11 tips to boost your pool of online students in 2024

Online enrollment has grown by 90% in the last six years as traditional university enrollment has declined, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Most colleges and universities understand why students are drawn to online programs: They’re flexible, affordable and can be completed more quickly than an in-person degree. Considering online enrollment has grown by 90% in the last six years while traditional university enrollment has declined, offering competitive digital modalities is a no-brainer.

The 2024 Online College Student Report by EducationDynamics provides a wealth of resources for colleges interested in maximizing their online student cohort. Studying over 3,000 current, former and prospective online students during fall 2023, the marketing and enrollment firm dives deep into online students’ motivations and aspirations and the way they consume information.

“Colleges can successfully turn inquiries into enrollments by providing timely and personalized engagement throughout the enrollment process,” the report reads. “Thoughtfully crafted marketing and enrollment coaching strategies … help students make informed decisions on their timelines.”

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1. Offer degree and non-degree options

More than a quarter of respondents are pursuing a credit-bearing certificate or licensure program. At the graduate level, the proportion rises to a third. Stackable credentials are particularly attractive, amassing more than two-thirds of non-degree students. Nearly 80% of students pursuing stackable credentials plan to enroll in more.

2. Offer credit for prior experience

Of the 80% of students with prior work experience, 27% have racked up more than 10 years of experience in their respective fields.

3. Market career advancement

more than a fifth of respondents (21%) are seeking career growth and 32% said time to completion was an important factor.

4. Prioritize stopped-out students

More than 90% of respondents had previously stopped out of a postsecondary program; 40% did so within the prior year.

5. Offer programs that reflect high-demand careers

The following three areas of expertise are the most popular among students, in order:

  • Business
  • Health, nursing and medicine
  • Computers, IT and technology
6. Reel in far-distanced students with competitive programs

60% of students said they’d enroll anywhere, regardless of distance, as long as they had the best-suited program.

7. Increase response times to inquiring students

Students decide where they want to go quickly: 55% make inquiries within three weeks of identifying schools of interest, 50% decide where to apply within one week and 80% enroll at the school that admits them first.

8. Offer frequent start dates

More than 50% of respondents expect courses to begin within one month of when they are admitted.

9. Be well-versed on payment and financing options

More than 60% of online college students indicated that affordability was important when considering schools, including 37% who said it was the most important factor. The cost of tuition and fees was a top enrollment decision factor for 50% of respondents.

10. Contact students via high-traffic social media websites

Students’ activity on colleges’ Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and other social media can be predictive of their college choices. Among those who use social media, 40% followed schools that they had an interest in enrolling in, and more than 75% followed or “liked” schools they were considering.

11. Build awareness using streaming media platforms

About 70% of respondents utilize primarily ad-supported streaming services, such as Spotify, Youtube TV, Netflix and Hulu. Respondents were “increasingly open” to streaming media platforms that allow advertising.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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