Alumni Relations Best Practices: Disgruntled Alumni?
Unhappy customers are bad for business, every business. If Graduates are unhappy after college, that makes unhappy customers.
In the education world, there appears to be a proportion of customers (i.e. alumni) who are not satisfied with their purchase. And the scary thing about unhappy customers is that they can shout very loudly.
Nicole Matejic shouted very loudly this week in her intriguing blog that shone a light right into the heart of the education world. Her blog entitled an ‘’Open letter to the Vice Chancellor of the University of New England’’ is well worth a read if you have not yet had the chance to do so.
In this open letter Nicole described what she felt when being solicited for money from an institution that she had not been in touch with for almost a decade.
Nicole was clearly unhappy with her school’s approach. Whether in her individual circumstances she was justified to feel the way she did or not, and whether the blog was the right medium or not to raise the issue are interesting points, but not ones that I want to pass judgment on here.
Rather, I would like to focus on the sizeable reaction to the blog.
When you read through the 60+ comments to her blog, you can see that opinion among alumni seems clearly divided on the virtue of giving money to your alma mater.
To quote two comments on Nicole’s blog that seemed to epitomize the divided opinion;
1. I think your letter is unfair. It is not unreasonable to ask graduates for funds every now and then, given that you benefited enormously from your education.
2. I’m not giving my old uni a cent! They ripped us off when we were there and have the nerve to ask for more money!!
What is clear is that there does appear to be a significant percentage of alumni that feel something close to sentiment (2.) How many alumni feel like that is impossible to tell and will vary by country and type of institution. But even if just a small minority, wouldn’t schools be foolish to ignore them and risk the damaging noise of disgruntled customers?
So why do some alumni feel so let down and unhappy after college and critically, what can schools do to make the situation better?
Well my hypothesis is that there is one major cause for this alumni discontent. The problem rests on the fact that alumni appear no longer to see as positive return on their investment (in pure career terms) as was once expected. In fairness this could be due to unrealistic expectations in the first place and also a changing employment market.
However it may also be due to the fact that schools in general are not doing enough to assist their graduates and alumni in progressing in their chosen career – in particular not providing alumni career services. For example how well are schools facilitating alumni mentoring, alumni networking within specific professional affinities, or providing access to real employment opportunities? It may also be that schools are doing these things but not communicating them loudly or clearly enough.
Alumni relations best practices suggest both better communication of their value, and also critically do a better job in providing their graduates with tangible day to day value in their careers.
Offer real life-long value to alumni and I believe letters like these will be a thing of the past.
Do you agree that schools need to improve the value they offer their alumni and engaging their alumni generally?
Are there other causes and solutions to alumni discontent and those graduates who are unhappy after college? What % of alumni do you think have this level of discontent?
And finally, what do you think alumni relations best practices are in situations like this?
I would welcome your thoughts.
Click here to read an excellent article on The Case for Mentoring.