in advance to send in one of their award letters for analysis. These are the timely opportunities that we will continue to offer to Connect! users to make the transition from high school to college an easier one. As paying for college becomes more and more of an obstacle for families, we encourage Connect! users to take advantage of our new College Finance Manager as well as these free webinars.

    Listen to last week's webinar in case you missed it, or if you would like to be notified of future webinars via email contact us.

    CDU Team Continuing to Expand in 2008

    March 20, 2008- As the Connect National Network!™ continues to expand to over 1,000 high schools, 200 colleges, and over 500,000 users in 2008, we have welcomed several new faces to the ConnectEdu team that will help us continue to better serve both our high school and college partners. From account management to product management, our new group of team members comes to us from backgrounds in education, technology, and business.

    Our major focus in 2008 continues to be to provide our high school partners the support and resources that they need to be successful. Along those lines, we have added more key folks to our Professional Services team under the direction of Jim Sears, our Vice President of Client Relations. Joining the CDU team as Account Managers are Merridith Okonkwor and Ella Dunasky (both in Michigan) and Christine Canestri (Connecticut). Also working with our high school partners to make sure that counselors are receiving the training they need is our new Learning Solutions and Support Trainer, Linda Lauritano, who joins us after having worked in a local high school guidance department.

    Joining the team this spring as the new cross-functional Product Manager is Justin Souza. The position of Product Manager is key at this important stage at CDU as Justin will be managing user feedback and all other activities that impact Connect! Other additions to the team include: David Silbermann (Sr. Project Manager), Adrian Mendoza (Sr. UI Designer), Dionne Frazier (Sr. Accountant), and Cary Issenberg (Marketing Co-op).

    These new additions will play a key role in helping us build on our relationships with existing high school and college partners as well as add to our network. Welcome all to the ConnectEdu Team!

    Wednesday, February 27, 2008

    55 Schools Join the Connect National Network™ in January

    February 27, 2008- Since the gates have dropped, we have been off to a fast and furious start welcoming 12 colleges and 43 high schools to the Connect National Network™ this past January. The network continued to spread throughout New England as the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, Daniel Webster College, and Mass Bay Community College joined ten new high schools that have connected in the New England region. In the Midwest, two new Wisconsin colleges- Carroll College and Mid-State Technical College joined thirty-one new high schools in the network. Again, we welcome the new colleges and high schools to the Connect! Community. Great job to all involved!

    Below is the complete list of the new colleges that joined the network in January.

    Atlantic Union College (MA)
    Carroll College (WI)
    Centenary College (NJ)
    Cooper Union (NY)
    Daniel Webster College (NH)
    Felician College (NJ)
    Goodwin College (CT)
    Mass Bay Community College (MA)
    Mid-State Technical College (WI)
    Regis College (MA)
    St. Michael’s College (VT)
    University of Massachusetts, Lowell (MA)

    Monday, February 25, 2008

    Access to Higher Education (Even During Tough Economic Times)

    February 25, 2008- News out of the recent National School Boards Association annual legislative conference in Washington D.C. regarding next year’s school budgets is grim at best. As reported in eSchool News online, “about half of the 50 states are facing projected budget shortfalls” and as often times is the case technology and extracurricular activities are both going to be on the chopping block in many states including California and Nevada. As we all know, budget cuts are not new to our nation’s high schools, but this year cuts appear more ominous in light of the current economic issues facing many states.

    Connect! was developed as a NO COST tool for several reasons- not the least of which would be to prevent local school boards from having to play “Edward Scissorhands” with their college and career planning resources. The primary reason that we provide the nation’s most comprehensive technology solution at NO COST is because we believe it is the right thing to do (see mission below)- regardless of a state or a school’s budget or whether or not the economy is prosperous at the time. In addition, in order to develop a sustainable network of high schools and colleges that exchange transcripts and documents electronically, the solution can not be dependent upon shrinking state budget dollars or struggling state student loan authorities. Students and their futures can not be dependent upon the changing winds of budget downturns … a sustainable solution, that is resistant to economic changes is a must!

