COVID upends students’ college plans in many ways

'Prospective students need to hear how higher education can be accessible, affordable and productive'
By: | December 10, 2020
Colleges and universities are advised to personalize marketing messages as COVID has prospective students reconsidering higher education. (GettyImages/FG Trade)

More than a third of students are now reconsidering enrolling in college due to the COVID pandemic, a new survey finds.

Also, 43% of students who’d been eying one- and two-year programs may put off enrollment while two-thirds of students are now considering career-oriented alternatives, according to “The Pandemic’s Impact on Higher Education Marketing in 2020 and Beyond.”

With a significant number of students considering changing their courses of study, colleges and universities can ease uncertainty by personalizing marketing messages that focus on accessibility, according to LaneTerralever, a higher ed marketing and advertising agency.

The firm surveyed 528 students with the American Council on Education projecting a $25 billion loss for higher ed this semester.


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“Prospective students need to hear how higher education can be accessible, affordable and productive for them now,” said Lauren Hillery, director of brand strategy at LaneTerralever. “Many face tremendous pressure and uncertainty, so the usual messages of prestige, faculty and community need to be preceded by practical information on how they can fit education into their lives today.”

Institutions should provide specific information—for instance, the survey found program-specific information, details on financial aid and content featuring real student’ stories resonated with students.

Cost remains a major factor—some 40% of students said they are exploring other financial support options as a result of the pandemic, such as self-funding their education.


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Some key breakdowns from the new report:

Traditional students

  • Less likely than pre-pandemic to pursue higher education: 36%
  • As a result of the pandemic, how valuable is having a degree or certificate?: 54% extremely valuable
  •  Distance learning is extremely effective: 35%
  • More likely than pre-pandemic to consider other career options: 32%
  • Extremely confident about finding a job: 20%
  • Consider higher education institutions to have adapted extremely or very effectively: 62% (61% among just 41- to 60-year-olds)

Non-traditional students

  • Less likely than pre-pandemic to pursue higher education: 28%
  • As a result of the pandemic, how valuable is having a degree or certificate?: 65% extremely valuable
  • Distance learning is extremely effective: 47%
  • Considering delaying starting a 1- to 2-year program: 44%
  • More likely than pre-pandemic to explore other financial aid options
  • Extremely confident about finding a job: 41%
  • Consider higher education institutions to have adapted extremely or very effectively: 72% (61% among just 41- to 60-year-olds)

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