Motivating Students in the New World of Higher Ed.

Motivating Students in the New World of Higher Ed.

Author: Forge Team

19 November 2018

The landscape of higher education is changing.

That much is clear. With the cost of college constantly on the rise, students and parents are starting to question the value of a college degree. As a result, they are demanding that Higher Ed institutions provide the ROI of their programs prior to making the investment.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 7.6 million college and university students are 25 years old and over in 2018. Today, more and more prospective students are taking a gap year before their undergraduate studies. Many are going back to school after gaining work experience to increase their earning potential and value in the job market.



For a great number of the over-25 crowd, remaining employed full or part time is their reality. Their lives don’t allow them to take a year or two off to study. Subsequently, higher ed institutions have responded by growing their part-time and online offerings. For students looking to remain employed full or part time, the challenge isn’t convincing them that an online or part-time degree is worthwhile. (79% of all online students and 76% of alumni think that online education is “better than” or “equal to” on-campus education*) The challenge is convincing them that your college’s online or part-time degree is a worthwhile.

While the idea of “build it, and they will come” may have worked in the movie Field of Dreams, this is real life. Working students are being pulled in 10 different directions. They need to know that your specific higher ed online or part-time degree is worth their precious time to pursue it.


For instance, over the past 4 years, we have worked with the University of Massachusetts Isenberg School of Management to do just that. We’ve worked to grow and promote their offerings both on campus and online. Recently, we’ve worked with the Isenberg team closely utilizing extensive qualitative research boards. We’ve interacted directly with students to identify the most important criteria for choosing an MBA or other graduate business program. Amidst that research, we discovered criteria that directly impacts Isenberg’s online learning provision. It also directly appeals to the distinctly gritty, “driven” genetic makeup of Isenberg prospects. In fact, over three quarters of the respondents in our research boards prefer the idea of a hybrid program. Hybrid programs are a combination of both online and in-person learning. Students value the freedom. They value the traditional rigor of higher ed.


As a result, we’ve used these insights to help develop many successful campaigns. These campaigns market to prospective students with messaging tailored directly to their interests and needs. Taking the time to truly listen to prospective students and understand what is really worthwhile in their lives is critical. This helps us ensure they are getting everything they need from the university. The results speak for themselves. Our Isenberg Online MBA program, for example, has risen to #1 in the Nation and #3 Globally on the Financial Times list for 2018.

Higher Ed Campaign MBA  Higher Ed Campaign MBA


The Isenberg School of Management isn’t the only school doing it right. In fact, many colleges and universities around the country have been adapting. They’re making changes in the industry by listening to, and understanding, the real-life needs of students. They are expanding their locations, academic offerings, and global networks to help. The top schools in the nation have realized that if they want to succeed in this ever-changing industry, they need to adapt. They need to be agile and adapt to the goals and needs of not just current high school juniors and seniors, but the entire next generation of students. They need to be open to technological advancements and evolving what traditional higher education looks like.

Consequently, many schools have already begun the transition. Are you ready to take the next step? Contact us today and learn more about how we can help you embrace the changes that are coming. Lets work together to develop products and messaging to move the right people. Please email Lauren Mello for more information about our Higher Ed offerings and other research we’ve done.

*2018 Online Trends in Education Report developed by Best Colleges