NACAC Conferences, Then and Now

Carnegie Higher Ed Sep 25, 2014 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

The first NACAC conference I attended was in Washington, D.C., in 1977 (Elvis had died a few months before and the first Star Wars movie was in theaters). Back then admission inquiries were kept in shoe boxes, and if you gave a school a shoe box full of inquiry cards, you got a renewal. I remember that there wasn’t even an exhibit area; tables were set up between workshop rooms, and you had an easel with your company name on a plain white poster, a table, two chairs, and an ashtray. It was a lot simpler back then, to say the least. Exhibitors were friendly rivals, enrollment folks from competing schools would be seen together at dinner, student discount rates were almost non-existent, and very few schools went overseas to recruit.

Last week I attended my 37th conference, with over 6,000 attendees. There were booths with floor-to-ceiling displays, carnival games, and every company explaining how their product or technology was better than someone else’s. Today student discount rates are through the roof for most schools, and more schools than not recruit overseas. Searches consist of far more than regular mail and e-mail to students; digital recruitment, IP Targeting, and Retargeting using existing inquiries is the new norm.

But one thing I noticed that has remained consistent throughout the years is that enrollment competitors still have a camaraderie among themselves, still compare notes, and still talk about what products work or not. And I’m glad they do. Being competitive but collaborative is what it’s all about, and I think that’s a big reason why Carnegie Communications has been so successful over the years—and why over 600 colleges and universities turn to us.

So here’s to another great NACAC and to looking forward to my 38th conference next year.

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