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Is Online Education Growing?

January 22, 2015 Digital Media Solutions

A recent article on the blog e-Literate challenges the previously held notion that online education is continuing to grow and become the prominent choice for higher educational learning in the United States. Surprised to see this, we took a look at state, program and degree level data to compare notes.

Across the US, online inquiry volume in 2014 is down an average of 42 percent from 2012 and 39 percent from 2013. Most (if not all) states fell 25-35 percent in 2014. So on the surface, it appears that demand is down.

The drop in conversions (applications, enrollments or starts) for online programs is approximately 25-35 percent. This may be the result of schools working to reduce and optimize their online marketing presence and demanding fewer, higher quality inquiries, as we have noted in our quarterly trend analysis reports.

Programs in the business and homeland security categories (mostly criminal justice degrees) drive the average inquiry volume decline for online programs. But there are a few program types that managed to achieve results that were slightly better than average:

  • Health programs (like nursing and medical billing and coding): Down at a lower rate – 20 percent from 2013
  • Psychology: Managed to stay pretty flat, only dropping 1.3 percent from 2013
  • Liberal studies and communications: Actually increased – up 9.2 percent from 2013

While we do also see growth in smaller program categories, like engineering and precision production, this may be more due to the variability between schools and new programs rather than an overall trend.

Looking at data by degree type, undergraduate and lower programs declined the most, while master’s and doctorate degrees decreased in volume very slightly. Certificate degree inquiry volume managed to remain relatively flat, while conversion volume for this level program actually increased.


All in all, our global data agrees with that assessment made by Phil Hill in the article referenced above. According to our data, online programs inquiry volume has decreased significantly over the past two years with conversion volume also declining at a lower rate.

About the Author

Digital Media Solutions

Digital Media Solutions, LLC (DMS) is the leading global martech company leveraging innovative, performance-driven brand direct and marketplace solutions to connect consumers and advertisers. DMS deploys a robust database of consumer intelligence and leverages massive proprietary media distribution to provide customer acquisition campaigns that grow businesses. Continuing to experience explosive year-over-year growth, DMS has been continuously recognized on the Inc. 5000 list, securing its sixth consecutive ranking in 2019, and the Entrepreneur magazine 360 list. Earlier this year, DMS announced it is anticipating becoming a public company under a reverse merger deal with Leo Holdings Corp. Named one of America’s “Best Places to Work” by Inc. magazine and awarded the Excellence in Lead Generation Award by the LeadsCouncil, DMS brings together some of the industry’s most knowledgeable people, efficient processes and sophisticated technology across the digital marketing spectrum. For more information about DMS, visit Keep up with DMS news at and connect with us on LinkedIn at

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