How to Convince Adult Learners of the Value of a College Degree
Interest is high, but adult learners lack confidence that higher education is worth the investment
U.S. adults without college degrees who are considering additional education number in the millions, and because of the pandemic and its related job losses, interest has increased. A third of laid-off workers feel they need more education or training. However, this is not translating to higher enrollment – these same adults feel less confident about the value of more education.
A recent survey that looked at adult aspiring learners between the ages of 25 and 44 found that they face enrollment barriers and don’t have a real understanding of how additional education can connect with potential careers. A 2019 study showed that 77% of participants said more education was worth the cost and 89% felt it would get them a good job.
This is in contrast to the 2020 survey, when only 59% said getting a degree was worth the money, and 64% said a degree would get them a good job. As a result, colleges and universities must show these prospective students the value of a college degree and how it will help them stand out in a competitive and uncertain job market.
Adult learners face a number of obstacles that must be addressed
Adult learners have busy lives, which creates one enrollment obstacle. Between holding a full-time job and family obligations, they face financial challenges, as well. Many adult learners self-fund their education, and this often means taking money from other areas, such as an additional mortgage to pay their fees and tuition.
In addition, changes in technology and the format of courses and teaching styles may create more difficulties. Adult learners sometimes have difficulties meshing their work schedule with their school schedule, too, which has its own parameters, with the length of semesters and breaks that don’t coincide with a traditional nine-to-five workday.
It’s incumbent on institutions of higher learning to take steps to know what obstacles adult learners face and help them overcome them. Colleges nationwide are demonstrating their commitment to meeting the needs of adult students with things like subsidized childcare, relevant website content that addresses common work and family issues, and demonstrating brand empathy by providing different navigational paths to explore on their website based on the student’s motivation for furthering their education.
Additionally, it’s important to:
Have a frictionless application process: The application process should include easy-to-follow steps, counselors, and plenty of accessible information about the overall admissions process. Include material about financial aid and program formats. Adding student testimonials explaining what the student experience is like can help prospective students feel less overwhelmed and hesitant. Give them the tools to be successful in a school environment: They may have been away from school for years and may lack the confidence needed to adapt. Support can come from faculty, tutors, and counselors. Help them develop a career roadmap: A lot of adult students want to either change careers or advance in the one they have. Provide self-assessment tools, career exploration opportunities, and mentorship programs with industry professionals and alumni. Have a robust online learning program: It’s all about teaching where adult students are and on their own terms.
Institutions of higher learning must not only address the needs of adult learners, they must also adapt their marketing to target this interested but reluctant group.
8 Marketing tips to reach adult students
It’s not just about overcoming obstacles; it’s about proving the value of a college degree. You can’t expect the same marketing techniques to work for adult learners as those used for recent graduates. Adult learners need to know you not only understand their challenges, but that will benefit from the investment of time and money.
1. Optimize your website: Most adult learners do their research online rather than pay campus visits. This means that a compelling homepage is one of your best marketing assets. This means:
Optimizing for search engines. You can dig through your own data or hire an SEO consultant, but either way, your site has to be findable. Remember who you are marketing to. Adult learners are just going to feel more disconnected if they see nothing but a sea of young faces. Institutions are adding subdomains to their websites that are designed to reach an older audience. Modernize your navigation. What would an adult learner be looking for on your site? Make sure these things are easy to find with clear and proper navigation and a friendly user interface. Personalize the experience using chatbots, which can also inform your future marketing efforts to this audience through valuable insights.
2. Use social media: Use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social platforms. Peruse the best practices for each and use them to your advantage. These platforms are a great way to hold a conversation with prospective students. You can also use ads to target on a hyper-personalized level by using techniques like geofencing.
3. Highlight career benefits: Adult learners are laser-focused on their careers, so when you describe programs, make sure to show them the curriculum and how the courses will benefit them in the workplace. List job titles that are related to the degree programs, sample job descriptions, future prospects, and median wages.
4. Direct them to financial aid resources: Although many adult students are self-funding, others will rely on loans, so give them a clear online path to your website’s resources for loans, grants, and scholarships.
5. Show that your support extends beyond the classroom: It is estimated 63% of students who are parents are food insecure, and almost 14% are homeless, but few receive any assistance for childcare. Food banks, childcare that is free or discounted, and transit discounts will support an adult student’s quest to improve their lives.
6. Offer accelerated learning options: Let them know you offer flexible ways to earn a degree. Offer advanced placement options and assessments that take into account prior learning and experience.
7. Put forward an empathetic face: Adult learners need to know that behind the website, there are human beings with a commitment to teaching adults. Be sure to have support staff available to respond to questions.
8. Use student success stories: Reviews count. People use them before they buy anything, and that applies to an education. Use quotes from former adult students as testimonials and include a picture. Make short videos.
Much has changed since the pandemic, and laid-off workers are exploring many options in both their life and work future. These seekers are looking for ways to achieve their dreams, but want to make sure they are spending their time on something of value. Form the connection that draws them in.
Make your website an adult learner magnet with KWALL
You can count on KWALL to support the development of your higher ed website, help you implement a CMS, and support you while you use it. We can also help you create a maintenance and support plan that works so you can manage content through a content management system.