Higher ed has evolved dramatically in the past several years. Schools raced to adapt to unforeseen changes like closed campuses, flex learning, digital outreach, and new communication channels. Colleges and universities are just now finding opportunities to be proactive, rather than reactive, in their strategies for 2022. A look at current trends can help guide you in making the right decisions for your students and faculty.
First, a look at the numbers, and why the stakes are high for colleges and universities this year…
College undergrad enrollment decreased by 6.6% over the course of the pandemic according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Community colleges are being hit the hardest, with some schools seeing enrollment drops of 19%.
Schools need to amp up their outreach strategies, streamline processes, and invest strategically to keep students engaged and educated.
A dive into current higher ed trends can help your school make smarter decisions. Here’s your higher ed trend watch for 2022:
1. A Shift Away From Zoom EventsOur friend Zach Busekrus from Enrollify had an interesting prediction about Zoom events. He feels that virtual events and orientations will decline, despite the shift of virtually everything.
And, in his words, even if it doesn’t decline, it should.
Proposing that schools focus less on a live online experience, and more work into engaging explainer videos. These allow students and parents to learn about your school at their own pace without buffering, connection issues, and all other uncomfortable experiences that come with virtual events.
💡 TREND TIP 💡 You don’t need a fancy studio or tons of equipment to create great video content. Short explainer videos for your website and social channels help increase engagement and interest.
This shift frees up resources to invest in live events that make more of an impact. The average cost of visiting colleges is about $2000… so when families come for a campus visit, you better make an impression.
Modern technology allows you to bring your campus to your prospective students and their families (alumni too!) in a way that’s enjoyable and convenience for them. So as we move away from Zoom events, invest more in engaging video content and other virtual campus experiences.
2. Remote Learning is Here to Stay
Depending on where you are, there may still be restrictions on in-person learning. Even if COVID disappeared tomorrow (and we wish it would), flexible learning options are here to stay.
Across industries and academia, we’ve adapted to remote life. For many, this was a welcome change. Your school may have to stay flexible to attract students in this group.
At this point in the pandemic, higher ed has adjusted to create online learning experiences for current and prospective students. Now is the time to improve on your offerings and incorporate tech to streamline the experience.
Videos can be easily shared through web chat, text, and email, easily available to reference when students are choosing colleges. Your school should be using video as much as possible, prioritizing 1-to-1 videos to personalize the admissions process.
3. The Social Media Landscape Has Changed
If you haven’t broken into TikTok and YouTube, it’s time. Generation Z has a reputation for not paying attention, not following through, and not responding… and it has everything to do with the channels you’re using. If you’re communicating correctly, meeting them on their preferred channels, you’ll find a highly engaged audience.
You can create lasting connections with students simply by being authentic and helpful on your social channels. Connected students turn into powerful advocates for your institution. The best social media channels feature student stories, student experiences, and student takeovers to better show campus live from their point of view.
💡 TREND TIP 💡 Keep TikTok videos light and funny (tap into that Gen Z humor) and YouTube more informative with real experiences and success stories from students.
4. Conversational Marketing is a Must
Gen Z doesn’t put up with the often-frustrating online experiences we’ve all accepted and become accustomed to. The best way to meet them is on their favorite channels and with easy, enjoyable experiences.
The college search and admissions process is extremely difficult. The easier your school can make it, the higher your enrollment numbers will be. Optimizing your website with webchat and easily searchable video content is essential.
You hear the term “conversational marketing” thrown around a lot, but most people don’t know what it means. Conversational marketing is about being there to help students when and where they need it, making their journey through the student lifecycle as easy as possible.
If your school hasn’t already, it’s time to invest in tools that can help you do that.
💡 TREND TIP 💡 Personalize every experience as much as you can. Via web chat, chatbots, email, text, video… relevant content has the most impact on segmented audiences.
5. Higher Ed is Facing a Mental Health Crisis
It’s no secret that higher ed (and society in general) is facing a mental health crisis. The latest Student Voice survey by Inside Higher Ed and College Pulse shed light on some startling statistics:
- 65 percent of students report having fair or poor mental health.
- 63 percent of those who say it’s poor would grade their college’s response to student mental health and wellness services a C or lower (compared to 43 percent of all students).
- 47 percent say they could have used some (28 percent) or a lot (19 percent) more support from their college during this time.
- Only 15 percent engaged in college-offered counseling in the past year.
While many colleges and universities offer support services, students who are struggling are hesitant to seek help. Schools are struggling to manage COVID’s long-term mental health impact on current and prospective students.
Here are 12 actionable tips on how to better support your students with additional guidance on creating a communication hub and creating an inbound and outbound support strategy.
Is your school limited in on-campus resources? Find resources and organizations in your community and partner with them. At a minimum, create a hub for your students with links to the resources available in the community.
6. Prospective Students & Families Want a Good Investment
More than ever, students and parents are questioning if higher education is worth the cost of admission. Schools that can prove a return on that investment have a HUGE advantage in the competitive landscape.
Finding clever ways to do so is key.
Use alumni to engage with students, share their experiences, and give real-life examples of what their education is worth. This helps every department, from admissions to advancement, as it increases engagement on an enterprise level.
💡 TREND TIP 💡 Show the return students and families can expect from their investment. Every school should have onsite resources showing alumni success stories. A good place for this can be on .edu/parents or .edu/outcomes pages.
What’s all this mean long term? Schools investing in the right channels and engaging recruitment content are going to be at a huge competitive advantage. Now is the time to be proactive in your marketing efforts and student engagement strategies.
Our predictions for 2022 and beyond? Colleges will need to become more flexible in their requirements, in their programs, in the student experience. The more your school can lean into what students are looking for, the more long-term success they can expect.
For Your Institution
Mongoose's Greg Bauch and Mike Kochczynski dive into Higher Ed Trends to Watch in 2022 from virtual events to remote learning, marketing, mental health, and more, in this episode of For Your Institution.