The demands from modern students are changing the landscape of education today. With a growing number of nontraditional, adult students increasing, colleges are forced to accommodate, change and adapt, or risk the future of their institution. Already, we’ve seen a number of smaller, liberal arts colleges fall victim to low enrollment rates that force school closures or restructuring.
Take a look at the student trends for 2019 to see what learners need to be successful in and out of the classroom. With a clear understanding of who learners are, institutions can better provide the educational experiences and environment that fit the needs of hopeful graduates.
Who are this year’s students?
You may be surprised to find that who college students are in 2019 is not that different from who they were eight to ten years ago. As you might expect, most college students are under the age of 25. The National Center for Education Statistics projects 12.3 million college and university students will be under 25, while 7.6 million students will be 25 and older. While the number of students under 25 has remained steady since 2011, students 25 years and over have been growing year over year.
Also remaining steady is the majority of female students over male. With an expected 11.2 million females compared to 8.7 million males, women are increasingly investing in their long term education. With similar numbers, full-time students make up the majority of institutions with an estimated 12.1 million students, and 7.8 million part time.
What are they looking for?
The look of your average college student hasn’t changed much, but their demands are taking some institutions by storm. The online eLearning movement started in the mid-80’s, and today, tech savvy students are looking for the same flexibility and convenience from education. Whether you like it or not, online is going mainstream.
According to an annual trends report from BestCollege.com, 99% of college and university administrators found that demand for online education has increased or stayed the same over the past few years. In response, almost 40% plan to increase their online program budgets in the next year.
Despite growth in eLearning demand, a perceived negative stigma around the quality of online education versus traditional classroom learning has kept some institutions thinking the trend won’t last. Perhaps to their demise, the reality around eLearning has gotten out and students are getting positive reports.
In fact, 79% of all online students and 76% of alumni in the annual report think that online education is “better than” or “equal to” on-campus education. Much to the delight of online students, employers are also giving heed to the high quality and competitive nature of online degrees and certificates. Of this year’s respondents, 57% of schools say that employers feel similarly that online education is “better than” or “equal to” traditional learning.
With widespread support and demand, along with booming acceptance and respect, colleges and universities must evolve their offerings to remain competitive. Expanded program options and accessibility through online access could make or break an institution in 2019.
Why are they looking?
By large, modern students are seeking education as a means to a good career. This is the expectation of students under 25 and first time freshman, but the above 25 year old learners are also citing career as their drive to educate.
In total, 73% of online students said job and employment goals were their reasons for enrolling. Included within that number is students planning to transition to a new career field; 35%, and students who want to boost their standing in their current line of work; 30%.
Career-driven students, especially those seeking to upskill for promotional opportunities, tend to be older and have experience in the workforce. These students often come with additional responsibilities like families and needing to maintain a full-time job. Online education is especially important for this student population who requires flexibility in order to juggle education with personal responsibilities.
Additional reasons students are choosing online versus on-campus include…
• Employer incentive or partnerships that provide benefits like tuition reimbursement, tuition discount, or a salary increase or promotion upon completion.
• University reputation makes students believe their credentials will be attractive to potential employers.
• Lower cost due to lack of overhead and student fees associated with on-campus institutions.
How are institutions supporting them?
Luckily for the students of 2019 and beyond, most schools are responding appropriately to their demands and preferences. In 2017, 73% of schools decided to offer online programs based on the growth potential for overall student enrollment. Additionally, 68% cited employment demand as a catalyst for new online opportunities.
Another way universities are meeting students where they are is with blended or hybrid courses that combine online education with some on-campus requirements. These combo courses open the door for more hands-on fields, like teaching, laboratory sciences and trade-based programs to provide some instruction online, without losing necessary experiential learning in the process.
Almost two-thirds of students currently enrolled in an online degree or certificate program visit a campus by choice or because the program has an in-person requirement. This is an increase from 52% the previous year.
Today’s Implications for the Future
What we’ve learned about 2019 students is absolutely crucial to future students and institutions alike. As overall college enrollment continues to drop, while online enrollments increase each year, colleges and universities need to start, and continue, investing in this widely accepted branch of education. Not only does it provide additional enrollment opportunities for institutions, but it gives nontraditional students a way to earn the degrees and certificates necessary for job security and growth.
With that said, despite the expected increase in demand, not all schools are planning to increase their budgets for developing online programs. Shockingly, a little more than half, 59%, do not anticipate any change in their current budgets, which is similar to the year prior.
It’s no secret that a number of smaller colleges are facing financial deficits threatening their very existence. With an obvious demand from millions of students for online options, it makes good business sense that many institutions are opening up to the idea of online…but it’s not a seamless implementation.
Beyond Campus Innovations (BCI) helps organizations and educational institutions expand their eLearning solutions and educational services with cost-effective, custom infrastructure and expert support. Let BCI guide you through managed services in e-learning, including enrollment, faculty recruitment, technology, curriculum development or a turnkey, fully-outsourced solution. Contact BCI to discover how simple it can be to meet students where they are with modern solutions.