The New America Foundation released the second part of its new survey on college decision making Thursday, with senior policy analyst Rachel Fishman arguing that policymakers and educational institutions “can do better to make sure students are aware of their options — including providing information about face-to-face, online, and hybrid options.”
Fishman’s latest policy brief, based on a Harris Poll commissioned by New America, finds that the process of searching for a school varies based on age. For example, the survey shows that online or hybrid programs are much more appealing to adult prospective students than they are to young people straight out of high school:
76 percent of 30-40 year olds planned to enroll in online-only or hybrid programs (which blend online and face-to-face courses), whereas 66 percent of students aged 16-19 planned to attend on-campus only at a traditional ‘brick-and-mortar’ college or university.
“Targeting information to different demographics will ensure that they can make a college choice that makes sense for them academically and financially,” Fishman said in a statement. In her report, she makes several suggestions to that end:
Revamping the U.S. Department of Education Scorecard might be one option. The Scorecard is a web resource that helps students compare colleges on five factors. Unfortunately, few students realize it exists, and a lot of the data points are not answering the pressing questions students have. The Education Department should test the Scorecard with consumers, especially adult students, in order to understand the exact data students need to know before they choose college. The revamped College Scorecard should not only be available to students online, but it should also be displayed on the main page of the college’s admissions and financial aid offices and sent as a disclosure with any materials the college mails to students.
Fishman also argues that schools must do a better job of promoting their online or hybrid programs:
Public colleges are unlikely to have the budget to make slick advertising campaigns about their flexible options. But they can make important inroads in targeting students locally through print campaigns on public transport, local radio ad campaigns, billboards, search engine optimization, local news coverage and through other relatively low-cost means. Thinking of ways to target students locally will help focus precious advertising dollars while still helping to ensure students know about all their options before applying.