Career Services Pricing Like The Airlines

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frontier bagsAbout 8 years ago I was flying over 100,000 miles per year.

I stayed more than 75 nights each year in hotels and rented cars so frequently that Hertz placed me in their President’s Club, their top-tier member program for elite travelers.  I was upgraded on nearly every flight, and at every hotel, and when I landed anywhere in the world – a Hertz employee was standing in the baggage claim area with a “Philabaum” sign.  After getting my bags, I was escorted out the door to the curb where my Hertz rental car was waiting.  I never had to jump on a bus!  Traveling was easy, fun and rewarding.

And then I stopped traveling!

Recently I flew to a conference in Denver to attend an event with the Alumni Career Services Network.  The best fare and travel time appeared to be Frontier, so I clicked to continue the registration process.  I filled in my contact information and was offered an opportunity to select a seat ranging from $3 to $25.   I elected not to pay more for a seat (which I later found guaranteed me a seat in the middle) and was then presented with an option of paying for my luggage.  It indicated a frequent flyer member paid less, so I quickly became an EarlyReturns member and paid for one bag.   The next screen asked me if I wanted to prepay for a carry-on bag.  I elected not to.

Departure day arrived and my old habits kicked in.

Fifteen minutes prior to having to leave to the airport (4:00 a.m.), I went to my closet, threw some clothes in my suitcase and zipped off in the early morning hours.   Waiting in line (which I never had to do before), my turn came to check in.  As Jenny checked me in, she informed me that the baggage being accepted for the flight to Denver that was leaving in 44 minutes – was closed – and she was unable to give me a seat on the flight!   I stood in front of her, dumbfounded, but managed to bluster out – “Really?  I was under the impression baggage cut-off times were 30 minutes?”  “No”, Jenny replied, “Frontier has a 45 minute cut-off policy.”   I felt myself falling into old habits and immediately had a flood of thoughts demanding, no– better stated– insisting that they put me on the flight.  However, my sensibilities kicked in and I reminded myself that in these post 911 days it’s better to bottle those feelings and keep calm, so with a slight smile on my face, I quietly asked if she could put me on the 2 pm flight  seven hours later!

After what seemed an eternity of silence, Jenny looked up from the computer terminal with a smile and said, “Sure, I can put you on the 2 PM flight, but understand, your ticket just lost $150 in value and you’ll have to pay the rebooking fee of $75 and pay the current fare being charged for that flight.”    With no other choice, I pulled out my credit card and said, “Sure, get me to Denver!”

So by now you are wondering – what’s the point?

Stay with me another moment!

It’s all about advanced services that parents and students can pay for!

I shared my travel experience with you to remind you that for everything we do in life, people pay for each item, service or product they want.   At any restaurant or beauty parlor, and for every product or service you buy, you have the option of purchasing a good, better, or best version of the product or service in which you are interested.  You get to decide what level of service you want.

We live in a world of choices.

You make choices daily about the goods and services you buy and/or use.  When you go to the dry cleaner, you have an option of adding light, medium, or heavy starch on your shirts or putting your shirts on hangers or in boxes.  The base price of a car you are interested in could easily increase by $4,000 if you added all of the additional options.

The art of packaging has been around since the beginning of time.   Organizations have learned that everyone has different interests and desires and they are willing to pay more for the things they deem valuable to them.

As firms improved their services, options consumers were charged for became standard and new improvements were offered for a fee.

Recently we’ve seen organizations beginning to decouple their services and start to charge consumers for them.

  • You’ve seen it recently in banking where you now pay additional fees for having a statement and checks mailed to you..
  • You are certainly seeing it at airlines where you are paying for every item, including refreshments, on the flight.

You may not have noticed, but it’s happening at colleges, too,  where fees are seen as a way to generate more revenue!

As a father of a junior at Ohio State University, I’m seeing it every semester when I review an itemized list of things my daughter needs in order to fulfill the requirements leading to her nursing degree.  Included on the list is transportation, lab fees, technology, health, parking, and entertainment; and then there are books, separate charges for online courses; and even more individual fees already paid such as admissions application, orientation and soon – a graduation fee.

This semester I noticed for the first time a $40 annual fee for student legal services and a $74.40 fee described as the Student Union Facilities fee.  What the heck?

 But that’s not all– there are also additional extracurricular fees students and parents pay.  Even though there are 40,000 students on campus, and countless events and activities designed to engage students, I– along with thousands of other parents– pay for our children’s’ participation in fraternities and sororities.

So, when there are already dozens of fees being charged over and above tuition, why isn’t the career center charging fees for a good, better and/or best offer?

Wait! What do you charge for?

Consider continuing to offer your existing services for free, but add advanced services and packages to give students and parents options.   You could offer a good, better and best career curriculum and programming for students and parents who are willing to pay for “advanced” services.

For example, you could offer a:

  1. Career selection package that includes a battery of assessments, as well as one-on-one coaching and even a conference call with parents for $1,000.
  2. Online career courses on networking, job searches, and how to develop a professional resume for $95. (TalentMarks provides these already.)
  3. Internship placement services where you give students more exposure to jobs for around $1,500.  Check out Map 5x5x5 where students get 5 jobs in five weeks!
  4. Online career webinars featuring advice from 50 top career authors for $59.  (Ah, another service we can provide you!)
  5. A career-coaching service that guarantees students one hour of career coaching per month for $500.

Your college has been out front on charging fees, long before the airline industry, so why are you not charging students and their parents for providing “advanced” career services?

Start a discussion with those to whom you report.  Presidents and their cabinets are under tremendous pressure to add revenue and cut costs.  You may very well find a receptive audience and gain recognition for your efforts.

For more discussion about charging for career services, check out my blog article,  Career Services – You Get What You Pay For!




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Don Philabaum
Love to find ways to use technology help more grads and alumni develop successful career strategies.
Don Philabaum
Don Philabaum
Don Philabaum

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