From PreK to College, Your Audience Wants These Questions Answered

By Alison Pfaff Jun 2, 2022

As education experts, you know what you want prospective students or clients to know about your institution. But what do those same potential customers want to know about you?

Demystifying what consumers want is a market unto itself, but with a little research, you can make some broad assumptions about what your audience wants to know. You quickly find that what parents want to know about a private PreK-12 school is inherently different from what a prospective college student wants to know.

 
Higher Education Institutions

The number one thing your audience wants to know is: are you worth it? The debate about whether a college degree is worth the cost is ongoing. Traditionally, a college degree meant potential earnings of over $2.8 million in a lifetime (~$75k annually), versus $1.6 with a high school diploma, according to a recent article in Forbes. But the same article shows how these stats can mislead.

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) released an intriguing study entitled The College Payoff: More Education Doesn’t Always Mean More Earnings. Its findings are right in the title, but the data paint a clear picture. Sixteen percent of high school graduates, 23 percent of workers with some college education but no degree, and 28 percent of associate’s degree holders earn more than 50 percent of workers with a bachelor’s degree. Perhaps more surprisingly, 36 percent of workers with a bachelor’s degree earn more than 50 percent of workers with a master’s degree.

What gives? First, fields of study matter a lot. A bachelor’s in STEM goes further than an MFA. So, too, does the huge variation in pay scale when you’re considering the overall data. For example, the vast majority of workers working at minimum wage do not have a bachelor’s degree or higher. This extremely low end of the data range pulls down the entire median of the data set.

The truth is, there are jobs that afford a decent living that can be found without a college degree, yet this is obscured by the data. Generally, it remains true that you have more earning potential with an advanced degree, but it is no longer a given. This debate puts the onus on higher education institutions to have a convincing answer. When a prospective student asks, “Is it worth it?” be prepared to say, “Yes, let me show you why.”

 

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Private PreK through 12th Prep Schools

Private college prep schools don’t have to worry about litigating the pros and cons of attending college. Most parents who send their children to private school hope they will then go on to complete college. However, the conventional wisdom that attending private school means you’re more likely to get into top universities is not necessarily borne out by the numbers. In recent years it’s basically been little better than a coin flip on which institutions – public or private – send more kids to college.

Most parents won’t know this and will still believe that sending their child to a private school – especially one that’s seen as a “college prep” school – will pay off when it comes to admission to universities. However, there’s another aspect to PreK through 12 education this obsession with college overlooks: will my child’s experience be fulfilling, and will they learn to be a good person?

These are the underappreciated questions your audience wants educators to answer. As traditional college continues to lose favor with the public due to rising costs and shrinking opportunities, students will need more out of their PreK-12 experience, especially as more and more students decide that college may not be in their future. Differentiators that indicate your institution has that commitment to a student’s overall development could be a driver of growth.

 

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