Eduventures Survey Data Results Stimulate Debate on the Community College Issue

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Prospective Students Survey Reveals Trends that Could Influence Participation in Obama’s Community College Initiative

Eduventures Survey of Prospective Adult Students

According to Cara Quakenbush, vice president of research at Eduventures, “we estimate that the Obama administration’s figures include 1 million students who would have otherwise enrolled in a bachelor’s program enrolling in community college. "

Eduventures, Inc., the leading research and advisory firm that is focused exclusively on analyzing the forces that are transforming higher education, today revealed data from a recent Prospective Students Survey that shows trends that may influence the implementation of President Obama’s community college initiative.

Key findings relevant to the community college debate include:
Eduventures’ 2015 Prospective Student Survey (completed by approximately 20,000 prospective students) asked high school students planning to attend college about likely paths to a bachelor’s degree. Overwhelmingly, these students choose “four consecutive years at a college” as the most probable path to completion (91%). When we look at the option of transferring after two years at another school, like the president’s plan suggests could be the role of community colleges, only 11% of respondents indicated that as a probable pathway for them. Two years of free tuition could certainly move the needle on these plans, but we project that it would likely come largely from the 15% of neutral respondents.

Our data clearly shows that affordability is not the primary enrollment driver among this population, as it ranks fourth behind career preparation, core academics, and academic environment. Traditional students care most about the value for the cost, rather than cost alone. Unless community colleges can quickly demonstrate the same career outcomes and academic rigor as four-year colleges, the vast majority of traditional students are unlikely to choose this pathway, even if it is free. There are, however, a few cost-sensitive segments of the traditional student population. According the survey, 11% of students lean toward starting at a two-year program and then transfering to a four-year program. These students, for whom affordability plays a greater role in decision making, tend to be non-white and the first in their families to pursue a college degree.

If we apply this figure to the traditional student market, we estimate that the number of prospective students who would choose free community college for the first two years is about 250,000, or roughly 5% of prospective traditional students The remaining 1.75 million of the projected increase in 2 million students that this program will yield will be adult and part time students. Our data has long indicated that adult and part-time students are far more sensitive to price. Our 2013 survey of prospective adult learners found that over half of respondents with “some college courses, but no degree” (53%) cited lower tuition and fees as the most important factor driving their interest in higher education.

Impact on Traditional Bachelor Programs
According to Cara Quakenbush, vice president of research at Eduventures, “we estimate that the Obama administration’s figures include 1 million students who would have otherwise enrolled in a bachelor’s program enrolling in community college. 250,000 of these “lost” students would be traditional students, and 750,000 of these students would be adult and part-time learners. If these projections are correct, the Obama administration’s plan for free community college would bring 1 million net new students to the higher education system.”

Eduventures analysis is based on a strong foundation of proprietary survey data and benchmarking data that is based the input of prospective and current students, and alumni. Like the audience measurement systems developed by the Nielson Company that provides insights and data about what people watch, listen to and buy, Eduventures executes and analyzes surveys with data from hundreds of thousands of students to help universities create brand strategies, reach their recruitment goals and create a culture of lifelong learning and loyalty within their alumni cohorts.

Prospective Students Survey
The Eduventures Prospective Students Survey is administered annually to high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors to help institutions understand the preferences of prospective college students. With these insights, colleges are able to focus their recruitment strategy, target key student segments, improve differentiation, and to prioritize and plan marketing budgets. The annual survey yields responses from over 20,000 prospective students nationwide.

About Eduventures
Eduventures is the leading research and advisory firm that is focused exclusively on analyzing the forces that are transforming higher education. Building on twenty years of success in working with education leaders, Eduventures provides forward-looking and actionable research based on proprietary market data, and advisory services that support both strategic and operational decision-making. Our recommendations and personalized support enable clients to understand the top traits of leaders in critical disciplines and to evaluate the opportunities presented by new technologies. For more information about Eduventure’s research, practice areas and team, visit us at http://www.eduventures.com.

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Ellen Slaby
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