The Wall Street Journal had an article on Aug. 16, 2012 where the headline read, “Colleges Must Learn to Make the Sale”. The article focused on how much more colleges are dedicating to their marketing efforts, with many starting to hire a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). The second sentence summed things up in saying, “Elite colleges and universities are still attracting plenty of applicants, but weak job-placement numbers for graduates and heavy student debt loads have put schools on the defensive, forcing them to prove to families and and state governments that a degree is worth the investment.”

This sounds about as obvious as Dorothy’s realization in the Wizard of Oz that, “we aren’t in Kansas anymore”. Expecting college to work the way it did 25-30 years ago is a huge mistake for families. Peter Thiel, a high-tech entrepreneur, is going as far as discouraging young adults from going to college, citing that colleges have drifted too far from their core mission of learning and offer no accountability for their end product.

As many colleges pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into marketing efforts, I think we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg. Smart families are doing much more research on graduation rates and degrees that lead to job offers, so the marketing efforts will likely continue to expand. Even smarter families will start to ask even harder questions like, “Why is junior going to college in the first place?“, because the lack of direction and focus on the front end often leads to huge costs and disappointments on the back end.