Trends in Higher Education Marketing and Engagement

Trends in Higher Education Marketing and Engagement

MindMax is committed to being at the forefront of emerging trends in higher education marketing and engagement

Recently, we hosted an internal Lunch and Learn event where Kim Galiette, Director of Content Strategy, and Lillian Kerrigan, Sales Operations Manager, analyzed insights and key takeaways from the UPCEA fall 2022 events. 

Here is a comprehensive overview of the presentation they shared.

Key Higher Education Trends in Enrollment

Enrollment trends look different in the post-pandemic landscape than they did pre-2020. Interestingly, many of the temporary solutions put in place during the height of the pandemic are now permanent fixtures in higher education. 

Key insights from EducationDynamics’ Marketing and Enrollment Management Benchmarks 2022 report reveal these higher education enrollment trends:

  • Online learning is one of the most in-demand modalities sought by students (especially adult learners) 
  • Students demand flexibility and opportunities to learn on their own schedule 
  • Demographics have changed, with traditional college enrollments (i.e., people aged 18-24 who go right from high school to college) in decline
  • There is a need to meet students where they are, whether through support services, retention services, or reenrollment initiatives (39 million Americans have started but never finished college
  • College students (growing adult learners) are more diverse than ever before
  • Students are cost-conscious and focused on ROI—they want immediate outcomes that benefit them (e.g., a salary increase, job mobility, a job promotion) 
  • Alternative credentials and workforce upskilling is a trending focus

Students Question the Necessity and Value of Traditional Education

Jim Fong, Founding Director of UPCEA’s Center for Research and Strategy, shared some interesting stats regarding trends in traditional education at UPCEA’s 2022 regional conferences.

  • Enrollment for undergraduate and graduate students decreased by 4.1% in 2022 compared to 2021
  • The number of high school graduates enrolling in college has dropped 7% (from 70% to 63%) nationwide
  • More than 4 in 10 bachelor’s degree holders under 45 did not agree that the benefits of education exceeded the costs 
  • The proportion of 14 to 18-year-olds who think postsecondary education is necessary declined by 15% 
  • The inflation-adjusted average cost of a 4-year college education has doubled since 1974 and is up 66% for a 2-year degree
  • Only 6 in 10 Americans surveyed recently stated that college is worth the time and money

MindMax’s Key Takeaways from These Trends and Insights

In analyzing these trends and insights from the perspective of higher education marketing and enrollment, MindMax has developed these key takeaways:

  • Messaging must be sincere, relatable, and personalized. Adult learners are savvy. They’ve done their research, know what they want and need, and seek a genuine connection between the message and the brand that’s speaking to them.
  • Adult learners are complex, diverse, and cost-conscious. They are juggling families, careers, aging parents, and more. Before enrolling in a program, they want to know that they will have flexibility and get a good return on their investment.
  • Outreach should be segmented behaviorally and demographically for a growing online adult learner. The objective is to meet prospective students where they are.
  • Adult learners are looking for online programs. Online degree searches currently outperform overall higher ed searches.
  • Multi-channel approaches continue to be successful. If your school isn’t leveraging a full-funnel omni-channel marketing approach, it’s time to get started.
  • OTT (over-the-top) marketing channels offer new ways to reach audiences. The pandemic drove a surge in the consumption of streaming content on platforms like Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu. Is your school marketing on these channels?

Perhaps our biggest takeaway, however, is that schools must meet students where they are!

Increasing the Focus on Adult Learners

With an increased focus on reaching adult learners amid declining traditional enrollments, it’s helpful to understand more about this demographic. The information in this section can be credited to Jim Fong’s UPCEA presentations.

Current adult learner market in the US

Fortunately, the opportunity size of the current adult learner market in the United States is quite large! While the traditional higher education market consists of 19.4 million potential students, the adult higher education market comprises 258.3 million people—that’s 78% of the US population and 13x larger than the traditional market.

Where do the new adult learners come from?

The adult learner market is made up of these primary groups:

  • Career professionals. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) doubled from 2019 to 2021.
  • Non-commuters. One-third of online students live more than 50 miles from campus.
  • Military. Approximately one million veterans access their GI bill benefits each year.
  • Formerly incarcerated. More than 650,000 people are released from prison annually.
  • New traditional. Fully online 18-22-year-old undergrads more than doubled from 2018-2020. 

How can schools reach adult learners?

Social media is an effective marketing channel for reaching adult learners. However, schools must select social platforms strategically based on what different demographics indicate are trusted social media sources when considering a continuing education or training program. 

For example, older millennials trust LinkedIn and Facebook but not TikTok, but for Generation Z, TikTok is considered a trusted social media source.

MindMax Is Prepared to Help Your School Grow Enrollments

As the higher education marketing landscape continues to evolve, you can trust MindMax to stay ahead of the trends and partner with your school to implement effective marketing and enrollment campaigns to reach adult learners. 

We’ve seen great success with our recently launched re-enrollment services, which helped California State University, Dominguez Hills grow re-enrollment by 245% in 2022-2023

To learn more about MindMax’s re-enrollment services and other offerings, contact us today!