COVID-19 has affected businesses across every vertical in different ways. Some are finding it nearly impossible to keep up with the demand for staple goods such as toilet paper and health-related products such as hand sanitizers and face masks. Others, ranging from hotels to restaurants, are struggling to find ways to keep employees on the payroll. The higher education industry is being affected as well. Let’s take a closer look based on our observations and client work.
Challenges for Higher Education
This pandemic has created several challenges for the higher education industry – some for which many were prepared for, and others which have left colleges and universities scrambling to adapt. Many of our higher education clients have robust online class offerings. In fact, many offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees that are 100 percent online. Those clients have experienced minimal disruption to their class schedules.
With that said, when we dig deeper into the data and examine marketing trends closely, we see some revealing details, such as:
- When it comes graduate-level healthcare related degrees, we have seen a steep drop in overall demand (impressions and clicks are down significantly in Google) as well as a reduction in the number of people completing lead forms seeking more information about a degree program. These results are not surprising. We have all witnessed the heroic efforts of our healthcare workers over the past weeks, devoting countless hours to the point of exhaustion. They understandably need to put the rest of their lives on hold.
- Conversely, we have seen a 5 percent lift in conversion rates from February to April for master’s in education programs offered by our higher education clients. Those programs are for people who possess education degrees and are looking to earn an advanced degree such as a master’s in education or a master’s in early childhood education. As K-12 classrooms around the country have turned to an abbreviated school day utilizing virtual learning, teachers are reclaiming a few extra hours of their day, and appear to be spending time looking for opportunities to further their own education and advance their careers.
Because of the vast difference in conversion rates between higher education degree programs, it is important to tailor your marketing approach. Now may be a great time to ramp up pay-per-click (PPC) spend for graduate-level teaching degrees, while pulling back on PPC spend for healthcare degrees.
Why Higher Education Needs to Stay Engaged Online
Although higher education is in a unique position with many already offering online learning prior to the pandemic, clearly there is still much disruption in campus programs. Colleges are struggling to complete the 2019-20 year in a virtual format. Many are offering pass/fail options versus a standard letter grade. There are virtual graduation ceremonies in the works, and some are choosing to delay graduation until a later date in hopes there can be an in-person ceremony.
And a bigger question looms: will campuses will open on schedule this fall, and if they do, how many students will feel comfortable returning? This USA Today article speaks to the conflict being reported widely throughout the news media: students and their parents are going to be tempted take the 2020-21 school year off rather than return to an online format, especially if colleges and universities charge normal tuition rates for an online experience.
In this uncertain climate, all higher education providers must use digital to stay closely connected to current and prospective students as well as their parents. Doing so is especially important now as colleges and universities try to attract students to an experience that is radically different than the one that students signed up for. Right now, many schools are wisely investing more dollars in social platforms to keep students in isolation engaged during the 2019-20 year. They will need to do even more as the uncertain 2020-21 year approaches.
Be Ready to Pivot
Amid uncertainty, we are sure to see online learning play an even bigger role in higher education. Colleges and universities need to be ready to tackle the challenge. Competition is already strong resulting in high cost-per-clicks (CPCs). Currently we have seen CPCs range as high as $90 or more. As more and more colleges enter the online market, we should expect to see those CPCs increase further, and smaller colleges with limited budgets may be forced out by bigger players.
Contact True Interactive
It will become increasingly important to take full advantage of targeting options including geographic, household income, age, and interests to help make the most of your advertising dollars. The one-size-fits-all approach will quickly lead to failure. At True Interactive, we have extensive experience in the higher education field. We are happy to review your current marketing plan and work with you to ensure you are on the path to success. Contact us to get started.