As our country emerges from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges and universities are facing declining enrollment and shrinking class sizes in the years to come. According to the Washington Post, US college enrollment has dropped five percent since 2019. Since 2020, nearly one million students have either left college or chosen not to start after graduating from high school.
The student population decline can be attributed to many factors, including recent public health concerns and increased opportunities in the workforce, but one of the most predominant elements is growing doubt about the true value of higher education. To reach these dubious potential students, colleges and universities must address their biggest priorities and highlight the unique benefits of attending their institution.
The first challenge to tackle is outlining the long-term financial benefits of a college degree. Right now, many young adults find they can make an immediate financial impact by skipping college and jumping into the workforce full-time. For some adults, finding a steady job out of high school can be a smart and economical choice. However, for those looking for stable, lasting financial success, colleges still have compelling statistics on their side.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, students who earn a bachelor’s degree earn an average of 66 percent more than those with a high school diploma, while those with an associate’s degree can earn 25 percent more. For money-conscious young adults, this can be an extremely compelling reason to pursue a degree. If your institution has gathered specific data on the earnings of your own graduates, be sure to display those figures prominently on any recruiting materials you create.
Customization & Flexibility
In recent years, many colleges have adapted their degree programs to be more customizable and fit students’ unique needs. Some schools now offer create-your-own majors, online classes with flexible schedules, and tuition assistance through local business partners. To promote these attractive programs to a highly targeted audience of potential students, consider developing more customized sets of marketing materials that explain each option in depth. For example, some materials could be distributed to local businesses informing employees of the tuition assistance programs, while others could be mailed to young families who may benefit from online courses.
It may also be worth including statistics on how many people at your school balance part-time jobs with a full-time class load. Across the US, about 43 percent of full-time students worked at least 20 hours a week, according to the US Department of Education. Knowing they can continue to earn an income while setting themselves up for future success can quell many of the common fears young people have today.
Social & Personal Developments
While financial benefits can be a huge selling point for many prospects, other potential students will be better persuaded by social, personal, and professional development benefits. Many former college students remember their time at school fondly, thanks to a vibrant walkable community, plentiful social activities, or opportunities for personal and professional growth. Including testimonial accounts from past graduates about how your school has impacted their lives can be an effective way to connect with potential students, allowing them to visualize what their future could look like if they attend your institution.
To further understand what past and present students appreciate most about campus life, your team could also try distributing a survey to the student body and alumni groups. In the survey process, you may discover your current students have stuck around because they love your school’s cultural exhibits and events, or because they’ve been able to access internship and networking opportunities. Getting the perspective of the students who did choose your school can help frame your strategy for attracting and securing more prospects like them in the future.
Despite their growing population and desire to attend college or university, people of color are still historically underrepresented on many campuses. To increase overall attendance numbers, institutions must speak to the needs of a more diverse society and develop an understanding of their priorities when selecting a school. According to a survey from Inside Higher Ed, that means colleges must go beyond surface-level representation and emphasize the resources they offer to students of different backgrounds.
The research from Inside Higher Ed indicates most minority students tend to prioritize academic reputation, lower cost, a wide range of majors, and scholarship opportunities. As you update recruiting materials to reach a more diverse audience, consider including statistics and data that support those themes rather than boasting about the current diversity of the staff or student body. Though well-intentioned, that approach can feel inauthentic or misleading to many communities. However, it can also be helpful to illustrate the specific ways your institution advocates for diverse students through quantitative goals, including increased support services for diverse groups, minority-focused scholarships, and other actions.
Though much of the education world has moved online, print recruiting materials can xstill make a big impact on prospective students. We’ve worked with many higher education institutions in our 90 years of business, and we’ve seen firsthand how catalogs, brochures, and other physical prints can provide a wealth of information in one convenient place. These materials can be handed out during in-person recruiting events or even mailed to potential students’ doors. If you’re interested in learning more about developing high-quality print recruiting materials, we’re happy to chat with you or help direct you to a local printer in your own area.