Student Recruitment: The Current State of Higher Ed Enrollment

Topics: Higher Ed Marketing, Media + Advertising

Posted by: Marketing

At first glance, the current state of higher education enrollment looks bleak. Potential applicants are delaying college or choosing jobs that don’t require a degree. Competition is high for student recruitment and retention. Budgets have been cut sharply since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and higher ed marketers lack funding. However, there is hope. Let’s explore the most effective ways to conduct student recruitment campaigns in 2022.

Student Enrollment


Current Challenges for Student Recruitment

When it comes to recruiting and retaining college students, the competition is fierce. Not only are there nearly 4,000 degree-granting postsecondary institutions in the U.S., but fewer students are applying to colleges and universities in recent years. This is due to a number of factors, including stagnant population growth, the pandemic and rising wages. 

Many young adults are burned out from the difficulties of completing high school in these trying times and unwilling to commit to college while the state of the world has been so uncertain. Meanwhile the nation’s unemployment rate edged below 4 percent in February, and employers are offering higher wages and benefits for entry-level jobs that don’t require a college degree. And with less money available overall, most university budgets don’t stretch to extensive recruitment and retention campaigns. Therefore, school marketing departments must make the best possible use of the resources at their disposal.



“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” 



Effective Tactics for Student Recruitment

In our increasingly virtual world, digital advertising may be the most important part of a successful student recruitment campaign. After all, young people (and their parents, teachers, coaches and even grandparents) spend a significant portion of their day online.


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Digital ad campaigns, paid social media campaigns, and influencer partnerships build buzz for everything your organization has to offer. They also provide a broader reach than traditional ad campaigns, often at a fraction of the price.

+ Learn how digital marketing tactics drive successful college recruitment.

Even schools that don’t have the budget for enough (or any) paid digital media can utilize digital communications (email, text and social media) to build brand awareness and converse with the student population and those who influence them.

+ Learn three key digital marketing solutions for increasing student enrollment.

Spheres of Influence

While both traditional and digital advertising can be highly effective, word of mouth is also a significant factor in pushing students to enroll. Family, friends, and trusted adults exercise a great deal of influence in the choices that young adults make. Reach out, not just to potential students, but to the important people in their lives.

 While private schools with national profiles may be able to coast on their reputations and ability to significantly subsidize tuition, for regional universities, local high schools are a crucial source for new enrollment. Maintaining a presence at secondary schools in your area is an excellent strategy. Participate in events like post-secondary information nights, ask faculty to give presentations on their areas of expertise to local high school classes, and run locally targeted ad campaigns.

Student Enrollment

Powerful Messaging

According to a recent Georgetown University study, for most people, advanced levels of education are directly correlated with higher lifetime earnings. In fact, “bachelor’s degree holders earn a median of $2.8 million during their career, 75% more than if they had only a high school diploma.” This is a crucial message to share with young people and those who influence them. While skipping post-secondary education to start a career now may seem smart, it’s often not the best move in the long run. 

+ Learn what makes for a winning college recruitment ad.

Target Audience Reboot

Even if many young adults choose to work full time rather than enroll in college directly after high school graduation, this isn’t necessarily a permanent situation. Post-secondary institutions need to broaden their target audience to include people who may only be delaying college while they figure out what they want to do long-term, recover from the rigors of attending high school in the midst of a global pandemic, or take advantage of the current high wages many entry level jobs are offering. Sharing the benefits of training, certification, and a diploma (rather than pushing the proverbial college lifestyle) with young adults who are currently pursuing other paths may bear significant fruit.

See our complete guide: Recruiting Students – A Marketing Plan to Increase College Enrollment.




Here at MSS Media, Inc., we’ve been providing Education, Government, Real Estate & Lifestyle clients with succinct, optimized, and successful marketing solutions for more than 15 years. Consider MSS Media, Inc. a full-service, one-stop shop for all your Media and Public Relations needs. Your goals are our motivation. And our mission is to propel your message, further and faster, to achieve the outcomes you’re looking for. If you found this blog post helpful, please share!

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