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Attitudes towards Higher Education - US - December 2015

"A college degree is still largely viewed as a necessity for a successful career and as a source of greater job security. However, the cost, lack of flexibility, and lengthy time commitment have some adults looking for alternatives to a traditional education."

- Lauren Bonetto, Lifestyles & Leisure Analyst

This report looks at the following issues:

  • Prospective students looking for faster, cheaper ways to a degree
  • The necessity of a degree may be in question
  • Cost of college and student debt continues to draw scrutiny, concern
  • Parents expect children to finish in four years, average time to degree slightly more than four years

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Definition
      • Executive Summary

          • Figure 1: Snapshot of student fall enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, 2015*
        • The issues
          • Prospective students looking for faster, cheaper ways to a degree
            • The necessity of a degree may be in question
              • Figure 2: The value of a college degree, September 2015
            • Cost of college and student debt continues to draw scrutiny, concern
              • Figure 3: Attitudes towards educational loans, September2015
            • Parents expect children to finish in four years, average time to degree slightly more than four years
              • Figure 4: Parents’ expectations for kids graduating in four years or less, September 2015
            • The opportunities
              • Alternative routes to an education are gaining acceptance
                • Improving four-year graduation rates will please parents, students alike
                  • Education viewed as a way to improve career prospects, increase earning potential
                    • Figure 5: Top six motivations for seeking a degree, September 2015
                  • In addition to an education, students looking for an experience
                    • Figure 6: The college experience, by current/future students and parents of future/current/former students, September 2015
                  • Younger students may need guidance
                    • Figure 7: Utility of chosen degree, by age, September 2015
                  • What it means
                  • The Market – What You Need to Know

                    • Enrollment on the rise in coming decade
                      • Students aged 25+ have large presence on campus
                        • Unemployment trending downward, job market still competitive
                          • Parents and students concerned about cost
                          • Size of the Student Body

                            • Enrollment projected to increase steadily in coming decade
                                • Figure 8: Total fall enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, 1970-2024* (projected)
                              • Women outnumber men in higher education
                                • Figure 9: Share of total fall enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by gender, 1970-2024* (projected)
                              • State of economy influences demographics of student body
                                • Figure 10: Share of total fall enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by age groups, 1970-2024* (projected)
                              • Modern college students significantly more diverse
                                • Figure 11: Share of total fall enrollment of US residents in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by race/Hispanic origin, 1976-2024* (projected)
                            • Market Factors

                              • Despite declining unemployment, job market remains competitive
                                • Figure 12: Labor-force status of people aged 16+, annual averages, 2004-15*
                              • Competition from abroad
                                • Cost continues to be a concern
                                  • Figure 13: Attitudes towards educational loans, September2015
                                • Sexual assault on campuses makes headlines, safety is a concern
                                  • Figure 14: “1 is 2 many,” public service announcement, 2014
                              • Key Players – What You Need to Know

                                • Prospective students have a wide selection of programs, institutions
                                  • Consumer trends shake up the college experience
                                  • Types of Education Programs and Institutions

                                    • Higher education programs
                                      • Undergraduate Certificate Program
                                        • Graduate Certificate Program
                                          • Associate’s Degree Program
                                            • Bachelor’s Degree Program
                                              • Master’s Degree Program
                                                • Doctorate Degree Program
                                                  • Types of institutions
                                                    • Vocational College
                                                      • Community Colleges and Junior Colleges
                                                        • Colleges and universities
                                                          • For-profit colleges and universities
                                                            • Online colleges/universities
                                                            • Education and Consumer Trends

                                                              • Boot camps offer education in a fraction of the time
                                                                  • Figure 15: “Alumni Profile: Mai,” online video, 2015
                                                                • Passion for life-long learning gives rise to services that allow consumers to “Dabble”
                                                                    • Figure 16: “About CourseHorse,” online video, 2014
                                                                  • Flexibility of skills-based education may be more appealing than career-oriented education
                                                                    • Better careers, learning skills, higher salaries motivate degree seekers
                                                                      • College campuses see shift in gender – Women now outnumber men
                                                                        • College admissions counsellors help students enter top schools
                                                                          • Smaller, and niche institutions struggle with declining enrollment
                                                                          • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                                            • Career and earning potential biggest drivers for education
                                                                              • Traditional methods of comparing colleges still used
                                                                                • Cost and location are the most influential factors
                                                                                  • Majority of parents “very involved” in college selection
                                                                                    • The value of a college degree increasingly in question
                                                                                      • Many students base major on passions
                                                                                        • Diversity on campus appeals to prospective students
                                                                                        • Motivations for Seeking a Degree

                                                                                            • Education viewed as way to improve career, increase earning potential
                                                                                                • Figure 17: Motivations for seeking a degree, September 2015
                                                                                              • 18-24s most motivated to go to school
                                                                                                • Figure 18: Motivations for seeking a degree – select responses, by age, September 2015
                                                                                            • Resources Used to Compare Colleges

