The Top 3 Higher Education Marketing Trends to Watch

Takeaways from the 2017 ASU+GSV Summit

May 12, 2017

ASU+GSV Summit

This year’s ASU+GSV Summit, held at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City, brought together decision makers and disruptors as well as innovators and investors shaping the future of education in the U.S. and worldwide. The event, co-hosted by Global Silicon Valley, was packed with valuable insights for online and traditional schools alike looking to leverage trends for greater student success. The event also marked an increase in activity for the K-12 sector (fittingly held across the street at the Little America Hotel, natch).

With 3,300+ registrants this year, ASU+GSV captures the growing convergence of technology, education, and innovation featuring such speakers as best-selling author Michael Lewis, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and Arizona State University President Michael Crow. LinkedIn's own CEO, Jeff Weiner, gave a rousing keynote panel announcing a new course on compassionate management while also discussing the skills gaps in North America with EverFi CEO Tom Davidson and YearUp CEO Gerald Chertavian. Three key trends emerged from these and other conversations that every higher ed marketer should keep top of mind in order to stay ahead.

Marketing Taking Down Silos

Higher education innovators are taking marketing best practices and integrating them across the student experience -- from enrollment, through graduation, and beyond -- in order to boost brand and retention. “We’ve established strong relationships with marketing and other divisions in the school, uniting marketing teams with student-facing departments,” said Jeff Tognola of Walden University.

“We’ve identified student progress as a metric that unites all departments to minimize drop-off.”

Tognola was one of four online program leaders including Penn State World Campus, Harvard Continuing Education, and Colorado State Global Campus discussing marketing’s evolution from lead gen and metrics to becoming mission critical to the student experience.  “The marketing doesn’t stop once a prospect becomes a student,” said Penn State’s Bill Harvey. This move from tactical "get butts in seats" to strategic in student retention and cultivation across the entire lifecycle has implications for budgets as well in 2017.  

The Convergence of Traditional and For-Profit Schools

As we saw with the recent news of the Purdue-Kaplan deal, the line between traditional non-profit and for-profit schools is beginning to blur …and that's a very good thing. In one of the more popular panels, Crossfire Debate: Can For-Profit Post Secondary Institutions Regain the Innovation Edge?, Tony Miller COO of The Vistria Group, which recently took the University of Phoenix private, stated, "there is a now a spectrum that exist between the ‘for-profit’ and ‘traditional not-for-profit’ educational institutions. Many [schools] are falling in the middle, and are becoming very commercially minded.” Now that Phoenix has gone private, Miller is betting that without the pressure of Wall Street the university can utilize its existing scale, leverage, and its innovative DNA to better service an underserved student population.

"What drives us is solving a very complex problem that will improve the lives of thousands of people through education, not our share price. We reinvest every dollar of profit we have back into the student experience, faculty, and curriculum," said Philip Regier, University Dean for Educational Initiatives and CEO of EdPlus, Arizona State University. Regier represents the new breed of “commercially minded” educational institutions that are driving innovation for a more sustainable model focused on improving the entire student experience.

Less Regulation

The new U.S. administration is leaning towards less regulation which means existing constraints on marketing activities for higher education may subside. In a keynote and fireside chat with the newly appointed U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, change was top of mind. "It’s time to disrupt education. My job is to get the federal government out of the way so you can do your job – to innovate,” said Secretary DeVos. One immediate outcome may be higher education legal teams being less skittish on approving marketing concepts and collateral that push the envelope.  

What’s Next?

From the conversations in the hallways and meeting rooms of the ASU+GSV Summit, it’s clear that educational institutions are undergoing massive change to meet the needs and expectations of today’s students. With great change comes the opportunity for innovation. For higher education marketers, that means rethinking how you tell your school’s story, how you work across teams to leverage all of your school’s assets, and what marketing channels you use to communicate your unique value proposition.

Visit LinkedIn’s higher education site to learn more about how you can use LinkedIn to target and engage the right prospective students for your programs.