The COVID-19 Pandemic has had an unprecedented effect on the world over the last few months. Shelter in place orders were issued across the US just 90 days or so after we first learned about the initial outbreak in China.
With quarantines and shutdowns in place, there has also been a global increase in computer and Internet use. Many schools have swapped to work/learn from home systems. As marketers in the education space, it is imperative for us to analyze and understand the shifting trends in the mindsets of students and prospective students.
First, let’s take a look at a survey conducted by Art & Science Group. They surveyed High School Seniors about their plans and how they have been changing due to the emergence of COVID-19.
Of those surveyed, 17% were changing their plans due to COVID-19, 20% were planning to attend their first-choice school, and a resounding 63% were planning on enrolling full time, but were concerned about their ability to attend their first choice.
Looking deeper into the responders who said they are changing their Fall 2020 plans, there were 6 different responses that came out. The top two responses – taking a gap year and changing enrollment to part-time instead of full time – were the most popular at 35% each. 13% percent were not sure exactly how they were going to change their plans, 7% said they were planning to enroll in an Associate’s degree or community college instead of a Bachelor’s, 6% planned to work full time, and 4% decided to enroll in a certificate or apprenticeship program. Based on these responses, which were taken in late March, we can already see that a significant portion of prospective students are looking to delay secondary education. We do expect the 17% to change depending on how long the Pandemic lasts, but that number is expected to increase well before it decreases due to the ongoing social and economic changes taking place.
Going back to the 63% of responses that said there was a concern with their ability to attend their first-choice school, we can break out their concerns below.
The most popular response was affordability, which is a valid concern based on the economic impact that Covid-19 has had on families. Thus, the ability to offer prospective students some clarity on costs during this time would be highly beneficial. There are a few concerns that tie in directly to the inaccessibility of campuses during the pandemic, such as the inability to overnight or try out for athletics.
With so much uncertainty lying ahead, educational institutions are going to need to adjust and pivot based on the actions of prospective students. The shift to online classes has done well to cover the current term, but looking to the future and preparing for the fall needs to be a top priority as well.
Besides just analyzing surveys, we can also take a look into trends in Google searches over the last 90 days.
The growing search demand for online, and E-learning services presents a real opportunity for marketers. Offering promotions during this time is a great way to establish a compassionate reputation with new users. Many online course platforms are offering free trials or other tools in order to assist current students who are looking to take advantage of their new time off by learning.
Campus-based institutions should also learn from these trends. Being forced into an online-based curriculum is beneficial as more and more students are looking for hybrid campus-online options. Online courses also offer a lower cost option to traditional campus learning.
While this pandemic has been a drain on the economy and the general public, educators need to use it as a learning experience. Improving their online presence along with their faculty’s online prowess is crucial for the short term and long term, with the inevitable need to reach more prospective students and offer lower costs. Regardless of the state of the world, the need for education will always remain. But it is up to education providers to show prospective students that access to education will always remain as well.