JVER v25n2 - Recruitment Techniques that Influence Students to Attend Four-Year Automotive Programs
Recruitment Techniques That Influence Students to Attend Four-Year Automotive Programs
Robert L. Frisbee
Pittsburg State University
Pittsburg State University
Ray E. Sanders
Lewis and Clark State College
AbstractThe purpose of this study was to identify effective recruitment techniques as reported by students within baccalaureate automotive technology programs. Participants in the study were 382 students (Freshman through Seniors) of eight universities in the United States that offer automotive technology baccalaureate degrees. Items included on the survey came from the review of literature in the area of recruitment. Reputation of the automotive program and university reputation were found to be quite important to students. Other items students indicated as important include: campus visits, parents/relatives, counselor/teacher, technology recruitment activities, friends, university catalog, location, promotional materials, and alumni. It is recommended from the findings of this study that recruiters pay particular attention to reputation of the specific program and university. It is also recommended to make sure that parents are involved in the decision of a student to attend a certain program. The final recommendation is to encourage the prospective student to visit the campus and program in person.
Technology is rapidly growing in all areas. With this growth, many different occupations are being affected. Automotive technology is an occupation that is greatly affected by changing technology and industry standards. Current automobiles are a challenge to repair because of the advanced technology, but the future automobile will be even more complicated. Examples of this advanced technology includes; navigational systems that use Global Positioning Satellites; electronic traffic monitoring; and automatic braking and steering systems ( Riley, 1995 ). This advanced technology will require automotive technicians to have greater skills and knowledge in their technical area and it is anticipated this demand will continue to increase in the future ( Cornish, 1996 ). When this study was conducted, there were eight four-year automotive programs in the United States. Graduates of these programs tend to be employed with major automotive manufacturers in areas which include: (a) company representatives who train field technicians on new model of vehicles; (b) research and development; (c) customer service; and (d) dealership technical assistance.
Is there a demand for students graduating from four-year automotive technology programs? To establish whether this is a problem, department chairpersons at the eight universities currently offering baccalaureate degrees were contacted prior to this study to assess supply and demand for their students (See Table 1). As reported, each department chair indicated that current placement demand exceeded current enrollment. Within the automotive area, there is a tremendous amount of growth expected over the next 10-25 years ( Cornish, 1996 ). Riley ( 1995 ) indicated change will be unbelievable and the rate of global change will continue to accelerate. Speelman and Stein ( 1993 ) state that qualified, well educated technical personnel are increasingly in demand as technology continues to develop. Based on the occupational outlook in automotive technology, educating future technologists is important and four-year colleges and universities can play a key role in this educational process. However, colleges struggle with maintaining and growing in their respective enrollments ( Neustadt, 1994 ).
Models for student enrollment behavior theory started to emerge in the early 1980's ( Paulsen, 1990 ) and several multi-stage models were developed ( Hanson & Litten, 1982; and Kotler & Fox, 1985 ). Later, Hossler and Gallagher, ( 1987 ) and Jackson, ( 1982 ) developed a 3-stage model which has become the most widely accepted model in enrollment behavior. The steps included in this model are: (a) college aspiration; (b) search and application; and (c) selection and attendance. The first stage regarding college aspiration stage typically involves the student from early childhood through high school. In this stage, the student decides whether he/she wants to attend college or not. The biggest items that affect the student's decision in this stage are: (a) family background; (b) academic ability; and (c) high school and neighborhood context ( Paulsen, 1990 ). Once the student has decided to attend college, he/she enters the second stage, search and application. In this stage the students begin to seek and acquire information about colleges that they are considering. Institutional characteristics are important in this stage; Ihlanfeldt ( 1980 ) identified four major characteristics that affect the second stage decisions. The first major characteristic is the programs or fields of study available at the institution(s). Students narrow their choices down based on what subject area they are interested in studying. The second major area is the quality or reputation of the program or university. Students are concerned about the quality of the education that they will receive and the reputation of their degree. The third factor that affects this decision is the cost of going to a specific school. The fourth characteristic is the location of the university. Most students prefer to attend a college close to home. The location of the school is a determining factor in stage two of the model. The third and final stage is selection and attendance. This stage is where the student makes the choice between the different universities that have actually accepted their application.
