Many of today’s young adults are asking themselves whether or not to attend college. And it’s a question that marketing teams at U.S. colleges and universities would benefit from asking themselves.
It’s no secret the national student debt has skyrocketed in recent years. As of 2016, 42 million people owe $1.3 trillion on their loans. That astronomical figure is forcing many prospective students and their parents to take a closer look at the return on investment in terms of how a college education can advance a students’ career path upon graduation. In response, college attendance rates have declined for four straight years, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. A new movement is taking hold where young adults are considering viable, affordable alternatives to attending a traditional four-year college, including going to a vocational school, enlisting in the military, volunteering, getting an entry level job or becoming an entrepreneur.
Some colleges have become more cognizant of the economic factors and options and are marketing themselves accordingly with messaging that offers a more direct correlation between a degree and the potential upside of a chosen career path. In addition, universities are focusing on increasing resources for tuition assistance, scholarships and other forms of financial aid as well as expanding high-level, hands-on internship opportunities and new degree programs customized for a unique area of study (for which a school can eventually become known). Lastly, colleges are considering individualized education programs for students with developmental disabilities such as autism. Many of these students do quite well in college when provided with the necessary professional support.
With many young adults considering alternatives to the traditional path to college for fear of being saddled with burdensome debt (some well into their adult lives), successful higher education institutions will be those that go above and beyond in understanding prospective students’ needs and customize their messages, offerings and assistance accordingly.