As more not-for-profit universities are expanding the size of their digital footprint online education is becoming a very crowded field. Not only are for-profit and not-for-profit schools competing against each other for students, but now they are competing with free massive, open online courses from top schools like Stanford and MIT.
To deal with the increasing competition colleges are relying on the strength of their brands, however two new studies show that online students focus more on programs than on brands. A report from the Parthenon Group finds that since online students—who are typically working adults—are primarily focused on improving their career prospects they select programs first and only later do they consider a school’s brand.
The lack of brand strength in online education is one of the key points in a new report from Google on education based searches. The study found that 90% of students looking for schools begin their search not knowing which school they want to attend, and that 83% of searches begin with a non-branded term.
Brands don’t become important until relatively late in the process, reported Google. The search giant found that brand based queries more than double in the 120 days before a student enrolls. However, once students begin to consider a school’s brand they are willing to pay extra for the perceived benefits that come with a strong brand.
Chris Ross, a partner in Parthenon’s education practice and the paper’s author, found that online students who are attending selective institutions are willing to pay $5,000 more a year in tuition than students who are attending an open enrollment institution. Ross predicts that as not-for-profit schools continue to expand their online presence, the strength of a school’s brand will become increasingly important.
Follow Alex Wukman on Twitter: @AlexWUkmanCMN</p