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2020 Sees Emergence Of New Trends In Higher Education Demand

September 30, 2020 Carolyn Harding

The higher education sector continues facing unprecedented changes throughout nearly every aspect of the industry as a result of economic and behavioral shifts from COVID-19. The widespread transition to online learning, increased interest in advanced degrees and rising popularity of higher education programs in psychology and education are among the top trends emerging from the ongoing pandemic, according to H1 2020 Higher Education Inquiry Generation Trends report by Digital Media Solutions (DMS). 

Online Higher Education Program Interest Spiked As Social Distancing Requirements Persisted  

As colleges and universities grappled with the uncertainty surrounding a physical return to campuses, interest for online higher education programs took center stage. Inquiry volume for these online programs rose 10.5% year-over-year (YOY) during the first half of 2020. The overall share of online program volume jumped to 66.3% during the first half of 2020, up from 62.4% during the same period in 2019. Interest in online programs peaked during Q2 2020, growing by 26.1% during the reporting period of January 2018 through June 2020.

Americans Sought Out Advanced Degrees To Become More Marketable Amidst Financial Uncertainty & Unemployment

With unemployment reaching historic levels, many Americans were faced with the reality of layoffs and financial uncertainty, while recent college graduates experienced challenges obtaining jobs post-graduation. As a result, this combination of groups sought out advanced degrees in an effort to make themselves more marketable. Of all higher education degree levels, graduate programs experienced the greatest growth in interest in the first half of 2020. The largest spike in interest was for doctorate-level degrees, with a YOY inquiry volume increase of 10.3%, followed by master’s degrees, with a 7.1% YOY increase.

Psychology & Education Are Among The Top Higher Education Programs Growing In Popularity

In response to COVID-19, many consumers experienced distress, anxiety and depression during the first half of 2020. As a result, prospective student interest in higher education programs in psychology saw the largest spike, with prospective student inquiry volume rising 24.2% YOY. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment of psychologists is projected to grow 3% from 2019 to 2029.” The surging interest in mental health resources, higher education psychology programs and tele-health services could combine to foster continued growth in psychology careers.

Similarly, higher education programs for education brought in the second-highest interest growth rate, experiencing a 13.8% YOY spike during the reporting period. While Americans navigated the effects of COVID-19, teachers were quickly identified as essential. This increased prospective student demand in education programs could be attributed to the heightened praise teachers, across all levels, received during the first half of 2020, as they quickly transitioned to an online learning model.

How Can Marketers Apply This Data To Create Effective University Marketing Campaigns?

One of the key findings from H1 2020 Higher Education Inquiry Generation Trends report, and arguably the most prominent change the higher education industry is facing today, is the growing demand for online learning in the wake of campus shutdowns. With this evolution, marketers have an opportunity to determine if additional higher education programs can be offered online in the long-term in order to broaden appeal. 

The overarching takeaway from the newest DMS report, however, is that marketers must stay on top of trends surrounding prospective student interest and incorporate timely messaging into their outreach, whether through featured placements on websites, spotlights on social media channels or similar strategies. Higher education marketers can effectively reach prospective students by offering customized messaging for various target audiences in order to address each individual's specific concerns (adult learners looking to advance their careers vs. traditional students, for example). 

Findings from H1 2020 Higher Education Inquiry Generation Trends report show a strong likelihood of continued pandemic-related effects on the higher education industry. For marketers looking to adjust to these evolving changes in order to reach prospective students, identifying industry trends and predictions for the future, like those revealed by DMS, is key for long-term success. 

Download the H1 2020 Higher Education Inquiry Generation Trends Report

H1 2020 Higher Education Inquiry Generation Trends report, published by DMS,  covers trends in the prospective student research, inquiry generation and student acquisition activities of higher education institutions for the period of January 2018-June 2020. The objective of this report is to provide a snapshot of higher education-specific marketing evolution and highlight trends to help marketers better understand and adapt to the continually changing landscape, with a focus on H1 (January-June) 2020 education demand trends.

Are You Looking To Connect With Prospective High-Intent College Students At Scale?

DMS Education is a thought leader in education and martech-enabled digital media distribution. Through our support of traditional and for-profit colleges, trade schools, community colleges, boot camps, continuing education providers, OPMs and agencies, we have seen it all. Led by industry veterans and dating back to our founding in 2002, DMS Education provides predictable, scalable and reliable education marketing.

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About the Author

Carolyn Harding

Carolyn Harding is an Associate Manager of Communications at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), the fastest-growing independent digital performance marketing company. DMS helps its clients accelerate growth by deploying diversified and data-driven customer acquisition solutions that deliver scalable, sustainable and measurable marketing results. DMS performance marketing solutions connect the right consumers with the right offers at the right time to achieve the marketing objectives of our clients. DMS is continually innovating to provide new and emerging media and technology solutions that minimize waste and maximize results across the most competitive industries. Since its inception, DMS has demonstrated incredible year-over-year growth which has earned recognition on the Inc. 5000 list in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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