You probably know that higher education is undergoing some changes, these days. Between new legislation, rising costs, and a more diverse student body, there’s a lot for institutions to think about. But what does this mean for higher ed marketers? We discuss 3 big trends in higher education and what they mean for higher ed institutions and their marketing teams.
- Declining enrollment
Student enrollment is declining across institutions, and has hit small for-profit colleges harder than others. 4 in 10 private colleges actually missed their 2016 enrollment and revenue goals. Moreover there is a definite increase in competition among colleges and universities which puts additional strain on enrollment numbers. This translates into more challenges for marketers as more schools compete for ad space.
So what does this mean for your marketing approach? First of all, your marketing goals should align with your enrollment objectives. This doesn’t necessarily mean that every marketing channel needs to directly drive student applications, but instead that your marketing plan takes into account the buyer’s journey so that your dollars are spent effectively and draw a prospective student down the desired path to application.
- Greater flexibility in methods of learning
Another prominent trend in higher education is the rise in video consumption that is occurring across fields. This shift is changing the way people consume content. Instead of reading an article, we prefer to watch a short video on the same topic. Or when you have a customer service question, we may prefer to use a company’s website chat feature. These trends are true in higher education as well. Students who once bought textbooks to accompany lectures now expect a more interactive experience, such as online group sessions. Students want their lectures to be available after the class so they can go back and review. And in some cases, students want apps to manage their work.
How can marketers address this flexible learning trend? Content marketing is a great way to give prospective students an idea of what your institution has to offer. For example, seize this trend yourself by creating video content on your site. Or, write some content on how flexible learning methods can help you identify the career that’s right for you (bonus points if you gate this). Understanding what prospective students are looking for, and addressing their needs, will help you in attracting them to your site.
- Increase in non-traditional students
The number of college students over 25 has increased in the past 10 years, changing the definition of a “traditional” college student. Moreover, the number of working students, students who are also parents, and student veterans is increasing. And according to the CLASP
Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success, the number of non-traditional students is projected to increase more than twice as fast as traditional student enrollment from 2012 to 2022.The needs of these students are therefore different than students just out of high school. Often they look for greater flexibility in learning (see above), but also more flexibility in terms of hours. They may also look for different financial aid options.
How does this trend in higher education pertain to marketing? Understand your student personas. What are your personas’ pain points? Where do they go to look for information? And what can you provide them to help them? Asking these questions and more can ensure that your site or advertising is addressing all your prospective students, not just the traditional ones.
You’ve learned some of the top trends in higher education and understand how marketing can address them. So what’s next?
Establishing a strategic approach to your marketing plan is key, as is the ability to track performance and measure the effectiveness of your tactics. You may not be able to anticipate all the trends in higher education, but having your own baseline can help you understand what is working for your institution and what isn’t.
Marian Visonà is Director of Analytics and SEM who loves data and likes to keep up to date with the latest digital trends. When she’s not preparing reports and spreadsheets, she’s out analyzing the KPIs of various Providence eateries. In food and performance optimization, testing is key!