JOE Talk - College is for Everyone - Reaching Non-Consumers of Higher Education (April 27, 2015)



[APPLAUSE] Well thank you very much, and, President Slejko, thank you for, for, hosting me today.

And thank all of you for taking time, I, know it's a busy time of year.

But I've really been looking forward to, really, not, not only talking with you, but having bit of a dialogue about how we continue to impact the lives of individuals in the communities that, that we serve.

You know, I recall very well graduating from high school, going off to college and coming back on the weekends to see people that I had grown up with or worked with.

And almost invariably sometime over the course of that weekend somebody would say, you're in college, huh? And I would say yes I am.

And you know, what I'm studying.

And they'd say, you know, college is not for everyone.

Anybody ever heard that? That statement? And I've realized that throughout my life I've heard that over and over and over again, that college is not for everyone.

And in fact, we've even seen articles recently, and national publications that talking about that maybe a higher education is overrated.

Have you seen some of those articles and know what I'm talking about? Of the value of, of degrees and certificates and other types of awards? So I have spent a lot of time thinking about that and I, I think I've taken a counter position.

I that what I believe, in fact, college is for everyone.

It must be for everyone.

And that's really going to be the basis for how we not only meet the needs of individuals, but really help support our community and improve the quality of life.

So, you know, today, talking about college is for everyone.

And then and a phrase.

And I really appreciate the fact that people are talking about non-consumers.

But I want to explain that a little bit, too.

Because I've always, in my career, was very much aware of the role and mission of community colleges.

And how we bring people in the door that, that really haven't considered college an option.

Every single year, we have people in classes here at North Lake College that didn't think they would ever be there, right? It happens all the time, and yet, I became aware that, that maybe just talking about potential students or future students didn't really do a good enough job of explaining what we are, what we're talking about.

And so I've tried to think of some language that maybe causes me to think about differently.

And maybe you could help me think about it in ways that make sense to helping to us understand the problems that people face and how to solve them, okay? That's kind of the concept.

So I'm going to put up a goal of all community colleges that I'm going to bet you've never seen before.

And I want to kind of walk through this and what it means.

And here's the statement, "To get hired by students, employers and our parents to solve a problem and meet a specific need.

" And I got to thinking over the years that we've always talked about enticing people to come in to college by what? We call it a recruiting process, right? We go out and we recruit students.

What dawned on me one day, maybe that's not really what we do.

Maybe it's something else that's going on there and maybe we need to think about it a little bit differently.

And I got to thinking that if I was at the University of Texas, recruiting a star quarterback out of high school to come, join my team, I'm basically recruiting them, why? For a purpose.

In fact, I'm hiring them, to help me win.

Right? That would be the role.

Or even Harvard University recruits a top scholar, to come in.

They're really in effect hiring them through scholarships and other means, to, to come into the institution, to help improve not only their prestige, but their class.

But individuals are, that we're talking about, are often different.

Many of them have made poor choices previously in life.

Others didn't have a high school diploma.

Others may have been working for years and they got challenges and needs and they don't know where to go and look.

And so what we need to do is have them look to us, right, to hire us.

To solve the problems that they're facing, as the solution.

And it can be students, it can be employers coming to us because they can't find the skilled workforce, that they need.



They can come to us and hire us to help solve the the, the problem.

So, think about maybe that as a, as a little different way, because it really does say, it's up to the individual to make the decision.

We can entice, we can recruit, we can make it easy, at the end of the day, someone has to make a decision to come in our doors.

And what I believe is to we're still seeing way too many people, way too many people not make that decision, and, and choose not to enroll.

So let me kind of, kind of talk about a couple of things, because as I, as I thought about that, why do people come and, and enroll at community colleges? And you see it every, every single day as they, as they enroll in our classes, because they do have needs.

We've got a class sitting out here today.

I suspect within that that class, is what I see in most classes.

There's somebody here looking for a fresh start.

Things maybe, maybe didn't come right out of high school to go to college.

Maybe there were some other decisions made, maybe went to work, maybe some other things happened.

But now's the time to come back and say, you know what I want to start all over with this process.

