Which Factors are College Students Considering When Searching Online Programs? – Part 3


By: Christopher Tashjian May 29, 2018

parts one and two of this series, we looked at how college students decide which program to apply to and what they’re looking for once they enroll. Today, we’ll explore the demographic trends of online college students as well as how they feel about their programs once enrolled. If you want an in-depth look at the behaviors and attitudes of today’s online students, get our free 50-page download 2017 Online College Students co-published by Aslanian Market Research and The Learning House.

Download the full Online College Students Report here.

Online Students are Choosing Local Programs and They Want Public Schools

Even with the entire world of online higher education at their fingertips, approximately three-quarters of students enrolled in programs less than 100 miles from their homes.

The good news is when online students do come to campus it’s likely a productive visit. Most students (39 percent) are coming to campus to meet with an instructor, but a sizable proportion is coming to complete routine administrative tasks. When possible, tasks like making payments or attending orientation should be brought online to minimize the need for students to travel.
Online students are also drawn to public schools near their homes. Public universities either within driving distance or within the student’s home state are the top two choices for online students. Students seeking graduate degrees, however, were more likely to seek private schools both in and out of state.

They Think Online Programs are Equally as Effective as Classroom Programs

Online students are highly motivated, so they’re likely to be very aware of whether their online programs are meeting their needs and helping them achieve their goals. The good news is that the vast majority (83 percent) of students are reporting that their experiences in online programs were as good or better compared to classroom-based programs.

Even more encouraging is that 76 percent of students said their online programs had helped them achieve the goal that motivated them to enroll.
Colleges should use this outcome data in their recruiting efforts to help prospective students know that online programs are no longer just “convenient” alternatives to classroom learning, but are high-quality options that deliver outstanding learning experiences.

They’re Previously Educated

To really draw new online students to your program, your website and recruitment materials must do a good job of clearly explaining the transfer process and how credits from other organizations will be counted. The more credits you can accept from these students the better, especially considering nearly 80 percent will have some transfer credits and as many as 24 percent are hoping to transfer 60 credits. That’s the equivalent of an associate’s degree.
Students are right to be concerned whether their credits will transfer. A U.S. Dept. of Education study found that 40 percent of students who attempted to transfer schools received no credit for their previous study.** Online students are eager to get through programs, so they’ll give priority to programs that accept the credits they’ve already earned.

Business is Still the Top Major Among Online College Students

In 2014 Business was the top field of study for both undergrad and grad students, capturing a 28 percent of the market. In 2017, it’s still at the top of the list but at 23 percent, it’s losing ground to other programs like health and medicine (20 percent) and Computers & IT (13 percent). Online students are choosing practical areas to study, with social sciences, STEM, and education programs also popular.

They’re Likely Young, Fully Employed and Looking for a Career Boost

It’s well known in higher ed that women are making up a larger share of college students and that trend is even more pronounced in online programs, where women make up 75 percent of undergraduate and 64 percent of graduate students. They’re also likely to be under 39 years old, in fact just a quarter of undergraduates were 40 or older.
When it comes to their incomes, almost half of online undergrads (47 percent) are earning less than $40,000 despite 49 percent working in full-time jobs. Fortunately, 38 percent of undergrads and 49 percent of graduate students receive some kind of reimbursement on their tuition from their employers.

schedule a consultation

If you have any questions on the data above, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. If you’d like to learn how to apply the data here to help grow online enrollments, EducationDynamics offers a free enrollment consultation to help you build a custom plan for your institution.

* Download the full Online College Students Report from Aslanian Market Research and The Learning House here: http://learn.dev.propaganda3.com/education-dynamics/online-college-students-2017
** The Hechinger Report: http://hechingerreport.org/federal-study-finds-nearly-40-percent-transfer-students-got-credit/