Earlham College


Geneva, NY

Client Challenge

Hobart and William Smith Colleges, by nature of its history, character, location and educational focus, had many of the elements that define a distinctive college experience. At the same time, HWS had moved into the ranks of very selective national liberal arts colleges competing for the most highly-qualified students. HWS sought to strengthen its competitive position in the marketplace and to develop stronger, substantive communications and marketing initiatives that would move the institution toward reaching its most important enrollment and net tuition revenue goals.


Our Approach

We conducted an institutional positioning and pricing study using our SDM research methodology. Quantitative telephone survey research with inquirers and admitted applicants revealed that repositioning the College as an institution that immersed students in the ideas, issues and experiences they will encounter as professionals, leaders and citizens would appeal most strongly to the marketplace. The research also showed that emphasizing the college’s location as a jumping off point for experiences that extended far beyond the campus would have a strong positive effect on inquiry conversation and applicant yield. Moreover, the research reinforced the need for the College to: market itself as one institution (not coordinate colleges); strengthen the marketing of its academic programs and faculty-student partnerships; and give greater emphasis to student and alumni outcomes. The pricing and aid variables tested guided HWS in developing more targeted and effective aid and tuition pricing strategies to improve its net revenue position.


The Results

Since the study was conducted, HWS has seen a dramatic improvement in its enrollment results and other outcomes. In the few years following our study, HWS increased its enrollment by more than 20 percent, reduced its discount rate by 11 percent and increased its net tuition revenue by 15 percent. In one year alone, the College increased the number of its most highly rated students by 45 percent, increased the GPA of the incoming class by 3 percent and increased yield by 39 percent over a two-year period.