    When the dust settles and the cuts have been made, seeing what is no longer available to high school students is not what scares me, rather it is knowing that we all had a part in playing “Edward Scissorhands” with the future of these young people’s lives because we weren’t imaginative enough to pursue a sustainable plan… sad!

    ConnectEdu’s mission is to democratize access to higher education and career opportunities for all students by empowering them and their advisors with the information, resources and collective bargaining power required to realize successful life-transitions.


    Check out the complete story in eSchool News

    Thursday, February 21, 2008

    ConnectEdu in San Antonio This Weekend

    February 20, 2008- As this week marks the 92nd Annual National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) Conference to be held in San Antonio this year, I paused for a moment to reflect on where we were a year ago this week as we prepared for NASSP in Las Vegas. For those that know me, the pause was literally 2-3 seconds.

    Last year at NASSP, we introduced ourselves to many new high school principals from around the country. For some it was the first contact with ConnectEdu and Connect!. This time last year we were partnered with a few hundred high schools and were present in a handful of states. Over the course of this past year, the Connect National Network™ grew to over 500,000 counselors, students, and parents in over 1,000 high schools nationwide. Our network has expanded to new regions including California, Arkansas, Florida and Kentucky and has continued to grow in regions such as Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Connecticut and New Jersey.

    It is appropriate that the NASSP Conference theme this year is, “Build the Team – Lead the Charge”. Over the last year we have done just this as we continue to build “our team” of dedicated high school and college partners who have begun to lead their own “charge” as they work with us to streamline the college admissions process and fundamentally change the way student’s transition to higher education and careers in this country.

    This year at NASSP, some things will have stayed the same- namely, the needs of high school principals. Principals are still in search of a cost-effective, comprehensive, user-friendly solution that will allow them to create a “going-to-college culture” amongst their parents, students, teachers and guidance staff.

    For those of you attending, you can visit ConnectEdu at BOOTH #648.

    NASSP 2008- San Antonio

    Tuesday, February 12, 2008

    Admissions Folks Continue to Feel the Pain of a Paper-Based System

    February 12, 2008 - At first glance they appear to be stories of improvement, of fierce competition and drive, of the electronic age of admissions. Then as you begin to peel off the skin, you realize that these are in fact stories of missed opportunities, wasted resources and an industry that desperately needs to evolve in a hurry. The stories I refer to here are the numerous articles that have been written over the last few weeks and years in fact, detailing college admissions offices being flooded with applications. From the University of Texas that enrolls nearly 40,000 undergraduates each year to Rhode Island College which just surpassed the 2,000 application mark, colleges throughout the country are seeing an increase in the number of applications that come across their desk. An increase in applications, transcripts and letters of recommendation- bottom line: an increase in workload and an increase in paper.

    With the increase in applications, admissions and enrollment teams are being stretched beyond their limit as students are applying to more schools, sending more transcripts, generating larger piles of paper than ever before. The impact this is having on institutional inefficiency and the environment are mind boggling to say the least. Although small steps have been made with the online application, hundreds of thousands of pieces of paper are wasted in the form of transcripts and letters of recommendation. As Susan Peterson points out in the Daily Texan online (UT Admissions Office Sorts Final Applications, 2/1/08), the University of Texas “processes about 24,000 pieces of mail every admissions season”. That is just one school during one admissions cycle!

    Can you imagine if these admissions folks were receiving transcripts sent in directly to their SIS system from the high school SIS system? Can you imagine if so much time and energy was not wasted relying on a paper-based system and more time was devoted to matching students with the right college – a college that they will succeed at?

    From data re-entry, to security, to cost and environmental issues, the higher education industry needs to fast track this problem. Data security and privacy issues abound; the photo of folders stacked up with sensitive student information inside on top of an unsecured desk says it all.

    Check out this article from the Providence Business News

    Thursday, February 7, 2008

    Marching To The Same Beat

    February 7, 2008- I was recently forwarded a fantastic online resource that has been published by the great folks at GEAR UP and is a result of the Principal’s Call-In Session from last October’s New England Gear Up Conference.