Table 1 Present Enrollment Versus Current Placement Demand of Four-Year Automotive Students
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Present Enrollment 170 60 70 60 54 140 100 60 Current Placement Demand 200 100 100 80 75 150 150 80 Difference in Student Count Between Present Enrollment and Current Placement Demand 30 40 30 20 21 10 50 20
Note: The university number at the top of the table is in no particular order. The universities included: Ferris State U/Big Rapids, MI; Pittsburg State U/Pittsburg, KS; Southern Illiniois U at Carbondate/Carbondale,IL; U of So. Colorado/Pueblo, CO; Central Missouri State U/Warrensburg, MO; Weber State U/Ogden, UT; Montana State U-Northern/Havre, MT; and Indiana State U/Terre Haute, IN.
In past recruitment research, much has been conducted in the area of academic programs. However, crucial recruitment techniques within baccalaureate automotive technology areas (which is a mixture of academic and technical courses) have not been identified. It is not known whether the successful recruitment techniques for academic programs can be generalized to four-year automotive technology students.
The purpose of this study is to identify effective recruitment techniques as perceived by students within baccalaureate automotive technology programs. Though both two-year and four-year automotive programs are important, this study looked at the recruitment techniques that enhanced the student's decision to attend four-year automotive programs. This information will be helpful in providing colleges and universities with strategies for student recruitment, program marketing, budgeting, and university and program strategic planning
Past recruitment research tends to concentrate only on academic programs with limited research in recruitment in the technology programs. This past research was used as a basis for this study, since specific research had not been conducted in the four-year automotive technology area. From the literature, the following sixteen recruitment techniques were chosen: (a) friends at university/community college or high school, (b) university catalog, (c) high school/community college counselor/teacher, (d) parent(s)/relatives, (e) alumni, (f) technology recruitment activities, (g) university recruiters visiting my high school, (h) athletic advisor/coach, (i) admission office, (j) campus visit, (k) university reputation, (l) university recruiters visiting my community college, (m) location, (n) bulletin board, (o) promotional materials (brochures, letters, videos), and (p) articulation or direct transfer from community college. A panel of experts was used to establish face and content validity of the instrument. It was recommended by students serving on this panel that an additional item of "reputation of automotive program" be added to the instrument, which became the seventeenth item on the survey.
Friend(s) at University/Community College or High School
Litten ( 1989 ) notes that prospective students regard currently enrolled students as one of the best sources of information about a school. "Targeted peer recruitment can be one of the most effective means of marketing. Its success can be attributed to the fact that current students are current consumers, are close in age to the prospective students, and usually 'tell it like it is' when discussing college" ( Hossler, Bean, & Assoc., 1990, p. 106 ). Edmund's ( 1980 ) findings were similar and stated that college students tend to be an influential factor in the recruitment of high school students.
Hossler, Bean, & Associates ( 1990 ) identified the university catalog as one type of publication that may move the prospective student from inquiry to application. Paulsen ( 1990 ) reported that college publications (which include catalogs) as one of the six most preferred information sources for both parents and students.
High School/Community College Counselor/Teacher
Alumni play a strong role in influencing students on college selection. Teachers, especially technology education or industrial arts teachers, who are alumni have a strong influence ( Devier, 1982 ; Edmunds, 1980 ; and Isbell & Lovedahl, 1989 ). These studies all found that the number one influence on recruitment into university industrial arts/technology education programs was the high school industrial arts/technology education teacher.
Devier ( 1982 ) found: "College personnel contacts with industrial arts teachers, especially alumni, also had the highest effectiveness rating from the students" ( p. 30 ). Edmunds ( 1980 ) found: "The most effective means of recruitment was judged to be contacts with industrial arts teachers who are alumni" ( p. 19 ). Isbell and Lovedahl ( 1989 ) found"... the technique that received the highest ranking was referral, by high school industrial arts/technology education teachers" ( p. 38 ).
In the area of Industrial Technology, Izadi and Toosi ( 1995 ) indicated the third most effective recruitment technique in their study was the high school counselor/teacher. Demuth's ( 1986 ) study of recruitment into area vocational/technical schools also found that high school counselors ranked seventh, and high school teachers ranked eighth.
