Q. Online is experiencing fewer inquiries and applications. Is this something that we should be anticipating will continue? What are the short-term and long-term implications of COVID-19 on adult enrollment?

 

Yes, a number of schools have told us that they are seeing a softening of interest in online programs. This is not surprising given the turmoil and uncertainty the pandemic has created. Many people have more pressing things on their minds than enrolling in college. More time needs to elapse to allow many people to see beyond the next few weeks. 

As the medium-term future starts to clear, and the severity of the economic downturn comes into focus, many adults may begin to think seriously about some kind of formal education. Unemployment is likely to remain high for many months. Sustained stay-at-home orders or advisories will also favor enrollment and online learning. 

The key question will be the balance between the severity of the recession and the federal stimulus. If the latter cannot match the former, a more depression-like period may ensue, where the economic damage is so bad that many consumers cannot think beyond immediate necessities. This will depress college enrollment. If the stimulus is a match then colleges can be more flexible on admission and terms, and consumers can place a bet on school.

One wild card is a federal opening of Title IV to non-higher education institutions offering short, cheap, career-aligned programs, which would weaken demand for traditional degrees, online or otherwise. Another might be growing consumer appetite for the array of free or very cheap online courses from MOOCs and the like. Might severe economic strain push many consumers to make-do with these kinds of education?

If colleges believe in their programs and think they are worth the time and cost, now is the time to make the value proposition crystal clear to consumers.

Richard Garrett

Eduventures Chief Research Officer at ACT | NRCCUA
Contact

More from the Wake-Up Call…
Talking with Your CIO about Remote Instruction

Talking with Your CIO about Remote Instruction

Q. What technology conversations should I be having with my CIO about supporting remote instruction at my institution?   Much discussions about the sudden move to deliver remote instruction have centered on the tactical, such as moving course materials into the...

OPMs: Renew, or Go Internal?

OPMs: Renew, or Go Internal?

Q. Our school has maintained a long-term engagement with an external Online Program Management (OPM) partner. Prior to the recent impact of COVID-19, we were assessing whether to renew this contract, or use our internal services and business units to manage our online...