    The online book entitled, 100 College Going Strategies: New England Principals Lead The Way excited me for several reasons. As I read through the pages of strategies proposed by this group of progressive principals, I couldn’t help but notice that the underlying themes of this book point to our core values here at ConnectEdu. As I have outlined below, there is a clear synergy between what the GEAR UP organization and progressive principals are looking for to improve their “going to college” curriculum and the endless opportunities provided through Connect!

    RELATIONSHIPS

    Build relationships with young people as early as middle school. Through the development of these relationships, expose students to the “concept” of college and possible careers. More importantly, gather feedback from young people about their college planning needs and goals.

    Build relationships with parents by introducing them to Connect! and educating them on the many ways in which the technology can make college planning and financing less complicated.

    Build relationships with employers so that students are exposed to actual career opportunities earlier on in their journey.

    INNOVATION

    Utilize technology to streamline the “going to college” process for students and their families.

    Create a comprehensive solution that incorporates all aspects of college planning in one secure, online location to make life easier for students and parents. As Jeanne Tucker, Principal at Mt. Abram High School in Maine, advocates: “Utilize ConnectEdu to provide students, guidance and families one place to track, plan, and apply for college.”

    Put the feedback from young people, parents, and counselors into action as we continually enhance and at often times create new features within Connect!

    RESULTS

    Create a cultural change for many young people by broadening their view of what is possible relative to college and career goals. Derek Pierce, Principal at Casco Bay HS in Maine, very appropriately calls for the creation of a “college ready” culture.

    A new “going to college to career” process for young people in New England and throughout the country that provides greater access to higher education.
    Collaborative communication between students, parents, and counselors and ultimately more college bound students.

    It is great to see this synergy and to know that Connect! is a part of the strategy that these New England principals are advocating.
    Check out the online book.

    Thursday, January 24, 2008

    You Can Get There From Here!

    January 24, 2008- As Connect! proliferates Maine high schools, momentum is building as students, counselors and families realize that higher education is within reach. With the help of Connect! and other progressive organizations in Maine such as Gear Up, young people in Maine are being exposed to opportunities like never before. The Connect! National Network™ continues to expand in the state as over 60 high schools are already on board along with Husson College.

    Thanks to our recent Gear Up partnership, Connect! will now be implemented in all high schools using Gear Up which currently includes nearly 4,000 students from low-income families. Check out this article from The Times Record about one of our great high school partners in Maine- Lisbon High School. A great example of how Connect!, through a collaborative effort with non-profit and state organizations, is creating college access for students who may otherwise have thought that college was not a possibility. Through Connect!, students in Maine can reach their college and career goals.

    For more information on Gear Up

    Monday, January 21, 2008

    It’s Arrived… Connect!'s Top 25 Colleges & Universities

    January 21, 2008 - As promised, we recently announced our Annual Connect! Top 25 Colleges & Universities. The list represents the schools that were the most popular college choices among the 500,000 Connect! users for 2007. Students, with the help of parents and counselors, compile their “Connect! College List” after researching and determining best-fitting colleges from among over 4,200 detailed school profiles.

    The results of this year’s list are indeed eye opening. We have a new #1 as Michigan State University moved ahead of University of Michigan for the top spot. Seven of the schools in our top ten are from Michigan including Wayne State University (#5) and Western Michigan University (#6) who have joined the list this year as well. Nearly all Michigan colleges on last year’s list have moved up. Our Michigan partners along with recent partners, University of Missouri, Columbia (#18) and University of Kansas (#21) - both new to this year’s list – demonstrate that our college partners are able to drive high school adoption and participation.

    In addition, our Annual Connect! Top 25 Colleges & Universities list highlights both the selective nature and wide range of institutions that Connect! users applied to in 2007 (i.e. Harvard University #16, Cornell University #17, University of Pennsylvania #19, Brown University #20, and Yale University #22). In fact, all of the Ivies except for Princeton (#28), Dartmouth (#59) and Columbia (#142) are represented in this year’s Connect! Top 25. From large public universities to small private colleges, this list represents the breadth of students who are using Connect! all across the country to make their college and career plans.

