Latest Online College Student Report Shows Degrees Have Value But The Cost of Programs Also Matter

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The Learning House and Aslanian Market Research findings reveal insights about online college students’ changing attitudes and also provides recommendations for university leaders

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“It’s encouraging to see that a majority of students who are studying fully online are reporting great value and satisfaction with their online programs which are largely tied to ambitious career goals,” said Todd Zipper, President and CEO of Learning House.

The Learning House, Inc., a leading academic program manager (APM) that enables universities to thrive in today’s competitive higher education landscape, and Aslanian Market Research, the premier organization dedicated to online and adult higher education market research, today unveiled findings from the seventh edition of Online College Students: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences, the only annual report to survey the changing attitudes and expectations of students who study fully online.

The research found that 86 percent of online students believe that the value of their degrees equals or exceeds the cost they paid for them. For students who have experienced both in-person and virtual classrooms, 85 percent feel that learning online is as good or better than attending courses on campus. Two-thirds of online college students also report that their online programs helped them achieve the original goal that motivated them to enroll in those programs.

When asked about selecting a school, online students mentioned “tuition and fees” most often as one of their top three deciding factors. This is consistent with the findings from prior years. The other top ranked factors are the match and reputation of the school or program.

Another continuing trend from past reports, shows that strong work and career motivations is likely causing online students to seek out and utilize institutional career resources, including resume assistance, career advising and job search assistance — at least 40 percent of online students reported using those three services.

One of the key findings indicates that the market share of online programs is diversifying, especially at the graduate level. In 2014, education and business programs accounted for half of all online graduate enrollments — 22 percent in education and 28 percent in business. This year, those fields account for just 14 percent and 21 percent respectively, while study areas such as computers and IT (15%), health & medicine (16%), and STEM (11%) have seen steady growth compared to 2014 data.

“It’s encouraging to see that a majority of students who are studying fully online are reporting great value and satisfaction with their online programs which are largely tied to ambitious career goals,” said Todd Zipper, President and CEO of Learning House. “With an increasing population of savvier consumers with high expectations, institutions need to do better at offering more quality, diverse programs that are sensitive to cost in order to keep up with the growing demands of online college students.”

Online College Students 2018 surveyed 1,500 students who are seriously considering, currently enrolled in or have recently graduated from a fully online program.


The 2018 edition of the report continues to offer valuable insight to school leaders who are managing or considering online programs by deeply examining student decisions regarding how and why they selected their online programs. For example, online students report that digital ads and outreach efforts are the most effective means of marketing an online program.

Online programs continue to improve to match students’ career and educational goals. Since online students remain heavily career focused, understanding which programs will best educate students for the job market and how, as well as communicating those findings, is critical to online program success.

Furthermore, schools must continue to adapt their online access to accommodate mobile technology. Research shows that 44 percent of online students used a mobile device to do all or almost all of their program searches, and more than a third of online students expressed a preference to do all or most of their coursework on a mobile device. Institutions should also consider scholarship offers — even relatively small ones — and financial incentives as enrollment enticements, owing to the price-consciousness of prospective students.

“Because student needs and interests change, institutions should always be open to reevaluating their programs to best meet student and institutional demands,” said Carol Aslanian, president of Aslanian Market Research. “These findings, along with our past research, will be invaluable to higher education leaders as they think about their online programs, which are becoming a more and more essential part of any diverse, effective, inclusive education program.”

The 2018 Online College Students: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences report provides updates to findings from all reports of the same title. To download a copy, please visit: .

To view and download the infographic, please visit:

To register to join the authors of the report for a free, live webinar on Thursday, July 12, please visit:

Report authors, Andrew J. Magda and Carol Aslanian and will also speak about the survey results at the Connect Higher Education Summit on June 12-13 in Louisville, Kentucky.

About The Learning House, Inc.
The Learning House, Inc. helps people improve their lives through education. The academic program manager offers a full suite of education services, including: Online Program Management (OPM), Corporate Solutions, The Software Guild, Learning House International, and Advancement Courses. Built on a foundation of data-driven decision-making, thorough market research, and robust technology services, Learning House is focused on delivering high-quality, relevant just-in-time education services to meet the needs of a dynamic, global market. Through its partnerships, Learning House helps universities acquire more students, produce more graduates, and deliver better outcomes and helps companies attract, develop, and retain a happier, more skilled workforce. For more information, please visit:

About Aslanian Market Research
Aslanian Market Research (the market research unit of EducationDynamics) conducts market demand studies, institutional audits, program and marketing reviews, and professional development seminars and workshops for colleges and universities seeking information and data on how to expand adult and online student enrollments. Throughout the last 25 years, its staff has worked with hundreds of colleges and universities of all types — public, private, large, small, rural, suburban, and urban — in every region of the U.S. Its seminars have provided thousands of college administrators with practical, hands-on tactics that they can implement at their institutions at minimal cost for maximum impact.

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