When most people think of college, they think of going to an institution to learn. They think of the classes and the schoolbooks. They think of teachers and the classroom environment. In the world of community colleges, life is no different. However, when you think of the term “community college,” at some point we need to focus on the word “community.”
The word “community” is important because the community college typically supports a relatively small geographic region. It typically supports a population of people in close proximity. What is said about the college, what is believed about the college can be transmitted from person to person very quickly in a community. And so much of the success of community colleges is the success (or lack thereof) of that word-of-mouth – the conversation that takes place between family members and friends and co-workers about what experiences are like at a community college.
And that word-of-mouth is important. It’s important because it helps to either raise the profile in a positive way such that people are drawn to the college, or it can bring down the general perception of the college such that individuals are unwilling to even give the college a chance. And the perception that led to that word-of-mouth is often a perception in the mind of existing students who potentially could drop out or come back for additional courses. The perception is in the mind of potentially qualified employees who are considering where to work. If they hear great things, then they might apply for a job. If they hear awful word-of-mouth, then they may go elsewhere. So the perception that the community has of the community college can impact volumes, revenues, retention rates, and the ability to acquire and retain highly qualified employees.
Community colleges need to make sure they understand the drivers of the perception that others have of the institution, they need to understand how to develop relationships with the community, they need to understand how to create a culture of responsiveness and customer service, and they need to make sure that they are measuring this perception and acting on trends over time.
Make sure that the community has a positive perception of your organization.
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