And I want to get the skills, the knowledge, the degrees, the awards that I need in order to fulfill my dreams.

There's another group.

And, and I see this a lot, particularly with international students, students who are born in homes where English is not the primary language spoken.

Where they see you know, I just want a fair shake.

I just want to be able to have the opportunity to be treated equally in the, in the workplace.

And as long as I've got some of these challenges that, that I have, I can't, I, they, they don't treat me fairly.

They don't give me a fair shake for jobs and opportunities.

So they come to us, already having a lot of the skills and ability, but something else that we can provide to help give them a fair shot.

And then I think what we, we understand that most people ultimately want in life is just an opportunity to, to succeed, they don't want it given to them.

But they want that opportunity to provide for their own future, for the future of their family, to be able to have a middle class job making a middle class wage so that they can support the needs not only of their family today but, but into the future.

And, and as I looked at our, our role I think today that we are, we are more important than ever before.

One of the challenges that we have, I think, in reaching individuals who aren't buying what we're selling, they aren't hiring us, is that we often don't relate to them in ways that they relate to the world.

And, and I think part of that challenge is it's really not about us, it's about the needs of others.

And so as we, as we start talking about how to really bring individuals into our classes and into our college, we began by taking the focus completely off of ourselves.

Does that make sense? Cause ultimately it's not about us.

It's, it's about them and their needs.

And let me, let me talk about that and, and making sure that they get what they, what they want.

So, if we see that our role and why we were created as a district is to solve problems, and we go back and we, we look at this, what we realized is that the very reason that Dallas County Community College District was created years ago was to meet the needs of individuals within this community.

That was the premise.

That was how it was sold, and that was the the value that was that was added.

So as we look at that, we from day one we were founded by focusing on the needs of who? Students, community members, others.

So that as we think about that, we understand individuals have needs, employers have needs, neighborhoods, communities have needs, cities, counties, states even our nation has needs.

And what we have and our primary role is that we were granted a collection of resources.

People, buildings, property knowledge, to address and solve those needs.

And to help make sure that individuals had the future they wanted.

That employers could get the skilled workforce they want.

That it's personal when you start getting transferred to a four year institution.

That was absolutely within their reach.

And so that we're not an end unto ourselves, but we're really a means to an end.

A means to the individual, helping individuals solve their problems.

Employers, our community, and hopefully improve the quality of life for all of us and generations to come.

I'm struck as, as I thought about this, that Peter Drucker once said, he said, you know what companies generally think they're, they're selling, it turns out are not what the consumers understand they're buying.

And he was saying that, that many times what, what we think people want, is really not what they, not what they need at all.

So and Simon Sinek, and I'll talk about him for a few minutes.

if, if you've never seen his TED Talk, I encourage you to do so, it's, it's just amazing.

I guess the number one viewed TED Talk ever in history.

And he says, people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

And, and I've given a lot of time kind of, kind of thinking about this, and I've concluded he's absolutely right.

And, and that what we have to do is, is really, this idea of, of looking at why people make the decisions they make in life.

Including to come to North Lake College as, as a very important one.

Because it's not necessarily what we have to offer, it's why we make it available and why we do what we, what we do in order to meet the, the need.

So as we talk about this, you know, he goes on to say in, his books and videos and other things that most organizations can talk about what it is that they do.

Offer courses, provide degree programs, or sell cars, or sell furniture or other things, but what they, and a few organizations can describe how they go about doing it, but almost no organization today can explain why it is they do what, what they do.

And I think that's where we are if we're to today is we're getting handle on why we do what we do.

Why were community colleges created it's such an American invention to meet the needs of so many individuals, and why is that still relevant today? So he calls it the Golden Circle.

And says that most organizations start from the outside in.

What we want to do is start from the inside out.

Really looking at the very purposes behind our programs, our services, and how we interact and meet the needs.

Does that make sense? So why do community colleges exist? I got to tell you that's a question I ask every single day, and I ask you to do the same thing.

