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Press Release

June 4, 2019

Research Finds More Online Students Choose Colleges Closer to Home


A leading online program manager, Learning House, a Wiley brand today announced the release of 2019 Online College Students Report, in collaboration with Aslanian Market Research, a Division of EducationDynamics. Now in its eighth year, the research focuses on the challenges higher learning institutions face in developing their distance-learning programs to attract an evolving and complex student population ranging from Gen Z-ers to Baby Boomers.

Fifteen hundred prospective, current and recently graduated fully online college students were surveyed to develop the report. To document trends, the survey asks certain questions that are polled every year. Questions receiving consistent responses were replaced with new questions to identify significant shifts in preferences and behavior.

Todd Zipper, Co-President of Wiley Education Services and Learning House said, “We are pleased to support higher education leaders with insights into current trends in online learning and provide greater understanding of the diverse needs of those learners to help improve job readiness.”

“As the online population matures, students want a full array of services, to use mobile devices in their courses, and have an on-going relationship with their alma mater. Prospective students have an increasing number of options close to home,” said report co-author, Dr. David Clinefelter, Vice Provost for Academic Operations of The University of the People. “Our findings will help higher education leaders update strategies to meet growing competition and shifting consumer expectations.”

The report explores the changing preferences and behaviors of online students and reveals 10 key findings, including:

1. Online Students Believe They Acquire the Soft Skills That Employers Desire
Only one-third to one-half of respondents say their school taught soft skills that employers’ value, such as writing and critical thinking. However, more than 60 percent reported that their online education helped them improve these skills.

2. Many Online Students Want a Lifelong Relationship with Their School
More than 40 percent of current online students and graduates plan to return to their alma mater to take additional classes. Additionally, one-third of students say they would recommend their school to prospective students and 13 percent plan to donate to their school after graduation.

3. Most Students Use Mobile Devices to Complete Coursework
Two-thirds of online college students want to use a mobile device to complete coursework. But 17 percent of respondents indicate that their program did not support mobile access.

4. The Online Population is Complex
Online students represent a range of generations, life stages and experiences. Half of them are millennials (ages 28 to 38); one-third are from Generation X (ages 39 to 54); the remainder is split between baby boomers (ages 55 to 73) and Gen Z-ers (ages 18 to 22). One-third are first-generation college students, and 13 percent have no prior college experience.

5. Distance from Home to Campus Continues to Shrink
In 2012, the report found that 44 percent of online college students chose a college or university within 50 miles of their residence. In 2019, 44 percent chose a college or university within 25 miles of their residence, with an additional 23 percent living 26 to 50 miles from their school.

6. Career Services are Popular, Especially with First-Generation Students
Online students use the full gamut of career services during and after their enrollment. Only one-quarter to one-third report not using career services. Students who are first in their family to pursue higher education are more likely to use career services.

7. Support Services are Desirable
Offering support services is a point of differentiation for institutions. About one-quarter of current online students use services such as child care, financial management, and mental health services. One-quarter does not. The remaining 50 percent would use them if available.

8. School Selection Influenced by Third-Party Resources
The three most influential sources for school selection are online reviews (35%), college search/ranking websites (33%), and friends or family (30%). School and program reputations are also key selection factors.

9. Convenience a Growing Need
The majority of online college students at the undergraduate (51%) and graduate (70%) levels are employed full time, and 41 percent are parents. Full-time enrollments jumped this year from 60 percent to 71 percent. One-third of them are willing to pay higher tuition for a program that offers more convenience.

10. Cost Still a Key Factor
Affordability is the top factor for students choosing an undergraduate program. For graduate students, affordability ties with reputation. One-third of students chose the least expensive school, and 20 percent said figuring out how to pay tuition was the hardest part of enrolling in a program.

“With an increase in savvier and more diverse online students, it’s no longer enough for colleges to offer flexible and convenient online programs,” said co-author of the report, Carol Aslanian, Founder of Aslanian Market Research, a Division of EducationDynamics. “Institutions need to offer affordable and targeted programs with ROI-oriented outcomes, in the right modality, and with the necessary support services to create a welcoming community that supports all types of learners – of any age – to achieve their career ambitions.”

The 2019 Online College Students: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences report provides updates to findings from all reports of the same title. To download a copy, please visit: learninghouse.com/OCS2019.

Additional Information

Learning House Media Contact:
Alyssa Miller
+1-973 615-1292

Wiley Media Contact:
Dawn Peters (US) +1 781-388-8408
Follow us on Twitter @WileyNews

About Wiley
Wiley drives the world forward with research and education. Our scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly journals and our digital learning, certification, and student-lifecycle services and solutions help students, researchers, universities, and corporations to achieve their goals in an ever-changing world. For more than 200 years, we have delivered consistent performance to all of our stakeholders. The Company’s website can be accessed at http://www.wiley.com.

About Learning House
Learning House, a Wiley brand, helps people improve their lives through education. As a complement to the technology-enabled education solutions offered by Wiley Education Services, we partner with more than 60 institutions across the US, Europe, and Australia, and support over 800 degree programs. Additional solutions include Enterprise Learning Solutions, The Software Guild, Learning House International and Advancement Courses. Through our broad portfolio, Learning House, a Wiley brand, delivers more students, more graduates, and better outcomes. For more information visit http://www.learninghouse.com.

About Aslanian Market Research, a Division of EducationDynamics
Aslanian Market Research (the market research unit of EducationDynamics) conducts market demand studies, institutional audits, program and marketing reviews, and professional development conferences for colleges and universities seeking information and data on how to expand adult, post-traditional, and online student enrollments. Throughout the last 25 years, its staff has worked with hundreds of colleges and universities of all types — public, private, large, small, rural, suburban, and urban — in every region of the U.S. Its seminars have provided thousands of college administrators with practical, hands-on tactics that they can implement at their institutions at minimal cost for maximum impact.

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