Current enrollment trends are forcing enrollment professionals to face a changing landscape and an increasing challenge to engage a digital-first prospective student.
As the behaviors of prospective students evolve, enrollment professionals must adapt at the risk of becoming irrelevant.
Recently, we commissioned a marketing firm to research the needs and enrollment trends Enrollment and Admissions directors are seeing across the country. The firm conducted interviews with VPs and Directors across the country. Here are the top trends they uncovered as well as some other key insights we’ve heard from our partners:
1. More Detailed Questions
Prospective students are asking more detailed questions of the admissions staff. They want specific reasons why they should apply at a specific school. Admissions counselors spoke about spending more time asking detailed questions in the past.
The top questions they were asked are:
“What do you offer and how does that align with what I am interested in?
“Do I have the right credentials?”
“Can I afford this?”
“Is this degree worth it?”
“How does financial aid work?”
“What resources do you have to support me?”
Students are concerned about how the school can help them achieve their goals. While many students still see college as the next step in their career journey, a growing number is more concerned about why they should enroll at all and especially at a specific school.
“Can you tell me more about your academic programs?” – Students
In every single interview, the respondents stressed how students wanted to understand what programs were offered and what type of learning environment they preferred. Respondents stressed how prospective students were asking counselors to help them understand which programs they would like and what careers those programs led to.
This is challenging for most schools. Schools with many degree programs struggle to personalize this information for all of their prospective students. While many schools said they were trying to determine which major might be of interest to a student, they expressed how hard it is to get students to accurately state a major their interested in and to create appropriate content for each major.
Critically, 50% of prospective students don’t know what degree they’d like to study, leaving schools with the challenge of trying to find a major to help the student get excited about the school.
Additionally, schools with complex degree offerings found it was difficult to explain the nuances of their offerings.
3. Cost of Education
“How am I going to afford this?” – All Prospective students
In the last ten years, tuition costs have grown at least 40% across private and public schools. With students and parents increasing sensitivity to student debt and the negative perception of college tuition in the media, branding and messaging can be a challenge to combat the current conversation regardless of the success of graduates from colleges. what the debt will mean for them.
Both traditional and nontraditional students are concerned about costs. The Princeton Review found in their 2019 Colleges Hopes & Worries Survey that student’s biggest concern was the level of debt. When asked the question “What’s your biggest concern about applying to or attending college?” 42% of respondents said “Level of debt… to pay for the degree”. This has been the largest concern for students for seven years in a row.
From a study done by EducationDynamics: 49% of post-traditional students name cost as one of the two top factors in their decision about where to enroll.
We heard from almost all respondents that they spent a great time explaining financial aid and how a student could afford a school.
“What are the post-graduation outcomes for this program?” – Parents and Adult learners
Many of the respondents stressed how often they are asked about the career outcomes for their program. With the cost of education, parents and adult learners are concerned as much with what comes after graduation as they are with what will happen in the classroom.
Education is being viewed more as an investment with a direct payoff than an inherent goal. People want to know what they can expect after they graduate.
“We want to personalize this information for prospective students” – Various Directors of Enrollment
From giving students the appropriate time on applications to providing a unique context for them, we heard from most respondents they want to tailor more of the process for the students.
It seems that respondents are searching for a way to answer the common questions – what program, what cost, what outcome – individually for students. Directors want prospective students to have these questions answered for them before they enroll.
6. Online and Non-Traditional Students
Prospective students are a shifting demographic with a majority being from older age groups, more career-focused students than prior classes. An EducationDynamics study from earlier this year actually shows that “up to 75% of students fall under the category of post-traditional learners; depending on how narrowly you define the term.”
Post Traditional students:
- Live off-campus
- Are 24 years or older
- Are working professionals
- Seek career-related degrees
Based on our findings, it’s imperative to be able to answer these questions more readily and provide the information they need in a personalized and easily digestible way. Delivering individualized career pathways and academic plans to students with related salary data, promotion paths, and best-fit career and degree matching will surely have your school standout.
With an ever-increasing demand to answer all of these questions in one place, a growing number of schools are turning toward career pathing software in the enrollment process to better engage students and keep up with enrollment trends.