The recruitment landscape for incoming students is as competitive as ever. In 2016, U.S higher education institutions spent a collective record of 1.65 billion dollars in paid advertising; in fact, most private non-profits spend anywhere from 1.5-6% of their annual operating budgets on paid advertising alone. But with the recent global pandemic caused by Covid-19, how will these trends change soon? What changes can we expect to college recruitment marketing?
Why so much?
Recent market trends have pushed ad spending up. More high school seniors are deciding to postpone college to find a job. This is in part due to the strength of the economy in the past few years, in fact, student enrollment at universities has gone down 11%, from 20.56 million enrolled in 2011, to 18.24 million in 2019.
Another reason is the increase in tuition cost having gone up approximately 25% in the past 10 years, making it unaffordable for many US families. Colleges will thus spend more to attract potential full-pay families who could subsidize the cost for lower income families. For many people coming out of high school, the value proposition of a higher education is not enough, due to the possibility of financial debt.
The Pandemic Effect
Things are no longer the same though. With the economic impacts caused by the Coronavirus being felt, expect some big changes in the near future. According to the College Advisors Group, most college students are rethinking their decisions for the upcoming 2020 Fall semester. According to this survey, most students are likely to pick schools closer to home. Students also want schools that are closer within their budget, since they fear the upcoming economic recessions.
This brings new changes and challenges when it comes to colleges marketing themselves to prospective students. There is a possibility that community colleges might become the preferred choice of many incoming Freshmen. Community colleges such as Cal State Fresno, has seen an influx of applications in the state college system. Most likely due to it’s lower cost, and the ability to transfer to a better known college once the pandemic has passed, and the economic situation of many families has stabilized in the next year or two.
Having a beautiful state of the art campus, with great weather and access to main cities with off campus activities might not be convincing propositions for incoming students. With expectations that the fall semester might be cancelled and held online, not many are willing to
spend upwards of 20,000 dollars for a semester where they must stay at home. This, combined the fact that a new Justice Department ruling is allowing colleges to reach out to students who have already committed to another school, creates more tension and competitiveness between higher education institutions.
Universities might soon need to change their college recruitment marketing strategies. They’re not able to show off the shiny new buildings, or the recreational activities with gleeful students during orientation. They need to focus on attracting students on a competitive price, and a bang for your buck value on the education they’ll be receiving.