Market To Market: Expanding Horizons in Higher Education

 

The U.S. is home to approximately 5,300 degree-granting, postsecondary institutions—and now is an especially smart time to work with them. Colleges and universities need enrollees, and the pandemic has left many schools scrambling for students. 

Compared to spring 2020, enrollment in spring 2021 was down 3.3 percent at public four-year schools and two percent at private four-year schools, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Community colleges saw the biggest drop in enrollment, down 9.5 percent from last year. 

Current college students are not the only ones pressing pause on higher education—college-bound high school seniors are also rethinking their plans. According to a poll from nonprofits New America and Third Way, three out of four high school seniors say the pandemic has made them change their college plans. More than 20 percent say they plan to apply to schools with lower tuition or clearer COVID-19 response protocols. 

The pandemic has also impacted various student groups in different ways, with the sharpest drops in enrollment coming from international students, Native American students and Black students. Each of these groups experienced at least a seven-percent enrollment decline, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. 

Despite these declines, plenty of students—nearly 20 million—enrolled in U.S. colleges in fall 2020, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Even though they may have logged on for lectures instead of walking their institution’s hallowed halls, most students feel like they got what they signed up for: a solid education. According to Gallup, 76 percent of students pursuing a bachelor’s degree and 72 percent of students enrolled in an associate program in fall 2020 said the quality of their education experience was “excellent” or “very good.” 

This year, nearly 4.5 million college students are projected to graduate. The challenge for colleges and universities is reaching students and reversing the pandemic’s enrollment declines. Keep reading for data that spotlights the many areas where higher education institutions can use the expertise of promotional products distributors to engage current students, recruit prospective enrollees, and create awareness and participation for the programs and activities schools offer their targeted audiences. 

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COVID-19 continues to weigh heavily on the minds of today’s college students, with 86 percent saying they worry about the disease, according to a poll by New America and Third Way. Major universities such as Cornell, Duke, Notre Dame and Rutgers have mandated COVID-19 vaccines for students returning to campus this fall. Whether or not schools require vaccinations, they can use promotional products to educate students about how to stay safe and healthy on campus. Items like face coverings and touch-free devices make helpful giveaways at dorms, student union buildings and bookstores.

To help attract students back to campus or to enroll in online learning, schools can also turn to promotional campaigns to highlight specific programs and resources. For example, many schools are offering more eight-week courses instead of traditional semester-long classes to give students a faster route to a degree. Promotional campaigns can help educate students about their choices.

With community colleges, plenty of opportunities exist to promote associate degrees in technical fields where they do not face competition from four-year institutions. These schools can mail promotional products such as pennants or flags with information on degrees not commonly offered at four-year schools.

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Here’s a look at average tuition and fees for the 2020-21 academic year:

  • Public, in-state schools: $9,687
  • Public, out-of-state schools: $21,184
  • Private: $35,087

Source: U.S. News & World Report

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In spring 2021, enrollment was down across every student grouping compared to spring 2020.

  • Enrollment among men declined 7.1 percent, while enrollment among women declined 4.5 percent
  • Enrollment among traditional college-age students (ages 18-24) declined 5.3 percent
  • Enrollment among students ages 25-29 declined 3.5 percent, while enrollment among students age 29 and older decreased 2.1 percent
  • Enrollment among dual-enrollment high school students decreased 2.7 percent

Source: National Student Clearinghouse Research Center

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Learners enroll in colleges and universities for many different reasons. Here’s what matters most to today’s college students:

  • Gaining credentials to pursue a desired career: 59%
  • Gaining experience or knowledge in a certain area: 54%
  • Helping choose a future career: 42%
  • Being exposed to new ideas and different perspectives: 34%
  • Developing specific skills: 32%
  • Learning how to work and live with different types of people: 23%

Source: A study from College Pulse and the Charles Koch Foundation

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Female college students outnumbered male college enrollees for the first time in 1979—and have consistently outnumbered them ever since. In 2020, 11.3 million women enrolled in colleges and universities, compared to just 8.5 million men.

Source: BestColleges.com

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According to U.S. News & World Report, the average school has an eight-percent alumni giving rate. These 10 schools report significantly higher giving rates from graduates:

  • Princeton University: 55%
  • Williams College: 50%
  • Bowdoin College: 47%
  • Alice Lloyd College: 46%
  • Amherst College: 45%
  • Carleton College: 45%
  • Thomas Aquinas College: 45%
  • College of the Holy Cross: 44%
  • Dartmouth College: 44%
  • Wellesley College: 44%

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In most families (56 percent), students have the final say on which college they will attend. In 38 percent of families, students and parents make the decision together, while five percent of families say parents choose where their student enrolls.

Source: Sallie Mae’s 2020 “How America Pays for College” report

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Most undergraduate students (71 percent) believe colleges and universities have the right to require student vaccinations. Those enrolled in private universities are more likely than students attending public universities to say schools have the right to require vaccinations (78 percent vs. 69 percent).

Source: College Pulse

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In the 2018-19 school year, 66 percent of parents paid at least a portion of their child’s education costs out of pocket. In 2019-20, this number jumped to 83 percent. During this academic year, parents spent an average of $30,017 for higher education.

