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Is College Recruitment and Enrollment in a Research Blind Spot?

Professors, researchers and scholars at colleges and universities across the country are in a “unique and privileged position,” says Ozan Jaquette, an assistant professor at the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies.

“We can study what we want to study, and no one can fire us for studying what we want to study,” he says. “So that allows you to study topics that, in absence of these [people] called professors, would just never ever get studied.”

It is a fair assumption that the vast majority of those in higher education agree that getting more people to complete a college degree is a good thing. Right? In that case, why aren’t more scholars studying college marketing and recruiting?

“I feel like the scholarly community has really dropped the ball in completely ignoring marketing and recruiting,” Jaquette told Capture Higher Ed’s Thom Golden and Brad Weiner during the most recent episode of The WeightList podcast.

The community even might be “sticking up their noses at marketing and recruiting as yet another capitalist inroad into higher education without really engaging in what it is,” he continues. “There’s nobody — no professors, really, who have studied or cared about this.”

Compared to other industries (or even other parts of higher education), the recruitment space has not seen the same kind of informed practice, he says, “where market interests are involved and professors are doing research, and they’re working together in a sense … We don’t have that.”

“We have folks like you [Capture Higher Ed] with a lot of expertise. But I don’t really know much about marketing recruiting. I’m at the front end.”

Continuing to view enrollment marketing and management in the realm of fundamental faculty research, Weiner points out a recurring theme in the WeightList podcasts — the dearth of good college recruitment and enrollment data.

“I would propose that faculty members are not pursuing this line of inquiry because the data sets are so hard to come by,” Weiner says. “One of the sad things about that is, when the data sets aren’t available, you get discouraged and move on to something else because, without the data, you don’t have a research agenda. Without a research agenda your tenure committee is going to start asking some questions.”

Golden adds: “To fully understand student recruitment on a national scale requires a level of data availability that currently is not there.”

What would it take to fully get a handle on the research? Listen to the entire interview with Jaquette, which covers a range of issues including the growing tension between living an institutional mission and funding that mission. Fair warning: this episode pulls no punches.

Hosted by Golden and Weiner, The WeightList podcast features free-wheeling, free-flowing discussions on all things enrollment, data science, machine learning … and beer. Check out past episodes here.

 By Kevin Hyde, Content Writer, Capture Higher Ed

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