2017 Higher Education Statistics, Trends, and Marketing

The Department of Education has released updated information regarding trends in higher education. Some highlights are below (the full story can be found here):

  • In fall 2017, some 20.4 million students are expected to attend American colleges and universities, constituting an increase of about 5.1 million since fall 2000.

  • Females are expected to account for the majority of college and university students in fall 2017: about 11.5 million females will attend in fall 2017, compared with 8.9 million males. Also, more students are expected to attend full time (an estimated 12.6 million students) than part time (about 7.8 million students).

  • Some 7.0 million students will attend 2-year institutions and 13.4 million will attend 4-year institutions in fall 2017. About 17.5 million students are expected to enroll in undergraduate programs and 3.0 million will enroll in postbaccalaureate programs.

  • Increases in the traditional college-age population and rising enrollment rates have contributed to the increase in college and university enrollment. Between 2000 and 2015, the 18- to 24-year-old population rose from approximately 27.3 million to some 31.2 million. The percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college and university also was higher in 2015 (40.5 percent) than in 2000 (35.5 percent).

  • In 2015, there were 11.8 million college and university students under age 25 and 8.1 million students 25 years old and over. The numbers of younger and older students increased between 2000 and 2015.

  • During the 2017–18 school year, colleges and universities are expected to award 1.0 million associate's degrees; 1.9 million bachelor's degrees; 790,000 master's degrees; and 183,000 doctor's degrees. In 2014–15, postsecondary institutions awarded 961,000 certificates below the associate's degree level, 1.0 million associate's degrees, 1.9 million bachelor's degrees, 759,000 master's degrees, and 179,000 doctor's degrees.

If we overlay these numbers with what we are seeing for enrollment numbers at many universities, especially smaller institutions, the very large institutions are seeing increased enrollment numbers while smaller and private institutions are seeing decreases. Large institutions continue to be aggressive in their growth plans and the volume of applicants they are seeing has stayed strong. We’ve seen smaller institutions close their doors, and estimates are that more and more will continue to do so over the next decade.

As a marketer, these statistics provide some insight for what we should expect next. Partnerships between colleges/universities and corporations has been on the rise as federal and state support for higher education institutions decreases. Institutions are starting to adopt branding and advertising opportunities they wouldn’t have agreed to just 15 years ago. Corporations are also spending more on branding and naming rights including stadiums, athletic uniforms, campus building and room naming rights. This trend is likely to continue, where rooms and buildings were only named after individual financial contributors to the institution, we are likely to see a sharp rise in more corporate names on campus as campuses find new revenue sources.

Beyond naming rights, the amount of advertising and marketing opportunities are growing on the campuses through sponsorships and partnerships for the same reason of creating new revenue sources for the institution. This is at the same time as some campus advertising resources continue to sharply decline. College newspapers continue to reduce printing days and go “online only,” or discontinue altogether.

Experiential programs for corporations and brands are expanding and how they show up on campus has also changed significantly. Fifteen years ago, companies could show up with a table, some free stuff, and students would provide any personal information to get their hands on free stuff. The companies who used such tactics now have leagal limitations, especially when it comes to financial related promotions like credit cards, banking and loans.

Brands are now showing up with more structured programs that use food trucks or pop up shop events where students have a longer engagement with the brand. Brands know a longer more meaningful interaction likely means a better experience for the student and will lead to better performance on campaign goals.

So, what does all this mean? The way things used to be for marketing, advertising and truly engaging students has changed significantly. Digital and experiential marketing are driving success for many companies. How a brand engages on campus through the university is evolving fast. Exploring what that means for your brand requires a conversation about what you can do differently, while letting go of many of the old ways of marketing.

We’d love to discuss best practices for a modern marketing campaign that fits for today’s college student. Don’t assume what you have always have been doing is right for today. Contact us today to schedule a conversation with us.