Research strongly suggests the dramatic effect parents have on a student's choice of college ( Hossler, Bean, & Assoc., 1990 ; Major, 1991 ; Mitchell, 1994 ; and Speelman & Stein, 1993 ). Mitchell's ( 1994 ) study found parents ranked second as influencing students not to attend an area technical school. Sanders' ( 1985 ) study on influences of decisions to attend 4-year mechanical power technology programs found that parents ranked eighth out of 25 influences.
Alumni were identified as a means of recruitment. Past studies have emphasized this as an avenue of promotion and recruitment ( Devier, 1982 ; Edmunds, 1980 ; Hossler, Bean, & Assoc., 1990 ; and Isbell & Lovedahl, 1989 ). Isbell and Lovedahl ( 1989 ) found that former students were consistently ranked within the top three recruitment techniques in their study of 169 universities. Based upon these findings, they recommend that an up-to-date mailing list of graduates be maintained with on-going correspondence. In studies conducted by Edmund ( 1980 ) and Devier ( 1982 ) both found that teachers who were alumni tended to be important in the recruitment process.
Reputation of Automotive Program
Reputation of the automotive program was not an initial influencer that was identified from the literature. Many of the students who served on the panel of experts emphasized that the reputation of the automotive program had a strong influence on selecting a four-year automotive program. Based upon this response, the reputation of the automotive program was included in this survey.
Technology Recruitment Activities
Izadi and Toosi ( 1995 ) indicated that recruitment activities from the specific technology programs were important to student recruitment. Examples of these include activities within or promoted by student organizations and recognition of technology through a national effort such as a designated technology day or week.
University Recruiters Visiting My High School
Hossler, Bean, & Associates ( 1990 ) stated that individual visits to high schools by admission personnel were a useful method to recruit students. These visits may also include college days and fairs that are staffed by admission personnel, alumni or qualified volunteers.
Izadi & Toosi ( 1995 ) identified the athletic advisor/coach as another influence on students attending certain post-secondary education entities.
Paulsen ( 1990 ) reported that the officers from the admission office were one of the six most preferred information sources. Hossler, Bean, & Associates ( 1990 ) stated that individuals within the admissions office played significant role in selling the university and its programs to prospective students.
Research indicates that having prospective students on campus is one of the most effective recruitment tools, ( Craft, 1980 ; Edmunds, 1980 ; Hossler, Bean, & Assoc., 1990 ; Isbell & Lovedahl, 1989 ; Litten, 1989 ; Mobley, 1988 ; Wanat & Bowles, 1992 ; and Williams, 1993 ). Wanat and Bowles ( 1992 ) found that campus visits were viewed as the most powerful source of information in helping students make a decision about a school and the most effective recruiting activity used by college admission officers. Craft ( 1980 ) also stated that tours of college or university industrial laboratory facilities rank high in influences on students. Hossler, Bean, & Assoc. ( 1990 ) further supported this and stated that the campus visit is the most influential factor to get a student to enroll in a college or university.
The image and/or reputation of an institution can play a key role in the college selection process. Paulsen ( 1990 ) described a comprehensive study of 3,000 high school seniors. They were asked to examine and rank by importance a list of 25 institutional characteristics. Among the eight top responses were the general academic reputation and faculty teaching reputation of the university.
University Recruiters Visiting My Community College
Hossler, Bean, and Assoc. ( 1990 ) stated individual visits by admission representatives to community colleges and companies can be a useful method for recruiting students. Past studies indicated that a visit either to a college or high school by a recruiter was an influencer to students attending that university ( Craft, 1980 ; Williams, 1993 ).
When looking at institutional characteristics, Paulsen ( 1990 ) indicated that the closer to their home, the higher the university was ranked by students. Ihlanfeldt (1980) also stated that university location was one of four characteristics that was of pivotal importance.
Izadi & Toosi ( 1995 ) identified that bulletin board advertising as an influencer of students to attend universities. These bulletin boards could either be located at a community college or high school.
