How do colleges market to people for whom higher education may not have even been a consideration?
“There are a couple of tactics that immediately come to mind,” Jones said. “Building industry partnerships with local employers across various industries is a great way to market to those populations that may want to upskill to advance in their company or shift into new roles.”
Jones noted that there are other tried and true methods, such as print and digital ads, but those marketing messages should focus on program flexibility, meaningful career connections and earning potential.
“If someone has not considered college before, the message needs to be clear that it would be worth their effort,” said Jones.
Community college is an affordable option for those who have ambitions of obtaining a bachelor’s or master’s degree. However, there is an entirely separate population who is not even aware of the more accessible option of community college and is turned off by the high cost of many traditional four-year U.S. colleges and universities. These students are equally important to reach in local community colleges and their efforts.
“We have Outreach Recruiters who visit high schools and talk with students who would traditionally not consider college after high school completion,” added Williamson. “Approximately 50% of graduating seniors in our service area do not go to any post-secondary institution. We work daily with our high school partners to establish a college-going culture within the high schools, even as early as middle and elementary school.”
In the 2018-19 academic year, 55% of Hispanic undergraduates were enrolled at community colleges, compared with 45% of Asian undergraduates, 44% of Black undergraduates and 41% of White undergraduates. During the past four years, enrollment numbers have fluctuated for community colleges, with male enrollment increasing and female enrollment decreasing. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, Hispanic and Asian student enrollment has increased, while there have been national declines in White and Black undergraduate enrollment. As a community with many Hispanic and Vietnamese families, San Jacinto College has experienced this shift in enrollment demographics.
“We make sure that our marketing materials are in both English and Spanish, and many are also in Vietnamese; the prospective students may speak English, but often parents and family members do not,” said Williamson. “Because attending college is often a family affair, it is important that families understand the demands and requirements higher education may entail.”