Because I think when we begin to ponder the why of, of why we exist, why it's important, we really begin to get to the heart of the issue, whether it be a faculty member, professional support services, staff member, or whether it be a member of the administration or the Board of Trustees.

This is really an important question for all of us.

I mentioned the Board, because we spent about a year talking about this issue of, of why we exist? What are the very purposes behind? And we come up with some reasons that, that I, I talked about recently in the State of the District address, where we said we exist to prepare our communities to succeed.

We were created to help industry prosper and business prosper.

We were created to inspire individuals to achieve.

And then we were created to improve the quality of life for everyone living in our community.

Those are the fundamental reasons.

And so, as we carry out the mission, I think that each of us has an important role if we're to continue to make the type of difference.

We've already made in the lives of three million people since 1965 in this district.

Three million people.

And I'm looking forward to the next three million having that same type of impact to improve their quality of life and to make our community a better place to live.

You know I realized one day that we were really created in 1965 to serve the non-consumers in 1965.

You think back at Dallas County, in, in those years.

We're the largest metropolitan area in the nation without a major university housed in the city.

Individuals didn't have a place to go and so they weren't going anywhere.

Our college bound rate was extremely low.

If, depending on the neighborhood in which you grew up, it was almost not existent.

So a group of leaders got together in 1965 and began to pull together what is now the Dallas County Community College District.

With the goal of introducing higher education to whom? Non-consumers at that time.

People that absolutely saw no opportunity for higher education and was suddenly delivered to them in the form of North Lake College and the other six colleges that now comprise the Dallas County Community College District.

So that no matter where you live, no matter where, what your background, you could come here for a fresh start.

You could come here for a fair shake.

You can come here and be able to succeed and, and achieve your goals.

And it's gone very well.

Well, fast forward to, today, and I, kind of want to share with you a little bit about what's going on in, Dallas County.

We have about 2.7 million people, living here today.

So if you think about that, the three million people we've already touched are more people than actually live in the county today.

Of that, 1.4 million are adults, that, that are out in the economy and the workplace.

About, of that popul, of those adults, 476,000 have some type of credential, certificate, award, or degree from a college or university here in the area.

So that's a pretty big gap.

Right? You can do the math and see who's not consuming.

Of that, 644,000 have never, adults, have never cross the door of a college.

Have never taken advantage of the opportunity that's going to lead to the better life for them and their, their, their family.

And, about another , tried and never completed anything, as the, the result of it.

So, when you, when you start to look at these numbers, what, what I've come to realize, that our greatest challenge is not simply bringing the people back in the door who were going to come here anyways.

It's figuring how we can reach individuals who just simply aren't buying what we're selling.

and trying to understand how they see the world and why, despite outstanding marketing, outstanding advising, outstanding recruiting, financial aid packages.

All the programs and services that we make available to help bring them in the door, it's clear that there's a large population that doesn't even look up.

They don't notice when the ads run on television.

They don't read our ads in the paper.

They don't hear our spots on the radio, or if they do, they just change channels and turn on to something else.

They're not buying what, what we're selling today.

Now, if you go back to where I started the presentation, that college is for everyone, that's kind of a problem, isn't it? That if we really believed that it is for everyone and we have a large group that's not taking advantage of it, non-consumers, what do we have to do differently? And what are the barriers that are getting in the way of them being able to take advantage of the American dream of being able to get the knowledge, skills and abilities? Because we know that today, 63% of the jobs in Dallas County require somewhere more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor's degree.

So that's a perfect sweet spot for North Lake College and the Dallas County Community College District.

And if we look at who these individuals are that are non-consumers, will they fit our definition? They're many of these individuals have ability.

They have the skills.

But they don't know that they could come here and take advantage of it.

So, so what do we need to do to to understand the non-consumer? Well, that's the, that's the challenge.

900,000 not quite a million people, living in the county need us today.

Adults, need us today.

And are the primary market that's not enrolling in our classes.

The and, and as we look at how we develop the strategies to reach non-consumers, I think that what we've got to do is to figure out exactly how to get them to act.

How to get them to pay attention to, to what, what we are, and what we have to offer them.