    Our 2007 Connect! Top 25 Colleges & Universities are:

    1. Michigan State University
    2. University of Michigan
    3. Central Michigan University
    4. Grand Valley State University
    5. Wayne State University
    6. Western Michigan University
    7. Boston University
    8. New York University
    9. Eastern Michigan University
    10. University of Massachusetts Amherst
    11. Northeastern University
    12. University of Connecticut
    13. Rutgers University
    14. Boston College
    15. Oakland University
    16. Harvard University
    17. Cornell University
    18. University of Missouri, Columbia
    19. University of Pennsylvania
    20. Brown University
    21. University of Kansas
    22. Yale University
    23. University of Rhode Island
    24. Duke University
    25. Clark Atlanta University



    Below we round out the Top 50 on our annual list.

    26. Northwestern University
    27. Missouri State University
    28. Princeton University
    29. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    30. Syracuse University
    31. Quinnipiac University
    32. Ferris State University
    33. The Johns Hopkins University
    34. Georgetown University
    35. Florida State University
    36. University of Michigan, Dearborn
    37. University of Vermont
    38. Tufts University
    39. Bridgewater State College
    40. University of New Hampshire
    41. Washington University in St. Louis
    42. The College of New Jersey
    43. University of Miami
    44. Penn State University, University Park
    45. Drexel University
    46. University of Southern California
    47. University of Delaware
    48. Stanford University
    49. University of California, Los Angeles
    50. University of Massachusetts, Boston

    Check out the complete list of the Connect! Top 200 Colleges & Universities.

    Tuesday, January 15, 2008

    24 Schools Join Connect National Network™ in December

    January 15, 2008- Building on the momentum of a record month in November where we signed over 20 new colleges to the Connect National Network™, the CDU team continued a torrid pace as 24 new schools, including 17 colleges, joined the network in December. Connect! continued to expand into new territories as we welcomed the University of Denver, the University of Arkansas, and Ashland Community and Technical College in Kentucky. In addition to our college growth, we also added 7 high schools, in December – which is typically a very slow month for HS growth.

    Just last week, the CDU team started the 2008 year by welcoming the Columbus (OH) Public School system to the Connect National Network. Columbus Public Schools include 19 high schools and over 15,000 enrolled students. Great job to all involved and our partners.

    Below are the new colleges that joined the network in December.

    St. Peter’s College (NJ)
    Newbury College (MA)
    University of Vermont (VT)
    Ashland Community & Technical College (KY)
    Emory University (GA)
    University of Sioux Falls (SD)
    Davis & Elkins College (WV)
    Lon Morris College (TX)
    University of Arkansas (AR)
    Sterling College (AR)
    University of Denver (CO)
    Westminster College (MO)
    Johnson & Wales University (RI)
    Illinois State University (IL)
    Kentucky Mountain Bible College (KY)
    Gustavus Adolphus College (MN)
    Emporia State University (KS)

    CDU Welcomes New Vice President of Client Relations

    January 14, 2008- As we kick off the new year, we are excited to welcome Jim Sears as the new Vice President of Client Relations. Jim will be managing both the college and high school account management teams and will oversee all client facing activities in the near future. Jim joins CDU with over ten years of solid experience in the area of client satisfaction. Most recently, he was General Manager of Client Operations at SunGard, overseeing all services operation for North America. Jim brings with him a strong track record of performance and innovation that will be integral to our 2008 goals.

    As the Connect National Network™ continues to expand to over 1,000 high schools and over 500,000 users in 2008, the addition of Jim Sears is a small piece in our overall commitment to continuing to provide the best possible service to all of our high school and college partners. Building on the relationships with our existing colleges and high schools and listening to their needs will be a major focus for CDU during our exciting growth in 2008.

    CDU welcomes Jim Sears to the team. We also welcome your valuable input as we start a new year and continue to change the college admissions process in this country. Feel free to email us with your ideas, suggestions, etc.. Happy New Year!