                                                                                                • Online research and campus tours are top ways to evaluate schools
                                                                                                  • Figure 19: Resources used to compare colleges, September 2015
                                                                                                • Modern students use techie and traditional methods to compare colleges
                                                                                                  • Figure 20: Resources used to compare colleges, by current/prospective students and former students, September 2015
                                                                                                • Parents often researching as much as – or more than – their children
                                                                                                  • Figure 21: Resources used to compare colleges, by parents of future/current/former students, September 2015
                                                                                                • Youngest applicants may be won with an inside look at life on campus
                                                                                                  • Figure 22: Resources used to compare colleges – Select responses, by age, September 2015
                                                                                                • Spotlighting diversity ensures all prospects feel welcome, represented
                                                                                                    • Figure 23: Resources used to compare colleges – select responses, by race/Hispanic origin, September 2015
                                                                                                • Factors Influencing College Selection

                                                                                                    • Unsurprisingly, cost and location have strongest impact on selection
                                                                                                        • Figure 24: Factors that influence college selection, September 2015
                                                                                                      • Current/future students take more factors into consideration
                                                                                                        • Figure 25: Factors that influence college selection, current/prospective students vs parents of future/current/former students, September 2015
                                                                                                      • Women appear more selective than men
                                                                                                        • Figure 26: Factors that influence college selection – select responses, by gender, September 2015
                                                                                                      • Experience increasingly factors into college selection
                                                                                                        • Figure 27: Factors that influence college selection – select responses, by age, September 2015
                                                                                                      • College-minded Black consumers most price sensitive
                                                                                                        • Figure 28: Factors that influence college selection – select responses, by race/Hispanic origin, September 2015
                                                                                                    • Other Influences on College Selection

                                                                                                        • Offer a chance to break away
                                                                                                          • Size matters but preferences differ from student to student
                                                                                                            • Online degrees often seen as lower quality
                                                                                                              • Figure 29: Opinions impacting college selection, by current/prospective students and parents of future/current/former students, September 2015
                                                                                                          • Parents’ Involvement and Expectations

                                                                                                              • Eight in 10 parents “very involved” in college selection
                                                                                                                  • Figure 30: Parents’ involvement in college selection, by child’s student status, September 2015
                                                                                                                • Parents want children to stay on track
                                                                                                                    • Figure 31: Parents’ expectations for child earning a degree in four years or less, by child’s student status, September 2015
                                                                                                                • The Value of a College Degree

                                                                                                                    • Parents, students agree – A college degree is something to value
                                                                                                                        • Figure 32: The value of a college degree, by current/future students and parents of future/current/former students, September 2015
                                                                                                                      • Millennials may double down on education for a competitive edge
                                                                                                                        • Figure 33: The value of a college degree, by generation, September 2015
                                                                                                                      • Least educated consumers provide opportunity for quick, affordable degrees
                                                                                                                        • Figure 34: The value of a college degree, by education, September 2015
                                                                                                                    • Utility of Chosen Degree

                                                                                                                        • Rational or risky? Majority of students base major on passions
                                                                                                                            • Figure 35: Utility of chosen degree, current students vs college graduates, September 2015
                                                                                                                          • Hispanic students may need more guidance
                                                                                                                            • Figure 36: Utility of chosen degree, by Hispanic origin, September 2015
                                                                                                                        • Attitudes toward Educational Loans

                                                                                                                            • Consumers skeptical of lenders
                                                                                                                                • Figure 37: Attitudes toward educational loans, September2015
                                                                                                                              • Youngest respondents especially skeptical of lenders
                                                                                                                                • Figure 38: Attitudes toward educational loans, by generation, September2015
                                                                                                                            • The College Experience

                                                                                                                                • Prospective students drawn by diverse student body
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 39: The college experience, by current/future students and parents of future/current/former students, September 2015
                                                                                                                                  • Women more concerned with internships, men want to let loose
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 40: The college experience, by gender, September 2015
                                                                                                                                  • Hispanics seek more of the “college experience”
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 41: The college experience, by Hispanic origin, September 2015
                                                                                                                                • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                                                                                                  • Data sources
                                                                                                                                    • Market data
                                                                                                                                      • Consumer survey data
                                                                                                                                        • Consumer qualitative research
                                                                                                                                          • Abbreviations and terms
                                                                                                                                            • Abbreviations
                                                                                                                                              • Terms
                                                                                                                                              • Appendix – The Market

                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 42: Total fall enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by share of gender, 1970-2024* (projected)
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 43: Share of total fall enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by age groups, 1970-2024* (projected)
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 44: College-related events expected in the next 12 months, by gender, generation, race/Hispanic origin, parent status, April 2014-June 2015
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 45: Gender, generation, and race/Hispanic origin, by college-related events expected in the next 12 months plus index, April 2014-June 2015
                                                                                                                                              • Appendix – The Consumer

                                                                                                                                                • Correspondence analysis methodology
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 46: Correspondence Analysis – Factors that influence college selection, by generation, September 2015
                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 47: Factors that influence college selection, by generation, September 2015

                                                                                                                                              Companies Covered

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                                                                                                                                              Attitudes towards Higher Education - US - December 2015

                                                                                                                                              £3,277.28 (Excl.Tax)