Three Things the Marketplace Is Telling Private Higher Education

Based on our breadth of perspective and data-based insights, LAWLOR’s annual trends report identifies market pressures that impact the compelling expression of an institution’s brand strengths—and consequently, its efforts to enhance value, create distinction, and generate enrollment results in the coming year. For our 2019 edition, we examined three dominant attitudes among prospective students and their families toward private colleges and universities:

  • “We want career readiness.” Expectation of employability is the most prevalent reason for going to college. As has always been the case, nontraditional-age students largely have career motives for attending college. Now, too, Gen Z students (today’s 13- to 21-year-olds) are explicitly thinking about their career paths, finding ways to get career training, and gravitating toward the college majors they consider to be better career paths.
  • “We think you’re overcharging.” The optimal sticker price for a private college is one that makes it seem neither too expensive nor too cheap—but on average, private colleges have a sticker price almost $7,000 per year beyond their optimum. Even the net price at private colleges is an affordability stretch for most students, and demands for institutional aid from families of all income levels are cutting into private colleges’ net revenue.
  • “We are skeptical you’re worth it.” Only 40% of Americans under age 40 believe college is worth it considering the costs to attend college versus the benefits of graduating. Underemployment after graduation (in a job that doesn’t require a college degree) is high, and employers of recent college graduates sense they lack preparation in important skill areas.

In today’s higher education marketplace, prospective students and their families have become more attuned to the value proposition, making a calculation of whether the results of the college experience are worth the cost. With so much pressure on the cost side, it has become more important than ever for private colleges and universities to link what they deliver with its results.


LAWLOR’S Trends for 2019

You can download the PDF with infographics and statistics showing what the marketplace is telling private higher education. (Lawlor Advisory)

College Presidents’ Concerns

We debuted our trends at the CIC Presidents Institute, where small college presidents contemplated how to maintain their institutions’ relevance. (IHE)

Education Dive’s Trends to Watch

“Colleges will feel pressure to prove graduates are job-ready,” so more colleges are looking to design career-specific programming. (Education Dive)



Lawlor Recommends

Our “Trends for 2019” also summarizes two of our major recommendations for how private colleges can respond to what the marketplace is seeking: by ensuring the college experience is relevant to their future graduates’ work and lives, and by offering meaningful mentoring relationships and career advising. Delivering relevance and guidance can enhance a college’s value proposition by strengthening the link between the educational experience and its results. Today’s marketplace is demanding demonstrated proof and evidence that reinforces the value of the investment. Colleges that “walk the talk” with a genuine value experience will be seriously considered as a possible “road to success.”