And what, what I want to do is just kind of share with you a, a couple of thoughts.

I've found as I've talked about this, often I have a little bit of difficulty fully explaining what a non-consumer is.

So I thought I would do something here.

to maybe share with the difference share with you, kind of, what I think is the difference between how colleges interact with traditional consumers.

People coming out of high school, ready to go to college, and how people how, how they're just going to deal with non-consumers, those individuals that aren't buying what we're selling.

So let me kind of as we, as we look at the how we interact.

The idea is pretty straight forward, is that if we believe that everyone is better off in college, then college is for everyone.

We've got to get more students transferring to universities to make sure that we're able to provide them with the needs.

We understand and have to really believe that there are jobs out there requiring certificates and associate degrees for which we're the only route.

And, regardless of what the goals are, individuals want to be able to see how I get from where I am to where I want to be.

And that's, that's, that's the challenge.

So I want to as we as we look at the challenges that individuals face, the primary problems are related to job.

It turns out, that when Jim Clifton wrote his book a few years back, The Coming Job War, he made the point of saying, you know, fundamentally, it turns out everyone in the world wants a job.

And a person who doesn't have one is identifying that as their number one problem in their life.

And I hear it regularly from students who who I talk to or the problems can be personal, emotional, financial, social.

All of these are very real, that individuals deal with and all get in the way of them, them attending being able to attend and enroll.

And if we don't know why that's a barrier, then why should they go and hire us, right, if, if we, if we can't help them figure that out? So our, as we, we look at and begin to think about, why is it that some people make a conscious decision not to look our way, or to any college to solve their problems? Why are the majority of people non-consumers? We think college is for everyone, but the majority of the population says, not for me.

That's, not, that's not what I see.

And until they see us as their solution first, they're going to continue to, and remain to be non-consumers.

So, as we look at it and, and we look at non-consumers, the, the goal has to be that they, they they look at us and they hire us.

And see us as being that, that solution.

And then they'll hire us again and again and they'll tell others.

Right now, we've got a great word of mouth.

People in this county absolutely love the Dallas County Community College District and all seven colleges.

And that's mainly because word of mouth and the impact we've had on the students that we touch.

But the students we don't touch don't see us that way.

And that's where we've got to go next to make sure that we that, that we meet the needs.

And the real key there is gaining their trust, seeing us as a trusted source to solve their, their problem.

So as we, as we look at providing programs and services, they must be around how we build that trust and completely solve their problems.

We're talking about some new programs now like Single Stop USA.

That recognizes that many individuals have transportation problems, child care problems, legal problems, tax issues, others.

That we can help guide to direct them to meet those needs.

We've got to really create specialized systems that link programs to results.

So let me explain what I mean by that.

That individuals today make decisions upon career based on their ability to see the end goal they want and that's a job.

We've got to do a better job of showing the connection in many of our programs from where they are today, to how they can ultimately achieve that goal.

And create a short route to get there and maybe even different pathways that make that happen.

And, ultimately, give them what they want most of all, a middle-class wage and a middle-class lifestyle.

As, as we look at it, what we need to do is realize that we've got to give them what they want.

And sometimes, I think in our marketing and advertising and other communications, we kind of give them what, what we want them to to see as well.

And we don't really aim much of what we do at the non-consumers.

We really aim it at traditional consumers, people who are probably going to already, enroll anyway, in our, in our programs, I just tipped my hand there a little bit.

But, and so what I thought I would do today is draw a contrast with you between, what, how we communicate and think about traditional consumers of higher education and, and, and the non-consumers.

And I going to start by and I want to talk about this a little more with you, with you later.

I want to run a little snippet of a an admissions video from Yale University.

You'll you'll see, it actually goes on for, I think, about 17 minutes.

The entire piece.

[MUSIC] >> I have a question.

Why did you choose Yale? 

[MUSIC] >> Now let me explain.

[MUSIC] >> Pretty traditional.

Who are they recruiting? People already going to college.

People choosing between other institutions and they make that make that selection at at Yale University.

Very a direct in terms of the, the audience.

