In this time of upheaval and uncertainty you can either get caught in the storm and suffer, or you can
use this time to innovate and create new enrollment opportunities and thrive into the future.
In 2022, college enrollment declined 3 percent while large online players like Southern New Hampshire
University (SNHU), Liberty University, Western Governors University (WGU), and Grand Canyon
University (GCU)—grew their total enrollment by 11 percent, on average. Where did the growth occur?
For SNHU and WGU, the fastest growth segment was the young, fully online learner under the age of 24.
Are you ready to meet the growing demand?
At Ed Connex, we have been serving Christian schools since 2008 and it’s been a long time since we’ve
seen an opportunity like this! We see it in our client’s data — younger online learners are inquiring
about online adult programs. We have watched this trend develop and implemented strategies for our
clients to leverage this growth opportunity.
Currently very few schools are actively promoting purely online learning for younger students. They may
offer dual degrees but most colleges, including Christian colleges, are focused on residential students,
and overlooking younger, online learners.
Who Are They?
Many are students come from nontraditional backgrounds. They are very practical, and program
focused. They are different from traditional freshmen and older, working adults, yet they possess many
characteristics of both. Are you tapping into their wants and needs?
- To them, campus experience doesn’t matter, but they do want community and access to
campus when necessary.
- They are already employed. And they feel pressured to work while focusing on the ROI of their
- Many are aware of employer tuition reimbursement benefits.
- These students are outcomes and career-focused, specifically, on what jobs their degree will
prepare or advance them.
- These students are digital natives. They grew up on technology became very comfortable with
online learning during covid.
- Mobile, Social and Brand Agnostic. What does that mean? They don’t have a preference towards
a particular school “brand” the way generations have been in the past. They don’t choose a
school just for the letters on the sign outside.
- Local (Within 90 Miles)
- These students may not show up on portals, in name-buys, or attend an ed fair. You can’t rely
on finding these students the same way you may have in the past.
Growth of this student segment is not going away; it will only accelerate and increase! It isn’t about just
keeping up with this rapidly changing world, you risk being left behind, why not thrive? This segment is
WGU’s and SNHU’s fastest growing segment and they are investing in it at the expense of traditional
campuses (maybe your institutions) and community colleges. Are you ready and poised to meet
Growing Your Young Online Learners
Here are some questions:
- Do you have a clear and compelling offer for this student segment?
- Are your programs aligned with the needs of employers?
- Is 25% of your online student population under 24? Not merely taking a class, but taking their entire program online?
- Is your online curriculum designed for under 24? Is it accelerated, affordable, embedded with stackable credentials, with content that is engaging with most of it mobile-accessible?
If not, time to get to work.
The biggest question is, of course, how do you find them? Overall, a balanced marketing media mix
including investments in broad-based awareness that drives organic traffic + demand capture that
leverages search best practices. The strategy must promote the distinctive learning experience and
opportunity at your college, so prospects know an online option exists.
The goal is to increase inbound interest and demand capture to drive enrollment. It’s imperative that
you ensure that prospects can interact with your website and get information quickly and simply. Your
site must be truly mobile-friendly with easy navigation, quick load times, and click-to-call capability. And,
if they call, you must be there to answer questions with brief, helpful information.
Create a very clear and compelling message that differentiates online learning from other options within
your institution and your competitors, including state and community colleges. Focus on the distinctive
student experience including a differentiated online platform or student services.
Are they ACT test-takers or ed fair attendees? Maybe. They might be in past purchased names. Several
strategies exist to nurture and engage past names promoting this learning opportunity.
Conventional wisdom says the sooner you engage your leads with a live person, the better! Every
minute counts. These prospects will inquire to 3-5 different schools and every moment that passes
between that initial outreach and contact, their interest starts to wane, or worse, your competitor
contacts them first.
Prospects are going to be eager to work with the school that connects with them first. First to contact
usually wins. At Education Connex, our advice is simply put speed to contact at the top of your to-do list.
In fact, it should be your number one priority! Admissions leaders should prioritize speed to contact. University presidents, CFOs and marketers should demand it. If you can’t be first, call us! Our enrollment
contact center will ensure your college will be first to contact your prospects.
Lastly, employers are looking for schools that provide access to degree completion. They value online
learning and are willing to fund degrees and certificates to recruit and retain younger employees.
Employer partnerships are usually overlooked or underdeveloped at Christian colleges – this a major
opportunity for a new enrollment pipeline! And we can help you develop your own partnerships.
A Call for Christian Colleges
It’s time to innovate and build new strategies, pipelines and enroll more even in this moment of major
upheaval. While society worries about changes in the economy, and the education and cultural
landscape shift, we see opportunities for gospel impact and tuition growth instead of roadblocks.
Let’s win together! Let’s increase younger, online learner and advance your mission.