Students age 25 and older now make up about 40% of the total college population. And their numbers are on the rise—at even faster rates than traditional students. Reaching this growing market means an intentional look at your message and your methods.
Your Marketing Message
Let them know you get it. Busy with full-time jobs, families, and other grown-up responsibilities, the biggest question for adult learners is how they can possibly take on the demands of college. Show them you understand and that you care. Share testimonials of other students like them who have navigated the program with success.
Show them you mean it. It’s no secret that non-traditional college programs have to be structured in out-of-the-box ways. And the list of requirements for this audience is not simple. In fact, a recent Ruffalo Noel Levitz survey of adult learners identified 15 factors that are rated at 70% or higher as important for enrollment in a four-year institution. Because their decision-making is a complex mix of factors, this means your marketing message can’t simply focus on the top two or three.
- 93% Availability of program I wanted
- 92% Convenient time and place for classes
- 88% Flexible pacing for completing a program
- 88% Time required to complete program
- 86% Availability of financial assistance
- 85% Ability to transfer credits
- 85% Requirement for current or future job
- 84% Cost
- 83% Reputation of institution
- 80% Availability of online courses
- 79% High rate of job placement
- 78% Program accreditation by professional organization or trade group
- 76% Credit for learning gained from life and work
- 74% Distance from campus
- 72% Tuition reimbursement from employer
Exceed expectations. The RNL survey also measured “performance gaps” in adult learner satisfaction. While these students are largely satisfied with their non-traditional programs, there are identified areas for improvement. Topping the lists were variables such as: the opportunity to self-pace coursework, availability of course offerings within a program, and timely feedback from instructors. Can your institution shine in communicating these factors?
Your Marketing Methods
Keep it personal. When institutions ranked top methods for generating inquiries, face-to-face information sessions were rated as the number one most effective method by far for private and public four-year institutions. While referral programs and website forms were next for private schools, public institutions indicated more success with open house events and off-campus group meetings. Phone calls and personalized email messages were the most effective follow-up practices.
Customize the technology. An article by Craig Maslowsky, CEO and Founder of New Ed, explains that marketing resources for adult students “must be optimized to enhance the student’s experience, and designed in a way that they felt understood.” This includes particular attention to website design and content, search engine optimization, and CRM.
Is it time to re-imagine your marketing message and methods for reaching this critical audience? Let's talk about how we might collaborate with you and make an immediate impact.
National Center for Education Statistics. Digest of Education Statistics: 2014. Table 303.40. www.nces.ed.gov.
Ruffalo Noel Levitz (2015). 2015 adult learner marketing and recruitment practices benchmark report. Coralville, Iowa: Ruffalo Noel Levitz. Retrieved from www.noellevitz.com/BenchmarkReports.
Ruffalo Noel Levitz (2016). 2015-16 adult learners report. Cedar Rapids: Ruffalo Noel Levitz. www.ruffalonl.com.
The Evolllution (2017). Top Five Ways to Market Higher Education to Adult Students. www.evolllution.com.