How community colleges can win mindshare of prospective students in the digital age

Expert Insight

How community colleges can win mindshare of prospective students in the digital age

With limited recruitment funds, marketing must focus on ROI for both college and student

The rise of social and mobile media has fundamentally changed prospective college students’ behaviors at an unprecedented rate. Mobile traffic surpasses desktop while marketing struggles to remain relevant across channels. The increased availability of information in the digital age means colleges struggle to capture prospective students’ attention through historical marketing methods.

Digital ad spend grew 86.3% from 2011-2015, yet the percent of internet users who block ads nearly doubled from 2014 to 2017. At current course and speed, the cost of competing in the marketing arms race will rapidly become unsustainable for budget conscious colleges.

More on this topic

This resource is part of the Improve Communications across the Community College Student Lifecycle Roadmap. Access the Roadmap for stepwise guidance with additional tools and research.

Limited funds call for strategic bets

“My career spans 12 years—six years at four-year schools and six years at community colleges. Our recruitment strategies are worlds apart. It’s not even apples and oranges. It’s more like zebras and runway models.”

Community college enrollment management dean

Community colleges lag behind universities in recruitment investment for new students, spending less than a third of four-year publics, and one twentieth of four-year privates.

A community college enrollment management dean recently described this difference: “My career spans 12 years—six years at four-year schools and six years at community colleges. Our recruitment strategies are worlds apart. It’s not even apples and oranges. It’s more like zebras and runway models.”

With smaller marketing budgets, community colleges must direct their marketing funds to the highest-ROI activities to attract the attention of the constantly connected prospective student.

Using labor market data to paint a vision of career success

Traditional community college marketing prioritizes direct enrollment solicitations and describes available programs at a college, often with the emphasis on low tuition. The addition of relevant career information into this content, such as wage potential for graduates, can have a big impact on capturing prospective students’ attention.

Ivy Tech Community College realized the aspirational taglines from traditional college marketing campaigns would not serve their career outcome-minded students and parents. As an alternative, they used career data in geotargeted ads to achieve personalized marketing at scale.

What made this different is relevant labor market data infused print collateral, website, and program pages to create a fully integrated, multi-channel marketing campaign focused on career outcomes, not programs.

Capture the attention of your next class

As fall recruitment and registration begins, colleges need to ensure their marketing materials show high school graduates the benefit of earning a certificate or degree before entering the workforce.

In our webconference, Competing on Student Outcomes To Attract Today’s Career Changers, we discuss how these communications should align with local labor market data and the career potential in a field to pique the interest of a prospect who might not have otherwise considered college.

EAB asks you to accept cookies for authorization purposes, as well as to track usage data and for marketing purposes. To get more information about these cookies and the processing of your personal information, please see our Privacy Policy. Do you accept these cookies and the processing of your personal information involved?