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The 2019 Survey of College and University Admissions Officers: 8 Highlights For Enrollment Marketers

September 30, 2019 Kathy Bryan

In September, in partnership with Gallup, Inside Higher Ed (IHE) published the 2019 Survey of College and University Admissions Officers. Based on responses from 336 college admissions officers, including 148 from public institutions, 185 from private nonprofit institutions and three from for-profit colleges, IHE reported that most colleges and universities did not achieve their 2019/2020 enrollment objectives by July 1, 2019. This article highlights eight elements from the report that are likely to be most useful for enrollment marketers.

1. Admissions Goals Were Missed By Most Higher Education Institutions.

Just one-third (37%) of colleges and universities achieved their admissions goals by May 1. An additional 11% of schools met their enrollment objectives as of July 1, leaving slightly more than half of schools (52%) with empty seats. The 2019 enrollment results were comparable to 2017 and 2018, according to the IHE report.

  • Private nonprofit colleges and universities had greater enrollment success than public institutions. 47% of private nonprofit schools missed their admissions marks, compared to 56% of public schools.
  • Associate programs were hardest to fill. Enrollment goals were missed for 61% of associate programs at public schools.
  • College admissions is stressful for higher education professionals. Only 1% of admissions officers at public schools were not concerned about achieving their admissions goals this year.

2. Colleges & Universities Are Increasing Recruitment Efforts For Minority Students.

Consistent with prior year reports, due to enrollment misses, most admissions officers are planning to increase recruitment efforts across a variety of student groups, including undergraduates, transfer students and first-generation college students. However, for the 2020/2021 enrollment period, the percent of admissions officers “focusing efforts on minority students is a six-point increase from 2019 (71%), and is the highest measured to date.”

3. Out-Of-State College Students Are In Demand.

More than three-quarters of private and public, four-year colleges and universities are taking measures to grow their out-of-state enrollment, and most of the admissions officers at these schools say their efforts have been successful. Although, according to IHE, “seeking higher out-of-state enrollments can be controversial, as many state taxpayers believe public institutions should primarily serve in-state students,” but admissions officers reported relatively little scrutiny from their scaled out-of-state enrollment volume.

4. Growth In International Enrollments Has Slowed.

International student enrollment is still climbing, but not at the rates of the past.

According to IHE, a number of factors are contributing to the decline in international enrollment growth:

  • U.S. tuition costs are high.
  • More international colleges and universities are competing for international students.
  • “America First” rhetoric may be discouraging international students.

5. Student Debt Rates May Be Discouraging Prospective Students.

For the past three years, at least 80% of admissions officers have reported that they believe their institutions are “losing potential applicants due to concerns about accumulating student loan debt.”

This apprehension is greater for admissions officers at private schools (91% believe student debt rates may be a turnoff) than for public school admissions officers (72%).

6. Prospective Students May Not Understand The Value Of A College Degree.

Almost all admissions officers “believe that higher education needs to do a better job explaining the value of a college degree.” This sentiment has been fairly consistent for the past four years, according to IHE. Liberal arts programs, specifically, have a perception challenge. Only 1% of admissions officers strongly agree that parents of prospective students “understand the value of a liberal arts education.”

According to the IHE admissions report, the value of a college degree has been put into question due to news about:

  • Unemployed/underemployed college graduates
  • Increasing student debt

7. Most Schools Are Using Digital Communications Tools To Interact With Prospective Students.

Digital communications tools have become commonplace, with 88% of admissions officers stating their colleges use such tools, including chat boxes or social media, to engage with prospective students.

  • 53% of colleges and universities have digital tools to help predict the likelihood of prospective student application and enrollment.

8. Community College Perceptions May Be Impacting Recruitment Efforts.

According to IHE, enrollment numbers have declined at community colleges each of the past eight years. Based on responses from community college admissions directors, the decline is primarily caused by competition from nonprofit and for-profit colleges combined with perception issues related to:

  • Whether or not college degrees and certificates help people “get ahead economically”
  • Student loan volume
  • Poor completion rates

80% of community college admissions officers believe there is insufficient marketing for their schools and programs.

DMS Education Helps Colleges And Universities Fill Seats

DMS Education connects high-intent students with colleges and universities by deploying an extensive portfolio of owned-and-operated education-focused properties and a diversified multi-channel media mix. Through support of traditional and for-profit colleges, trade schools, community colleges, boot camps, continuing education providers, OPMs and agencies, DMS Education has a long history of deploying predictable, reliable and scalable education marketing. 

Contact DMS

About the Author

Kathy Bryan

Kathy Bryan is the Senior Vice President of Corporate Marketing and Communications at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), the fastest-growing independent digital performance marketing company. In this role, Kathy is responsible for all aspects of marketing and communications for DMS and its subsidiary brands. Since its inception, DMS has evolved into an award-winning, full-service performance marketing company demonstrating 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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