Now let's take a look at perhaps a, a different again, this is a shortened version of a of an admission video.

>> I was at home on unemployment, the economy really sucks right now.

>> With everything that was going on, it was the right time for a change.

>> He was like you need to call and you're going to go this month.

Being at Everest, you have the support from your teachers, they want you to make a career for yourself.

>> When she came home and said, she had gotten a job offer I was just, what? >> I wasn't even graduated yet when I got the job.

>> There's a lot less stress now.

>> If it wasn't for Everest, I wouldn't be able to be at the spot that I am today.

>> If you are willing to work hard for a better life, Everest can help you make it happen.

>> 1-800-978-8214.

>> You see a difference? Let's take just a regular ad here from Stanford.

>> I am sunrise on Palm Drive.

>> I am a walk on the quad.

>> I am making it possible for our students to pursue their passions.

>> I am part of a legacy.

>> I am bridging biomechanics and ballet.

>> I'm studying the new longevity.

>> I am fueling our generation.

>> I am a fierce competitor.

>> I'm helping people access health care.

>> I am Stanford.

>> I am Stanford.

>> I am Stanford.

>> I am Stanford.

>> Okay.

Again, how do you translate that appealing to consumers, individuals are going to be making a choice anyway.

And and really getting, again, kind of the recruiting process, we want to hire the best to come into our, our college.

Now let's look at another Everest ad here.

>> So you're working a nine to five, you're not making a lot of money, right? You're not happy with your job, you gotta go back to school.

It's cut and dry.

Sitting there doing the same old, same old, you're going to get the same old, same old.

You want the skills that pay the bills.

Get on track to a career.

No more paycheck to paycheck.

No more dead end nine to five, the whole world opens up for you, but you gotta do something right now, you can't wait.

Your life, your future, it's on you.

Make the call, it's that simple.

Get up like, like this, I'll show you.

[SOUND] And a couple of things I want to, want to just kind of point out and say about that.

On one hand, obviously, many of us and, and I include myself there, came from a background where I was shopping.

you know, I may have been the first in my family to go to college, but my mother instilled that at a very early age and I knew it was going to happen and it was about me picking out where I was going to go.

and, and I'm reminded sometimes that, that's just not the lives that everyone has.

It's just not the lives that they know.

And in fact, because of decisions made, because of missed opportunity, because of other things that have occurred in life.

Sometimes within their control, sometimes out of their control.

They find themselves in a situation where Yale, really? That's not an option.

Or another public institution is not going to be an option for them in the future.

In fact, you know, we're, we're very proud here within the district, when we look at the success stories of who comes through our doors.

Medical doctors, dentists, surgeons, attorneys and we, we have to be proud of that.

And there is a big part of the population we now serve that absolutely relates to those with goals and aspirations.

But if that's not your world, if your, if your world is sitting on the couch and need being told to get up to to move forward.

Can you relate to becoming a medical doctor, probably not.

That's probably not a vision that you see of of, of your future.

And then I was reading a book this, this book here and something in it just hit me about why this idea of non-consumers and caring about this, maybe a, even a little important than I had even thought it was.

As, as I got to thinking about what's going on with the lives of individuals, I intentionally chose Everest College.

Do you know what happened to Everest College yesterday? They were shut down by the US Department of Education, closed their doors.

And was it, because of the ads they ran? No, those are great ads and they work.

And they brought thousands and thousands of thousands of people in the door, but what happened to those folks in many cases? They ended up in debt.

They ended up not getting the education that needed in order to meet the needs.

And frankly, as said here that many of them are left worse off to the point of financial ruin.

That's the legacy.

That often happens when we let other folks tap in to the non-consumer market.

When and to, to reach those students.

That they understand that college is important and they understand it's the key to success.

They understand it's the key to the American dream.

They want it so badly that they will jump on the first one that actually communicates in a way that relates to them to where they are today, that understands the world from their point of view.

That is able to tell them, I can get you off the couch and I can get you into to college and you can have a life and you can have that, that ability and so they run there.

And then end up in debt, without a degree, without being able to achieve those goals.

