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!