Authentic Marketing to Attract Minority Students to Colleges

By: Emma Rose Jul 27, 2021

Authentic Marketing to Attract Minority Students to Colleges

Students who identify as black, Hispanic, pacific islanders, or American Indian or Alaskan Natives represent a growing market in higher ed. Engaging messages and strategies offer inclusive opportunities for students to join your programs. Inviting these students to engage with your programs will help create a better and more attractive higher ed environment. This all begins with attractive campaigns with authentic messaging about your college, programs, and values.

A growing market with more opportunity

The percentage of adults aged 25 or older who have completed a bachelor’s or higher degree grew by 3 percentage points between 2010 and 2016, the last year for which numbers are available. The rate of growth was about the same across all race and ethnicity groups, except one. Yet colleges still have work to do when it comes to attracting and retaining minority students.

People who identified as Asian were most likely to have completed a bachelor’s or higher degree with 54% of adults holding this credential. White adults and those who identify as two or more races are about equally likely to hold a degree. Around 35% of that population are credentialed.

Those numbers drop off for Black, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, and American Indian or Alaskan Native adults. Only 15% of Hispanic and American Indian or Alaska Native adults have earned a degree. Degree attainment among American Indian and Alaska Natives also saw the slowest growth, creeping up just a single percentage point between 2010 and 2016. Outreach to members of these race and ethnicity groups represents an opportunity for programs that want to increase enrollment and diversity.

Your goal should be to help minority students envision themselves studying with you. Your marketing and recruitment messaging should align with the real academic experience.

Today, prospective students use social media, third-party websites, reviews from strangers online, and recommendations from friends and family to decide where to enroll. They’ll quickly see through empty claims. Here are three ways to create authentic marketing that attracts minority students.

1. Share real stories from real students

Show that diversity is a core value for your college or program by sharing real stories across as many platforms as possible. Highlight current students and alumni who identify as part of a minority group. Share first-hand accounts and authentic photos of real students to show members of minority groups that they are welcomed and included in your program.

Don’t forget your instructors. Highlight the stories of professors, adjuncts, coaches, and advisors who are members of minority groups. This shows that you value their contributions. Sharing about board members, deans, presidents, and other leaders who belong to minority groups also helps prove your commitment to diversity at all levels of the program.

2. Use student influencers

Influencers can help convey your marketing messages in ways that feel more authentic. Students may be more likely to believe a fellow student over an advertisement. Invite current students who are members of minority groups to become student ambassadors and share their experience.

Host a social media takeover—a day or week where a student ambassador takes over your profile and shares their perspective on your program. Of course, it’s always a good idea to review and approve these posts first. You could also invite student ambassadors to become guest panelists on webinars or ask them to write blogs that can help prospective students understand your program.

Most importantly, ask students from minority groups for feedback on what attracted them to your program and what you could do better. Listen to their responses and either make changes where necessary or double down on the strategies that work.

3. Offer support to meet unique challenges

Minority students are more likely to be the first or among the first in their families to go to college. A brief based on National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data found that 42% of Black students and 48% of Hispanic students were first-generation students, compared to 28% of white students. While multi-generational college students have the support of families who have experienced the trials and successes of earning a college degree, first-generation students may not.

Mention student supports and services as often as possible. Highlight them in your marketing messages and on social media. Ask current students (those ambassadors we mentioned) to share their experience with different student services.

Minority students share common concerns

As you make marketing decisions, recognize that minority students share many of the same motivations and concerns as other traditional and post-traditional students. Factors like cost, location, value, and length of program all influence student choices regardless of their background. Marketing focused on attracting minority students should answer these essential questions as well.

If you need support to create marketing and enrollment strategies that attract specific student populations, reach out to the experts at EducationDynamics. From display advertising to stop-out campaigns and everything in between, we monitor the state of higher education marketing to provide the best data and support for colleges and universities. Contact an EDDY higher education and marketing expert today.