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Online College Students 2016

Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences

Published June 2, 2016

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, overall higher education enrollments dropped by 1.7 percent for the fall of 2015. Eduventures, however, reports that 3.5 million students enrolled in online degree programs in 2016. In a world of declining enrollments, understanding the unique student population who is studying online will be critical for those institutions who want sustainable, long-term success.

Now, get the answers about who is studying online and what they are looking for in their education in the fifth annual Online College Students report, developed by The Learning House, Inc., and Aslanian Market Research. “Online College Students 2016: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences” shares the results of a survey of 1,500 prospective, current and recently graduated fully online students.

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Key Findings

The reported data covers popular fields of study, sought-after features in online learning, the rising popularity of mobile and more. Some key findings include:

  • Cost remains a key factor. For the second year in a row, cost has been the most important factor in deciding which institution to attend. While students are concerned about cost, even token efforts to mitigate that cost are valuable; almost 90 percent of students would be at least somewhat swayed to choose one school over another for as little as a $500 annual scholarship.
  • Demographics are shifting. The average age of online students is decreasing, as the percentage of online students aged 18 to 24 years old doubled since 2012. They also are more likely to be both single and childless (an increase of 10 percent since 2013).
  • Speed-to-enrollment is a priority. Students expect the admissions and enrollment process to be quick and streamlined. Sixty-eight percent of online learners choose a school to apply to in just four weeks or less, and, on average, considered only three schools. Twenty percent of respondents considered only one school during the selection process.
  • Alternative credentials are interesting, but not well known. While there has been a lot of discussion about alternative credentials, such as MOOCs, badges and microdegrees, two-thirds of students reported they had no or minimal knowledge about these learning paths. The majority, however, reported they would consider one of these paths in the future if they could do more research.
  • Location is key. More than half of learners choose institutions within 50 miles of their home. This may be because, despite learning online, students are willing to go to campus, with approximately 75 percent reporting they would visit campus at least once a year.

Co-authors Dr. David Clinefelter - chief academic officer of Learning House - and Carol B. Aslanian - founder and president of Aslanian Market Research - hosted a free, live webinar exploring key finding from the report. Click here for more information.

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Learn why students choose the online modality, how student demographics are changing, most popular fields of study and more.
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In this free webinar, co-authors of the fifth annual Online College Students report will share key findings from the survey.
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Research Report
Online College Students
Discover who is studying online. “Online College Students 2017: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences” explores a survey of 1,500 online students.
View Research Report