And so, as I was reflecting on this, this one statement in Susan Meddler's book, while the for-profits appear to give struggling Americans a shot at improving their life circumstances, these schools leave many worse off to the point of financial ruin.

And I kind of took it at that point, I said, well, then whose responsibility is it to prevent that from happening? If we're not communicating, if we're able to bring non-consumers in, we're leaving it to, to to, to the institution.

I'm not saying, all of them are, are don't provide a good education, don't get me wrong.

They're many outstanding for profits out there.

But we've got an example right now of the ones that I just put the ads up on the board, that were so egregious in terms of what they did to students.

That in the unprecedented that an entire publicly traded company shut down, put out of business and closed every one of their colleges across the across the nation.

Leaving, today alone, I saw 16,000 students unsure of what was going to happen to them and into the future.

So, I do think it's up to us to care about non-consumers.

I do think it's up to us.

To find a way to communicate, to figure out the pathway, so that individuals, no matter what their background, where they're coming from, what mistakes they've made in life, that we can show them they, they can start right from where they are now.

And, and that means that, that we've got to look at ourselves differently, we've got to look at them differently.

You know, it's, it's kind of interesting, we there's a lot of debate going on right now on, on this issue.

In fact I just did a, a radio interview related to the Noriega Bill, are you familiar, with, that allows undocumented immigrants to enroll in, at Dallas County Community College District and pay in-state tuition, or, or in-district tuition.

We have over 3,000 students enrolled right now, the largest of any institution in the state, in, in that area.

What we did is turn a non-consumer into a consumer.

And, and, I was talking to the CEO of, of one of the largest employers in Dallas recently.

Who was saying, you know, that's actually where all our engineers come from.

It's individuals who have, over, had to overcome obstacles in life, and fight and struggle to get the education.

Those make the best engineers in our company.

And he went on to say, I wish the politicians got it.

That, that this is really about human capitalization.

The ability to take individuals from where they are, help them reach their potential, and grow.

Just because a person's a non-consumer, doesn't mean that they don't have the skills and ability to earn a certificate to in many cases, to earn a degree and, and move forward.

So, as, I look at this, this, this issue, I've come to realize that, that it's important.

it, it's important for the individual, it's important for employers, it's important for the community, but it's absolutely important for us.

And, and I ask your help in figuring out how we can do this, because what I've also realized is that, if we think about it differently, suddenly things change.

The student market now is a whole lot larger now than I thought it was before I started considering non-consumers as, as, as part of the market.

Right? We've got , more people.

That are out there, that we, that we could work with.

Our market share that we now have now, is actually smaller than we previously thought, because we're really working within a very small piece of the, of, of the overall population.

And, that our real competitors aren't even on the radar.

Now, let me tell you what I mean by that.

I'm just really amazed at higher education and how we think about competition.

We think that any other college or university is competing with us for students, but going back to the original days of community colleges we went after the non-consumers.

We took people that weren't enrolling, brought them into our doors, and grew the overall higher education participation rate across the country, not only benefiting two year colleges but benefiting universities as well.

And yet we continued to think and focus on that very small group of individuals that all kind of look alike.

That we tend to go after, and, and, and while it's, a much, much larger than that.

And as we begin to think differently, what I've come to realize, other institutions aren't the competition, it's non-consumers are the competition.

What's causing them to become a non-consumer is our greatest competition to growing enrollment.

That's our greatest competition to increasing graduation rate, to being able to meet the needs of, of the, the students that not only we serve but also the employers that we engage in, in helping meet their, their needs as well.


The point today that I just want to share with you is that I think we've got to be able to figure out a way to connect to non-consumers.

I think we need every single student, every single faculty member, every single member of our professional support, staff, our administrators, our board, me, and others.

Thinking about it and not for our sake because I truly believe that our community's future depends on it.

If we can't get everyone with the skills they need in order to live productive lives, ultimately we will continue to see poverty grow in this community and jobs go elsewhere.

And that's certainly something that we can do something about.

And with that, I just thank you for allowing me to share this with you and I look forward to answering questions and responding to comments.

Thank you very much.