Trends for 2015

Eight Opportunities for Private Higher Education to Gain Market Share

Annually, The Lawlor Group combines our proprietary research with findings from outside studies to predict which trends in the higher education marketplace will have a significant impact on student recruitment and enrollment efforts at independent colleges and universities during the coming year. The past several years have been marked by economic, demographic, and technological disruption, placing many senior administrators in a reactive position as they respond to marketplace trends. We strongly believe, however, that 2015 brings a time for more proactive, innovative leadership. So this year, we present our trends in the form of what we expect to see from institutions that are being “edupreneurial” in signaling their relevance, distinction, and value.

Line ’Em Up

Students say they want to leave college with the skills and abilities that make them employable. Faculty say they teach those very skills and abilities. Employers say new college graduates are woefully underprepared for the workplace. Clearly, something’s not going as intended.

  • 86% of first-year students said a very important reason they decided to attend college was “to be able to get a better job,” and 77% said “to get training for a specific career” (CIRP).
  • 97% of chief academic officers at private non-profit institutions say their institution is effective (57% said very effective) in “preparing students for the world of work” (Inside Higher Ed).
  • 33% of business leaders agree (11% strongly agree) that “higher education institutions in this country are graduating students with the skills and competencies that my business needs” (Lumina/Gallup).
  • While 59% of college graduates believe they are well-prepared to apply knowledge/skills to the real world, only 24% of employers agree (American Association of Colleges and Universities).
  • 73% of hiring managers felt that colleges are only “somewhat preparing” students for the working world (Millennial Branding).

Opportunity: Align learning objectives with workforce needs.

Evidently there’s a mismatch between what faculty and employers mean by career-oriented learning goals. But in order for a college to provide a compelling value proposition, the outcomes of the experience must line up with the expectations of the marketplace. So institutions are exploring modularized course content, competency-based learning, and other ways to verifiably deliver specific market-driven educational outcomes.