As demographic changes shrink the traditional pool of prospective students, colleges are expanding their efforts to recruit adult students.
For many schools, this shift is forcing enrollment leaders to use new strategies for recruitment, reports Melissa Korn for the Wall Street Journal. Recruiting high school students means analyzing databases of test scores and ZIP codes. But recruiting adult learners means adopting consumer marketing techniques that rely on understanding and appealing to a certain target audience.
Adding to the challenge is today's tight labor market, in which adult learners don't feel as much pressure as they did in the past to stay competitive by adding new skills and credentials to their resumes.
To recruit adult learners, Houston Baptist University (HBU) worked with EAB to launch a consumer-driven marketing campaign. By creating a demographic and psychographic profile of current HBU students, EAB learned that many were women under age 27. They were interested in boating and fishing, liked to travel, and were avid readers. Just under half of them were married, and many had kids.
Learn more: How HBU tripled graduate enrollment
To appeal to prospective students of a similar profile, HBU ran a Facebook advertisement showing a woman fishing with her kids, suggesting a student could attend classes and still have time for family fun. Another showed a woman at the airport, with a tagline referencing the global opportunities available to students.
"You're meeting the prospect where they are," says Brittany Murchison, managing director of enrollment marketing for EAB's adult learner division. The psychographic profiles help colleges identify and connect with their ideal target audience, out of a field of 200 million potential adult students.
At HBU, the consumer-driven campaign generated 100 new inquiries and 10 to 15 more enrolled students for the upcoming fall term, according to Allyson Cates, director of admissions for HBU's graduate school.
Keep reading: What colleges can learn from big consumer brands about marketing
When Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts worked with EAB to create a similar profile of its students, enrollment leaders found that a third of education students were altruistic and community-oriented. EAB helped Lesley craft marketing messages that emphasized how graduates could change the world.
"In order for the university to be enrolled and financially viable, we need to take advantage of the tools that are available to do that," says Tim Robinson, Lesley's VP for enrollment management (Korn, Wall Street Journal, 7/14/18).
Read more about the adult learner market
Adult learners: Who they are & what they want from college
60% of adults have considered returning to college, but worry about cost
4 things adult learners want out of college
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