A study published last month by Learning House and Aslanian Market Research indicates a growing share of fully online higher education students are enrolling at schools farther away from home. The finding is based on a survey of 1,500 high school graduates who reported being enrolled, recently enrolled or planning to enroll in a fully online higher education program. The report does not specify the share of participants in each group, nor does it specify the institution type. We decided to tap into our Sparkroom performance marketing technology database and see if a growing number of fully online students and prospective students exists in the for-profit higher education sector.
A set of 10 institutions offering both campus-based and exclusively online programs gave us a body of more than 8,000,000 inquiries and 350,000 conversions (for the purposes of this post, an enrollment, start* from the period of January 2012 to March 2014. From this data set, we compared inquiries and conversions from states with a campus location and states without a campus location. Our data indicates the opposite of the Learning House and Aslanian Market Research study –the proportion of conversions for in-state students at for-profit institutions grew from 2012 to 2013.
There was high variance in share of in-state volume, largely depending on the number of states in which an institution has a campus location.
The graph above shows a much higher percentage of in-state volume for schools with campus locations in a greater number of states.
Isolating schools with locations in five states or fewer, we now see that out-of-state conversion volume has actually increased from Q1 2012 to Q1 2014 – in line with the Learning House and Aslanian Market Research. Specifically, volume grew in states adjacent to those with a campus location. This lends support to the notion of students being more willing to enroll online at schools with locations in other states. However, the area of growth seems to be within the region where the institution has a strong brand presence.
So, what does this all say about how to market online programs? In our data set, conversion rates were overall slightly higher for in-state inquiries than out-of-state inquiries. For the schools with locations in five states or fewer, in-state performance was two to three times higher than out-of-state performance. States adjacent to states in which campuses are located performed slightly better than other states. Thus, schools with a strong single-state or regional presence should focus on the states in which they have the strongest brand awareness.
However, the most important thing is to note that every school is different. Before making geo-targeting decisions, we strongly recommend a deep dive into inquiry performance.
Download “The Impact of Distance on Inquiry Generation Campaigns: How Custom Geo Targeting Can Produce Efficiencies” to learn more about strategic geo-targeting.
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