Considerations for Higher Education Marketers

What To Expect in 2016

January is often a time to set goals and bask in the excitement for the start of a new year. It’s also an opportunity to think about what is in store in the coming months. Our higher education teams regularly interact with clients and stay current on what’s happening in the industry. We’ve done our homework and here are our thoughts on what this year will likely bring:

1. Mobile is still pervasive. Higher ed marketers must be there to be noticed. And not just there, but with simple navigation and quick, relevant content millenials want in key micro-moments. Millennials, in general, are well known for the amount of time they spend staring at their screens, and this characteristic can be applied to the U.S. college student segment of this group as well. May 2015 polling by Fluent among U.S. college students ages 17 to 25 found that the majority of respondents used their mobile devices at least six hours per day. Of this group, a substantial portion—nearly 40 percent—used these devices a whopping 11 hours or more daily.

2. First time in college students are still an important market segment. The majority of college students are, as expected, in their late teens or very early 20s, but older students are not a small niche. More than one-third were 25 or older as of October 2013, according to U.S. Census data. Nearly 15 percent were 35-plus. As the job market continues to be competitive, adult learners will continue to look to complete a four-year degree. And college graduates will still look for graduate degree programs as a way to increase their compensation or improve their opportunities for career advancement.

3. Communication about the value and cost of higher education will continue to be important. Along with their diplomas, 69 percent of graduating seniors at public and private nonprofit colleges in 2013 carried student loans, according to a November 2014 report from The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS). The average debt was $28,400. Prospective students and parents want to know that a degree will help them get a job that will enable them to pay off student debt.

4. A trend toward online courses will give further momentum to academic usage of digital devices. Analyzing U.S. Department of Education data from 2012, a June 2014 report by The Learning House (which is in the online education business) and Aslanian Market Research said 5.5 million students took at least one online course and 2.6 million “studied fully online.”

5. Marketers continue to be asked to do more with less. It’s no secret that recruitment budgets are not getting any bigger. All it takes is a quick look at the NACAC State of College Admissions Report to realize that cost per enrollment continues to be high, while budgets remain flat (or worse, decreasing). Admissions offices will need to look closer at each investment they are making and truly evaluate the ROI.

6. The search process will continue to start online. Students are researching colleges online and valuing the information they find. It’s also not just about social media – it’s about understanding where students are doing their research, and more importantly, being there when they are doing that research.

7. Transfers are still important. Enrollment managers have already retooled their transfer student recruitment strategy. What once was a “take what you get” approach is now a more active, focused and overall bigger piece of the overall enrollment puzzle. Recruiting transfer students is harder than it looks. The ones who master it will win the tuition discounting, net revenue and headcount games.

8. Social media is still an important part of the mix. Two-thirds of teens report that social media influences their decision about where to enroll in college. While they use social media, teens prefer not to have their initial contact with a college be via social media. According to “Mythbusting Admissions,” 67 percent of teens say Facebook is the most valuable of the many social channels they use.


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