11 Higher Ed Statistics That Will Impact Your Marketing Strategy This Year

You want new students. More than that, you want new students that are excited about going to your school. But how do you garner that excitement? How do you make connections and facilitate engagement with new students so that they are excited about being your new students?

Answer: Intelligent marketing tactics that recognize audience behavior, values, and desires. This is the type of approach that gets prospective students excited about enrolling in your school. 

We want to help you make sure that your marketing is at the forefront of higher education, so we collected a list of statistics about each generation, and tips on how best to connect with them. Not only will your marketing benefit, but so will your school. Passionate students make the best learners, and the best learners make the best schools.

Higher Education Stats: Gen Z

Let’s start with four statistics about Gen Z students (born after 1999). These should equip you with the skills to effectively and successfully attract and engage this generation of students.

1. 14.5% more likely to give up on site

Despite its reputation for technological wizardry, Gen Z users make more mistakes than adults while using the internet and give up on complex or poor-performing sites more quickly, according to a Nielsen Norman Group study on usability“Fast-moving teens are also less cautious than adults and make snap judgments; this leads to lower success. We measured a success rate of only 71 percent for teenage users compared to 83 percent for adults.” 

Make sure your web design is simple and user-friendly. Don’t make a fuss over busy plugins or fancy features. Yes, teenagers like style and technological innovation, but if a page takes too long to load, or the content isn't immediately accessible, they will quickly move on to something else.

2. consume 2-4x more streamed video than network TV

Gen Z’s social media consumption habits are becoming increasingly different, according to a Forbes article citing statistics shared at SXSW. They watch between two and four hours of YouTube videos everyday, and less than one hour of network television. Gen Z is also twice as likely to use YouTube than millennials, and far less likely to use Facebook.

If you're trying to market to this audience, consider producing visual content for YouTube and Instagram. Whether it's video content, short ads before content, or even a beautiful Instagram feed, you are far more likely to connect with Gen Z on these platforms than on Facebook and Twitter. Regardless of past performance, if your target audience doesn't use a certain social media platform, don't spend your resources creating content for it.

3. 79% own a smartphone

Another statistic Forbes cites is 79 percent of teens ages 13-18 own a smartphone and they're twice as likely to make purchases on a mobile device compared to other methods.

This is an audience that has grown up in the digital age and has been exposed to mobile technology since birth. When you are trying to reach Gen Zers, make sure your site is mobile responsive and your content blends seamlessly across all mobile devices. This audience wants immediate access to information so, if you can't provide it, your competitors will.

4. 3x more likely to open a chat than an email

One of the hallmarks of Gen Z consumers is that they are more privacy conscious than other generations, which means they're far less likely to engage with schools in public forums like Twitter or Facebook. While Gen Z largely considers email an outdated method of communication, they are three times more likely to open a chat message received through a push notification on their device, according to the Forbes article.

Higher Education Stats: millennials

In April 2016, millennials (born 1983-1999) surpassed baby boomers as the nation's largest living generation, which means they wield a lot of purchasing power for schools who figure out how to reach them. To many colleges and universities, though, understanding how to engage with them is still a mystery. Here are four things to consider when targeting millennials.

5. The infamous '8-sec attention span'

A 2015 study by Microsoft found millennial attention spans have fallen from 12 seconds to eight since 2000, thanks to highly-digitized lifestyles. In fact, 77 percent of millennials told researchers they reach for their smartphone when nothing else is competing for their attention.

Positioned as having attention spans shorter than those of goldfish, millennials are surfing swiftly and looking for information immediately. So, make sure your website is designed to prioritize information and user experience. Wherever possible, cut out elements that interrupt the flow of information and contribute to slow load time. Eight seconds is shorter than you think.

6. 43% use Facebook most frequently

Customer acquisition platform, Fluent, released the results of a 2016 survey that found Facebook is the most frequently used social media platform for 43 percent of millennials polled. While it is, by far, the most popular social media platform among the generation, visual platforms like Youtube, Snapchat and Instagram, were favored by younger (ages 19-24) millennial respondents.

Millennials are a tricky target audience because their ages span a considerable evolution in technology and, as such, a huge disparity in digital savviness. Because of its massive reach, don't skirt Facebook, but consider branching out to different platforms that are gaining popularity among the younger half of this generation.

