The survey indicates a growing interest in how different degrees and academic paths will serve students in the workforce.
“There’s no doubt that rank and cost are important to students and families, but these survey results suggest that students are also focused on value and whether their degree will enable them to succeed in their chosen profession,” says EAB principal Dana Strait. “The survey findings affirm what our research team has been hearing from the hundreds of enrollment leaders we speak with: Students are evaluating what we call ‘return on education’ or ROE. And ROE has a lot to do with their field of study, not just the school they select or the price they pay.”
At Virginia Tech, administrators realized the website for the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences was geared more toward internal audiences and excluded external stakeholders such as prospective students and parents. The school overhauled the website and added alumni stories, rankings, and information about student research and experiential-learning opportunities.
After updating its website and without making substantive program changes, the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences saw a 35 percent increase in applications during the two cycles that included the website launch.
“Since the Great Recession, students have become more practical and career-focused when choosing schools. And our research suggests that this trend is likely to continue,” Strait adds. “Still, many schools don’t provide prospective students with enough information on the experiences, opportunities, and outcomes students will have in individual programs. Doing so is especially important for the humanities, where career outcomes are less clear.”
Social media also plays an important role as students seek information about academic programs. Forty-one percent of students say information about majors and minors was the most useful social media content. That’s higher than the number of students who want schools to share information about college costs (31 percent) or financial aid (26 percent) on social channels.