Promotional materials (brochures, letters, videos)
Promotional video tapes have also been used to market specific programs to encourage enrollment ( Hossler, Bean, & Assoc., 1990 ; Mobley, 1988 ;and Owens, 1988,1989; ). Mobley ( 1988 ) stated that student-oriented videos tend to raise the general interest of students in industrial/technology/vocational classes. He further stated that the development of a video to recruit females into the Industrial Technology program at Southeastern Louisiana University resulted in a 50% increase in female enrollment into the Industrial Technology program. Hossler, Bean, & Assoc. ( 1990 ) recommended the use of video tapes as a viable recruitment tool because of its visual orientation and that most prospective students have easy access to a videocassette player.
Written communications can take on varying forms in the area of recruitment. Personalized letters from the university to a prospective student can be effective in recruitment and attainment ( Mobley, 1988 ). Isbell and Lovedahl ( 1989 ) recommended in their study that faculty should keep in touch with students who are either recommended or inquire about a program. They further stated that interested high school students should be invited, through personalized letters, to visit the department. Edmund's ( 1980 ) found the use of departmental brochures and newsletters mailed to alumni and interested parties to be popular and effective.
Articulation or direct transfer from community college
Articulation between schools or 2+2 or 2+2+2 and school-to-work programs have also worked well as recruitment tools ( Bickart, 1991 ; Isbell & Lovedahl, 1989 ; and Shaw, 1994 ). Bickart ( 1991 ) recommended that faculty utilize articulation. He stated that partnerships between industry and K-12 schools would enrich academic preparation for the study at a university. He also emphasized that articulation should continue to be developed and expanded from transfer programs with community colleges. Shaw's ( 1994 ) research of articulation into Industrial Technology programs indicated the importance of using articulation as a tool in recruitment. He stated that involvement in 2+2+2 tech-prep projects should be an important priority of the university. Isbell and Lovedahl ( 1989 ) recommended that faculty should continue to articulate their programs to community and technical schools because these are a valuable resource for transfer of students into the university.
The target population for this study was all students enrolled in an Automotive Technology baccalaureate program in the United States. Students at the following schools were included: (1) Ferris State University in Big Rapids, MI, (2) Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, KS, (3) Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in Carbondale, IL, (4) University of Southern Colorado in Pueblo, CO, (5) Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, MO, (6) Weber State University in Ogden, UT, (7) Montana State University - Northern in Havre, MT, and (8) Indiana State University in Terre Haute, IN. All freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors from each school were surveyed (N=607).
The highest response category consisted of Seniors (42.1%), followed by Juniors (24.1%), Sophomores (17.5%), and Freshman (16.2%). Of the students that responded, the majority were males (94.8%) and a white racial/ethnic background (88.0%).
The survey instrument used in this study was developed by the researchers using previous research as presented in the review of literature section. A five-part Likert-type scale was used to indicate the importance placed on each of the items on the survey. Following is the scale used throughout the instrument: 1= not important, 2=slightly important, 3=important, 4=quite important, and 5=very important.
Validity and Reliability
A panel of experts was used to establish content and face validity for the survey. The panel consisted of three four-year automotive faculty, twenty of the four-year automotive students, one admission/recruitment specialist, one technical education faculty, and four occupational and adult education faculty. The panel of experts was asked to confirm that the instrument had clearly defined items, make suggested changes to items, offer suggestions for the addition or deletion of items and make comments relevant to the overall format and appearance of the instrument. It was recommended by the students who participated in the panel of experts that an additional item "Reputation of Automotive Program" be added to the instrument.
After revisions were made to the instrument, it was pilot tested with a group of twenty students within the four-year automotive program at Pittsburg State University. To measure internal consistency, a Cronbach's' alpha was calculated, with r = .84.
The department chairpersons for each of the eight universities were contacted by telephone to request their participation in this study. All eight of the universities agreed to participate. A packet of instruments was sent to each department chairperson with instructions on how to administer the instrument. Follow-up telephone calls to each department chairperson were made to obtain the best return rate possible. Of the 607 student surveys sent, 383 (63.1%) were returned. Of the 383 student surveys returned, 382 (99.7%) were usable. There was no attempt to follow-up non-respondents. Findings from this study can only be applied to the respondents of this study.
Once the surveys were returned, the data were entered into a SPSS database. A mean score was calculated for each item to demonstrate central tendency. Standard deviations were used to describe variability. Items on the survey that students did not respond to were coded as missing values. The highest number of missing values for any item was six out of the total of 382 respondents. Items with missing values were not included in the calculations of the means and standard deviations.