7. Average email use is 6 hours per day

Good news for traditional email marketing, millennials actually check their email more than any other group, according to an Adobe study. Timing is a big part of email success with this generation. About 70 percent of millennials check email in bed, the study reported. Sending emails either later in the evening (i.e., after getting home from work) or early in the morning (i.e., before going to work) may be a good way to ensure their eyes will land where you want them.

But, don't ignore your audience's preferences. Almost 40 percent of Millennial respondents wish they would receive fewer emails altogether, and 32 percent want fewer repetitive emails. The bottom line: Email marketing can be an effective tool for targeting these prospective students.

If you're going to use email campaigns, make sure you target your audience accurately so you're engaging with individuals who are actively searching for the information you're providing. Simply spamming your email list will only frustrate and disengage millennial audiences.

8. 78% prioritize experiences over possessions

More than three in four millennials (78 percent) of millennials would rather spend money on an experience than buying something decadent or desirable, according to an Eventbrite study on millennials' impact on the economy. They are all about experiences and creating and sharing memories. Consider creating warm and genuine content that rings true to this mindset. Highlight the experiences they'll have at your school and they memories they'll create rather than the tangible things they'll get for their investment.

To that end, be sure to highlight your college's volunteer opportunities, study abroad experiences, and philanthropic partnerships to satisfy millennials' shared desire to make the world a better place. For example, millennials are more passionate about climate change than any other issue, according to a survey by Global Shapers that studied more than 20,000 millennials in 181 countries. Put simply, to attract millennials, show them that the education they'll receive will help them generate change in the world.

Higher Education Stats: adult learners

American Public Media reports that about half the people who enroll in college in America, drop out before receiving a degree or credential. Maybe they put their studies on hold to start a family or make a career move. Perhaps they weren't ready for the rigors of college classes. Or maybe, they realized college just wasn't the right direction for them (we see you, Mark Zuckerberg).

Regardless of the reason they didn't finish college, adult learners—students over 25 who participate in the labor market and may have families—are a highly sought after target market for colleges and universities. Understanding their challenges and motivations will be crucial to meeting your enrollment goals. These are three statistics you need to consider.

9. 37 million and counting

Adult learners make up more than 20 percent of the American workforce—a number that is projected to increase over the next decade according education nonprofit World Education. That means it's only going to get more and more important to understand what this group cares about and how earning a college degree can help them achieve their personal goals.

10. 57% want to change careers or improve their job prospects

Make sure you understand what motivates adult learners. Thirty percent of adult learners said their primary reason for going back to finish school was to improve their career prospects, according to an Eduventures white paper. Likewise, 24 percent of survey respondents cited personal interest or enrichment as the primary motivator; 14 percent were hoping to earn additional licensure in their field; and 13 percent were hoping to change careers. 

It's important to understand who these students are and what they value most from their education. Due to increased responsibilities and commitments, most adult learners want to minimize time spent in class, and maximize the economic and educational payoff of their efforts, according to a DOL study on adult learners in higher education.

11. enrollment is projected to increase 20% by 2023

Right now, the number of college students over the age of 25 represents about 40 percent of the entire college student population in America, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In fact, adult learner enrollment is projected to increase 20 percent by 2023, compared to 12 percent for younger students. This population of potential students isn't going anywhere, so colleges and universities need to figure out how to best accommodate their academic goals. 

The data is clear that many adult learners are returning to earn degrees for very practical reasons. They want educational experiences that are relevant to them and can be applied to their current situation—whether they're hoping to advance in their current role or looking for a new one. Likewise, they need classroom modalities that allow for flexibility and self-paced learning.    

The Bottom Line

Classes don't start for another month, but engaging prospective students and getting them passionate about your school and what it can do for them starts right now. 

Make sure that the adult learner is confident about their enrollment because they know that you are going to be the perfect, flexible, adaptable fit for them and their busy schedule. Get the millennial student excited about their first day of class because you have proven that you are as devoted to their values as they are. Mobilize the Gen Zers to fill their goal wall with your swag. 

Don't let your marketing fall on deaf ears. Use these insights to reevaluate how you connect with your students and give yourself a leg up on the other institutions they're considering. You might end up having the most passionate cohort of incoming freshmen yet.