Source: Sallie Mae’s 2020 “How America Pays for College” report

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In 2020, U.S. student loan debt soared to an all-time high of $1.56 trillion, making it the second-highest consumer debt category behind home mortgages. More than 45 million borrowers have outstanding student loans, with the average debt nearing $33,000. Still, half of college alumni feel it was worth taking on student loan debt to earn a degree.

Sources: Forbes and Strada Center for Education Consumer Insights

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About 85 percent of college students report experiencing moderate to high levels of distress during the pandemic. Those reporting the highest distress levels include women, Asian Americans and students who know someone with COVID-19. Promotional products distributors can work with colleges and universities to bring awareness to mental health resources and highlight ways students can seek help.

Source: ScienceNews.org

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For 85 percent of college-bound high school seniors, visiting a college is a critical part of their selection process. However, one in two students have not been able to tour campuses due to COVID-19 restrictions, according to the Simpson Scarborough National Student Survey. When students can’t come to the school, colleges and universities can bring their offerings to prospective enrollees through promotional products. Items such as plush school mascots, custom flags and logoed apparel can reinvigorate students’ enthusiasm for specific schools.

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Female college students outnumbered male college enrollees for the first time in 1979—and have consistently outnumbered them ever since. In 2020, 11.3 million women enrolled in colleges and universities, compared to just 8.5 million men.

Source: BestColleges.com

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The Takeya Traveler is the ultimate leak-proof travel mug for hot drinks. Featuring a flip-lock lid that locks open for easy sipping and locks closed for a leak-proof seal, its double-wall vacuum insulation keeps drinks hot for up to 12 hours. The loop handle is easy for college kids to grab and go on a trek across campus.

The Allen Company  /  PPAI 113879, S7  /  www.allenmugs.com

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These Custom Printed Skins are an easy way for students to personalize all their devices. The durable vinyl also helps protect the device from daily scratches and scuffs. When ready to remove, just peel and toss. Available in three sizes, and they are trimmable for a perfect fit. 

3M Promotional Markets  /  PPAI 113638, S11  /  www.3m.com/promote

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No dorm room or student apartment is complete without a school pennant on the wall. This Classic White Felt Pennant measures 12-by-30 inches and is available in full color. Great for rallies, homecomings, sports tournaments and fundraisers.

LarLu  /  PPAI 113767, S7  /  www.larlu.com

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Across campuses everywhere, safety is a priority. Ensure students remain safe by giving them an AlertPod Personal Safety Alarm Key Chain at freshman orientation. It features two bright LED lights and an emergency alarm that’s activated by pulling the pin. The alarm sounds at 100-110 decibels and can be heard up to 225 feet away. An included carabiner clips the alarm to any bag or beltloop.  

Beacon Promotions, Inc. /  PPAI 113702, S10  /  www.beaconpromotions.com

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Colleges and universities can welcome learners back to campus while promoting student health with the Helen Jon Fashion Face Mask. These American-made, two-ply masks are made from swimwear material for a tighter, yet comfortable fit.  

Kati Sportcap  / PPAI 113758, S5  /  www.katisportcap.com

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Student resource centers can stock pen caddies with the Aeropure Stylus. Each twist-action pen features a stylus and citrus-scented antibacterial sanitizer spray. 

 

Hub Pen Company  /  PPAI 110772, S11  /  www.hubpen.com

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Featuring a protective laptop compartment, exterior pockets for water bottles and padded shoulder straps and back panel, the SmartPack Backpack is built for college students. Lightweight and ergonomically designed, this backpack is a must-have gift in campus bookstores.

Mobile Edge  /  PPAI 314937, S1  /  www.mobileedge.com

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Hoodies are staples in every college student’s wardrobe. The Varsity Collection hoodies, available in unisex and ladies’ styling, are made from super-soft cotton and polyester sueded fleece. Choose from five colors for these companion styles. 

J. America  /  PPAI 351699, S1  /  www.jamericablanks.com

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When students move into dorms, schools can welcome them with the TouchScreen Tool Shield. Each touchscreen-compatible tool helps reduce germ exposure and prevent cross-contamination. 

Powerstick.com  /  PPAI 383252, S8  /  www.powerstick.com

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Plush animals like Osmond the Great Horned Owl make fun gifts for college graduates. Add a bandana with a one-color imprint for a meaningful keepsake.


Artistic Toys & Promotions, LLC  /  PPAI 110753, S5  /  www.artistictoy.com

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A mainstay in campus dorm rooms and fans’ homes alike, the Large Flag makes an ideal giveaway at freshmen orientations and alumni events. Double stitching all around makes this flag durable for flying from a vehicle or waving at a game.

BamBams  /  PPAI 255565, S9  /  www.bambams.com

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Custom Coins have many creative applications in the collegiate market, from welcoming freshmen to congratulating graduates. Made in the U.S., each golden brass token is lacquer-coated to prevent tarnishing.   


Osborne Coinage Co
.  /  PPAI 112630, S3  /  www.osbornecoin.com

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Audrey Sellers is a Dallas-Fort Worth-based writer and former associate editor of PPB.

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