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Higher Ed Marketers May Need a Reality Check

Do traditional college students have different—and higher—expectations than their nontraditional counterparts? It would seem so. A recent national study of more than 600,000 students reveals that traditional students are less satisfied with their college experience than online and adult learners. The 2017 National Student Satisfaction and Priorities Report found that 67% of adult learners and 74% of online learners reported they were satisfied with their experience overall compared to just over 50% of students at four-year public and private institutions and 64% of students at two-year public schools.

Why the disparity? Colleges assume that they know what students truly want in this day and age when they reach that all important college milestone—and why wouldn’t they? Admissions warriors are on the front lines of recruitment engaging, inquiring, learning, comparing and fighting for every enrollment.

But do they really know what students want? In the same study, students were asked to rate the importance of specific factors related to their original decision to enroll at their current institution.

top deciding factors

top deciding factorss


Students’ focus on the bottom line shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone in higher ed marketing: It’s a subject we’ve discussed before. But their “so-so” satisfaction with their overall college experience very well might. Is this a case of “buyer’s remorse” or do traditional (typically younger) students simply enter college with greater expectations than their (older and wiser) adult and online learning counterparts? This is definitely a topic for further discussion.


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