Recruitment items (Table 2) that students indicated as quite important included two items: reputation of the automotive program (M=4.39, SD=.98) and university reputation (M=3.86, SD=1.25). Nine of the items were indicated as important and included campus visits (M=3.37, SD=1.34), parents/relatives (M=3.26, SD=1.41), counselor/teacher (M=2.95, SD=1.47), technology recruitment activities (M=2.90, SD=1.43), friends (M=2.83, SD=1.51), university catalog (M=2.74, SD=1.21), location (M=2.74, SD=1.46), promotional materials (M=2.60, SD=1.40) and alumni (M=2.51, SD=1.44). The remaining six items fell into the slightly important category.
Table 2 Student Response to Recruitment Items
Mean Srd. Dev
Reputation of the Automotive Program 4.39 .98 University Reputation 3.86 1.25 Campus Visit 3.37 1.34 Parents of Relatives 3.26 1.41 Counselor/Teacher 2.95 1.47 Technology Recruitment Activities 2.90 1.43 Friend(s) 2.83 1.51 University Catalog 2.74 1.21 Location 2.74 1.46 Promotional Material 2.60 1.40 Alumni 2.51 1.44 University Recruiters Visiting High School 2.29 1.43 Articulation or Direct Transfer from Community College 2.29 1.48 Admission Office 2.25 1.43 University Recruitor Visiting Community College 2.04 1.40 Bulletin Board 1.90 1.26 Athletic Coach 1.78 1.14
Note: Scale used was: 1= Not Important, 2 = Slightly Important, 3 = Important, 4 = Quite Important, 5 = Very Important
Based upon the findings, two items were perceived as quite important for the recruitment of four-year automotive students: reputation of the automotive program and university reputation. Importance of the university's reputation is similar to findings in past research in academic programs. Paulsen ( 1990 ) and Wanat and Bowles ( 1992 ) indicated that this was an important recruitment item. As a reminder, the recruitment item reputation of automotive program was added because of suggestions from the panel of experts. There were no references from past research that included specific program reputation such as the automotive program.
Items found to be important to students included: campus visits, parents/relatives, counselor/teacher, technology recruitment activities, friends, university catalog, location, promotional materials, and alumni. This study supported previous research in that parents and relatives are influential factors in students attending educational programs. Gray & Herr ( 1995 ) and Speelman & Stein ( 1993 ) found in their studies that parents continue to have a strong influence over the choice that students make.
Students indicated that campus visits were important to them in deciding to attend a four-year automotive program. This supports past research which indicated that having prospective students on campus is one of the most effective recruitment tools. In addition to this, Wanat and Bowles ( 1992 ) stated that campus visits were viewed as the most powerful source of information in helping students to make a decision about a school and the most effective recruiting activity used by college admission officers.
This study differs from past research about the importance of counselor/teachers. In three past studies counselor/teachers were found to be the number one influence for students attending an industrial arts teacher education program. Students in this study indicated that this is an important item, but other items were more of an influence for them to attend the program they chose.
In past research conducted by Izadi and Toosi ( 1995 ), they found technology recruitment activities to be important to student recruitment. This study agrees with the past research in that students rated this item as important.
Within this study, students rated the item of friends as important to them in the recruitment process. The results of this study concur with some of the past research. It was rated lower in this study as compared to past studies where it was rated as highly influential or important to prospective students.
Past research found that the university catalog was important in persuading students to apply at a particular university (beyond the inquiry phase), whereas students in this study indicated that the university catalog was important to them in the recruitment process as a whole. University location was found to be important to the students in this study which agrees with past research. Students within baccalaureate automotive technology programs are similar to other university students in relation to their concern of the university location.
Students within this study indicated that promotional materials (brochures, letters and videos) were important to them. Past research also found these materials to be both effective and popular with students and with their aid, have seen an increase in the number of students enrolled in their programs.
Findings of this study conflict with past research in regard to the importance of alumni. In past studies, alumni were consistently rated as top recruitment methods. In this study, students indicated that alumni were important to them, but were at the low end of the important category.
The other six items were indicated as slightly important to students in this study. These findings are different than the findings of past research in the area of recruitment of students. This is of importance in that students in different educational programs may be influenced by different items. Information such as this is also important to recruiters because different influences within program areas may differ between these programs.
