Volunteer Weekend 2017 – Work Session Summaries

Identity, Admission, & Financial Aid

with Joe Bagnoli, vice president for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid; Debra Lukehart, vice president of communications; and Jayn Chaney ’05, director of alumni and donor relations.

Bagnoli opened the presentation with a wealth of admissions and financial aid data that set the table for a discussion about Grinnell College’s identity and brand.

There were 450 new and transfer students this fall. The group had the highest test score average in school history and the highest net revenue per student, the amount of out-of-pocket money the College receives from students.

Ninety percent of Grinnell College students receive financial aid. Out of the College’s peer 16 comparison liberal arts colleges, Grinnell and St. Olaf College have the highest percent of students receiving aid. Grinnell had the largest average amount of aid awarded. An average grant at Grinnell is almost $30,000.

Bagnoli said Grinnell College is not usually not the top choice for prospective student. Why is that? The surveyed students said not surprisingly the number one reason was the location. Second was unfamiliarity with the College. Of the students who do come here, the top two reasons are academics and financial aid.

Why should students choose Grinnell when they can get an equally great education in a location they much prefer? That is Grinnell College’s market position challenge, Bagnoli said.

The answer to the challenge thus far is over awarding merit financial aid. The College provides merit aid to stimulate interest. Only about 13 percent of students are charged full price tuition, but 40 percent come from families who could afford to pay full price. The over awarding imposes on the college’s endowment and is not sustainable over time.

Bagnoli provided the pitch he gives to prospective students on the road. The pitch uses self-effacing humor about Iowa that doesn’t shy away from the location challenge. Instead, the pitch hones in on what makes Grinnell unique and has personal touches.  

In the past, Grinnell has owned the financial aid mountain top. Is there an unclaimed mountain top we could use instead? Yes, Bagnoli said. An individually-advised approach and access to co-curricular activities, study abroad opportunities, and career coaching that is relevant and distinctive.

This segued into a conversation about the Grinnell College brand. The College has worked with Ologie Corp. over the past year. Surveys and interviews have been conducted in the discovery phase. Lukehart said they have moved into the definition stage with plenty of discussions about themes and audiences. The branding framework has to be authentic, relevant and distinguishable, Chaney said.

Chaney went through some examples of possible branding materials. The images weren’t just about the visual, language mattered too. The materials will be shared with campus soon, and eventually be developed for admissions, fundraising, and other print and online materials.