Survey Says: Major Trends in Higher Education


Stamats 2020

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Stamats conducted its National Poll on the Major Issues Facing Higher Education. Directed at senior-level college administrators and board members, the study had a singular, but crucial purpose: to identify and rank those issues of most importance to higher education professionals and the institutions they serve.

Let’s explore a handful of top-level survey findings:

For institutions of all sizes, affordability, and competition remain primary challenges.

Sixty-six percent of respondents cited tuition and fee affordability as the major internal challenges facing their college or university. These concerns echo the ongoing national conversation about the cost of the higher education, its affect on the health of both public and private institutions, and the long-term economic impact of student debt.

From an external perspective, nearly 70% of survey respondents ranked competition for prospective students as their institutions’ dominant challenge—reflecting a tightening market, an expanding base of constituents, and the need for more strategic marketing and recruitment plans.

Only a slight majority of schools feel they have the data necessary to make strategic decisions.

Regardless of field, research-driven decision-making has never been more important for maximizing marketing budgets and fueling long-term success. Still, only 51.6% of respondents report having access to current and relevant data. These results suggest that a significant portion of higher education professionals are operating without solid data, aren’t confident about the information they have, or are unaware of the contemporary research tools available.

Branding initiatives are often a casualty of institutional politics.

If political fallout were not a consideration, a majority of respondents (more than 44%) would invest more dollars in branding. This finding surprised us because it reflects a dual insight: First, it confirms an awareness of the importance of branding across all institutional levels—particularly in today’s hyper-competitive higher education market. Second, it shows a profound understanding of the internal roadblocks (perhaps informed by firsthand experience) brand-building and brand engagement initiatives typically face.

No doubt the concerns we’ve touched on directly or indirectly affect every college and university professional. As each of us tries to make the most of a rapidly changing higher education marketplace, we’ll be challenged to work smarter, campaign harder for the initiatives we believe in, and find new ways to influence student success.


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