Takin’ It Old School
E-forms are exploding onto the scene. As a result, educational institutions operate by a different set of procedures today than they did when young adults of the MTV generation started to receive their college diplomas just a few years ago. For example, students can now take tests online, register for Internet courses, fill out financial aid applications via the Internet, and those in college can obtain semester grades from their school’s Web site. All of these acts eliminate the unnecessary costs of ordering traditional paper-based forms. In addition, the use of e-forms lowers expenses for keying data, printing and distributing. Add budget cuts to the mix, and manufacturers catering to this market could find themselves having to tweak their business model.
More than 80 percent of states’ budgets are in trouble because of cuts and tax revenue declines. Despite President Bush’s plan to reform America’s high schools, in his budget proposal released in February, he suggested reducing federal spending on education by more than $3 billion. Therefore, more schools are teaming up with their states to find solutions yielding cost savings on educational products.
So, what does this mean for distributors who sell to this niche market? Despite the increasing popularity of e-forms, profits still exist in paper forms, including accident reports, attendance forms, cafeteria forms, demerit slips, financial aid forms, labels (for file folders), mailers, newsletters and registration forms. But, closing a forms sale, with colleges in particular, requires more effort than guaranteed money makers, such as e-forms, because many large schools often have in-house print shops. In fact, out of 202 universities surveyed by In-Plant Graphics, a sister publication of BFL&S, 57 percent have insource printing. On the other hand, elementary and secondary schools have centralized purchasing and distribution of forms. Nevertheless, these institutions may lack the ability to produce promotional items, thus requiring them to go to an outside source, proving that distributors’ persistence and ingenuity influence success.