The typical path from high school, to college, to career is becoming a little less well trodden, says author Jeff Selingo. Higher education haslost nearly 1.4 million studentsin the last two years, and while the tight labor market may explain some decline in college interest,37% of the top 20 skillsconsidered necessary for the average job have changed since 2016. As a result, colleges are struggling to keep up, and confidence in higher education hasdropped sharply. Conversely, companies are providing more educational benefits to staff and flipping the narrative to "work first, degree later."
There are some 20 million undergrads enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities, but who they are differs more than at any other time in the history of American higher ed.
Their differences in demographics, experience, and their mindset and motivations is one reason colleges are struggling to keep them engaged, enrolled, and eventually get them to graduation.
For the most part, colleges are still designed like they were for the student of yesterday—a lot of affluent, well-prepared high-school graduates (of all racial and ethnic backgrounds) whose parents attended college.
Today, students come to college from many different backgrounds and are looking for many different outcomes from their experience. There is no one persona of “undergraduate student” yet many colleges lump their students into two groups: traditional (18-22 year olds) and nontraditional (everyone else).
This week on the Future U Podcast, we talked to three different personas of students who in some cases are increasingly common on campuses or at real risk in our higher ed system:
Jalen Stubbs, a senior at George Mason University, who is Black at a predominantly white institution. Last spring, men made up just over 40% of the nation's undergraduate students, which is an all-time low, and the enrollment declines were especially pronounced among Black and Latino men.
Listen to the conversation or read the transcript.
My three takeaways:
🧮 It's clear colleges need to do a better segmentation analysis of their students or would-be students. What are their motivations and mindsets for going to college? And then build programs to meet them where they are. All three of these students, as you’ll hear, were involved in programs that were integrated across the years and curriculum that gave them a sense of belonging and purpose.
📬 Hear how these students found their universities. For all the marketing about what makes colleges and universities unique, this still remains an incredibly messy process that's full of a lot of friction.
🎓 Finally, institutions need not only to market themselves but also higher ed in general. This is a new marketing challenge because there is increased questioning about the value of higher ed.