Recommendations for Practice
Persons who are involved in Automotive Technology recruitment should become familiar with the findings of this study. In order to better enhance recruitment of students and develop more effective recruitment strategies/plans, specifically for four-year Automotive Technology programs, there are certain techniques these recruiters should focus their time and efforts on. Each of these areas will be discussed individually.
The reputation of the automotive programs and university can be communicated to the prospective student in several ways. Examples may include: (a) placement statistics printed and made available to the students; (b) ranking of the programs and universities made available to the students; and (c) career opportunities should be emphasized as faculty visit high schools and share information with the high school students. Automotive program recruiters should be aware of how influential the reputation of their program is to prospective students and take steps to bolster their reputation
Recruiters need to continue to be aware of the influence that parents and relatives have over prospective students. While talking with students, they also need to communicate with the parents that may influence these prospective students. This may be achieved by letters, personal visits, telephone calls, and E-mail. The emphasis in this area is that parents/relatives are not ignored during the recruitment process.
Campus visits continue to be recognized by students as an important tool for recruiting students. The researchers recommend that recruiters try to persuade students to visit the campus early on in the recruitment process.
Counselor/teachers are still recognized as a major influence upon students. It is recommended that faculty within four-year automotive programs develop or continue their relationships with counselors and teachers at high schools and community colleges. Alumni also have a strong influence on prospective students and faculty are encouraged to continue their association with alumni.
Technology recruitment activities should continue to be included as a part of the recruitment process. Recommended activities may include the use of career fairs, technology days, and student organizations.
It is advised that recruiters continue to recognize the influence of friends in the recruitment process. As recruiters visit with prospective students, they should also attempt to access prospective students in social settings in which their friends are also present so they are receiving the same information for future discussion or decisions.
The use of the university catalog and promotional materials has a positive influence on recruitment activities. Even though the catalog is a fixed publication at many universities, time and effort should be placed upon its development and appeal to prospective students. Within the area of promotional materials, many different avenues can be explored. Brochures and videos will continue to play an important role here, but as technology advances, universities may look into the development of home pages and real-time videos or compact disc.
Recruiters need to remember the importance of location of the university to prospective students. The appeal of the community and campus may be emphasized by the recruiters to parents and students alike. If the distance is small between the university and the student's hometown, this should be stressed as well.
Recommendations for Future Research
For future study, it is recommended that research be conducted on how to incorporate the reputation of the automotive program and career opportunities into formal recruitment plans. In addition, since reputation of the automotive program was ranked the highest, it is recommended to investigate what "reputation" means to prospective students.
Since this research was conducted, its findings have been presented at a research conference. Based upon unpublished research, a suggestion was given to split the item counselor/teacher into two different recruitment items instead of one.
Whereas this research focused on recruitment items that influenced students to attend four-year automotive programs, it is recommended that future research concentrate on two different areas. The first area pertains to how the students first became aware of the program they attended and the second area is what was the final or most influential item they based their attendance of the program.
It is also recommended that studies be conducted to determine what barriers exist that may be preventing students from attending a four-year automotive program. It is further recommended that more in-depth research using qualitative methods be used to provide a more in-depth and insightful data in this area.
Since it was found that recruitment items had different levels of importance for students to attend four-year automotive programs, it is recommended that all technology-based programs research the recruitment items that may be particularly influential to their students. They may discover different findings than that of academic programs.
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ROBERT L. FRISBEE is Associate Professor, Technology Studies Dept., Pittsburg State University,1701 S. Broadway, Pittsburg, KS 66762-7561 [E-Mail: email@example.com ]. Dr. Frisbee's focus is gasoline and diesel engines and professional development.
GREG BELCHER is Assistant Professor, Technology Education Dept., Pittsburg State University, 1701 S. Broadway, Pittsburg, KS 66762-7561 [E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ] Dr. Belcher's focus is in research, research methods, and vocational teacher education.
RAY SANDERS is Associate Vice President for Career and Sponsored Programs, Lewis and Clark State College, 500 8th Avenue, Lewiston, ID 83501 [E-Mail: Rsanders@lcsc.edu ]. Dr. Sanders' focus is research and grant proposal writing.