Illustration of graph with upward trendily

Meeting Expectations for Return on the College Investment

After a long post-recession job market slump, things are finally starting to look better for new college graduates. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has been tracking the labor market for people aged 22 to 27 with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Its graphs show not only unemployment, but also underemployment, on a downward trajectory for recent college graduates, and that their annual wages are on an upward trajectory.

The stronger job market could be one contributor to a newfound confidence among young adults regarding their financial prospects. A national survey of 18- to 26-year-olds conducted in February by Snapchat found that 88% of them are optimistic about their personal future when prompted to “think about things like finding and keeping a good job, paying off your student loan debt, and being able to afford the lifestyle you want.” And 54% are not just optimistic, but “extremely” or “very” optimistic.

With economic and confidence indicators like these improving, prospective students and their families are likely to have even higher expectations of financial rewards from earning a college degree—see CIRP data as confirmation. ROI is top of mind given the overall price tag of a college education (fees, fees, and more fees), and especially at a private institution whose brand identity is heavily shaped by published price rather than net price. In fact, young Americans responding to the Snapchat survey consider the cost of education to be one of the most pressing issues facing our country today, second only to income inequality. And incidentally, while a college degree is widely considered to be the ticket to increased earning potential, in actuality the earnings of college graduates vary substantially according to the income level of the families in which they grew up.

The continued focus on the outcomes of a college education means that prospective students and their families will maintain their measured temperament and persist in their behavior of shopping for, discerning, and assessing value.


Labor Market for Recent Grads

Federal Reserve Bank of New York finds that college graduates are entering a better job market than in the past several years.

Survey of Young Americans

poll sponsored by the social media app Snapchat revealed that 18- to 26-year-olds are very optimistic about their futures.

College Education & Income Inequality

Brookings finds the proportional income increase for college graduates who grew up poor is much less than for those who did not.


Lawlor Recommends

With the yield season underway (and the beginning of early interest for another segment), reinforcing the value of the investment must be a constant endeavor for enrollment and marketing professionals—and frankly, the entire campus community.

It’s not just about delivering great outcomes, but also communicating them. Translating the value of the educational experience at your college in a distinct and relevant manner is an absolute necessity. One of today’s other marketplace necessities is providing proof and evidence of successful outcomes. When colleges share factual information, post persuasive statistics, and show and tell compelling stories of alumni success via multiple platforms, it enhances the value proposition and, in turn, impacts yield and sustains interest.

Implied quality and success are no longer persuasive. The prospective student market is populated with smart shoppers/investors who are doing their due diligence to determine the best educational investment. If you and your institution are not engaged in providing proof and evidence of alumni job and career success, then it is time to spring forward.