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RESEARCH: Higher Education must “prove value”

Higher Education Value

In a collaborative effort between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, HCM Strategists, and Edge Research, a recent study was conducted to understand the declining enrollment in higher education among 18- to 30-year-olds who have not attended or completed college. The survey aimed to uncover the mixed perspectives and shifting marketplace in regards to the value of higher education. Key findings from the study, including insights from focus groups and a national survey, bring attention to the need for “higher education institutions to prove their value to potential students who are increasingly drawn to immediate, lower-cost options.”

Shift in Perceptions of Higher Education Value

According to the study, both high school students and non-enrollees evaluate the decision to attend a college or university based on a cost-benefit analysis, considering whether the investment of time and money will guarantee economic stability. However, the study reveals that these audiences are increasingly attracted to shorter, cheaper, and more directly job-oriented paths, such as credentials and job training programs. While still recognizing some value in traditional higher education options, non-enrollees view job training and licensing courses as more valuable. This sentiment is also shared by high school students.

Pain Points and Support Needed

The study identified three distinct phases of the college journey: pre-college, paying for college, and attending college. It revealed specific pain points and concerns for each audience group. High school students expressed a lack of knowledge and fear of making wrong decisions, particularly in the areas of financial aid and course selection. Non-enrollees, on the other hand, faced additional complexities with family responsibilities and jobs, necessitating support in completing applications, making informed educational choices, and being prepared socially and emotionally for college.

Desire for Expert Help and Financial Assistance

The cost of college and living expenses remain significant barriers and concerns for both high school students and non-enrollees. In addition to financial assistance, these audiences expressed a strong desire for expert guidance throughout their college journeys. This includes assistance in academic planning, financial aid applications, finding apprenticeships and internships, and navigating the job market. The study emphasizes the importance of providing this type of support to connect the dots between college education and future careers.

Impact of Information and Media

The study also highlighted the impact of information and media on perceptions of higher education. High school students primarily relied on school counselors, parents, and teachers as their sources of information, while non-enrollees depended more on Google searches, college websites, social media, and their peers. The tone and type of information received significantly influenced their perspective on college attendance. Those who perceived their information to be positive were more likely to indicate future attendance.

We can help

Again, the study brings attention to the need for higher education institutions to prove their value to potential students who are increasingly drawn to immediate, lower-cost options. It emphasizes the importance of providing support and guidance throughout the college journey, addressing the specific pain points identified during each phase. Additionally, the study highlights the role of information and media in shaping perceptions of higher education. By providing positive and accurate information, institutions can positively influence college attendance rates among the target audiences.

Advance 360 Education can help. Advance 360 Education’s focus on brand development and management helps institutions establish a distinctive identity, increase visibility, and manage their reputation effectively. By crafting compelling brand narratives, implementing strategic brand marketing initiatives, and monitoring brand sentiment, Advance 360 Education enables institutions to strengthen their brand equity and foster trust and loyalty among key prospects, students and alumni. This focus on brand development and management ensures that institutions can position themselves effectively in the market, attract top talent, best-fit students, and maintain a competitive edge in today’s challenging higher education landscape.