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Survey suggests US higher education will bounce back in 2022

Funding is top of mind for prospective international students when selecting higher education courses in the US while access to admissions departments at institutions is “pivotal”, research carried out by marketing specialist Keystone Academic Solutions has found.

Some 36% of respondents said California was a preferred US state to study in, followed by 35% who said New York. A further 35% said they didn't know which US state they were interested in. Photo: Unsplash

Key motivations for studying in the US the 8,500+ prospective students was led by 38% nodding to the ability to live & work in US after graduation

“The results were overwhelming that students view study United States more favourably since Biden was elected, 83% of our students said they were more likely to study in the US since president Biden was elected,” Keystone chief executive officer Erik Harrell said.

Of the 5,851 visitors to Keystone websites surveyed, 48% were interested in masters programs, 21% bachelors, 13% doctoral and 12% certificate or diploma programs.

Similarly, an IDP survey of 800 prospective students earlier this year, suggested that 76% of prospective students said the election of Biden improved perception of the US as a study destination.

“Anecdotally in discussions that we’ve had with people in the admissions enrolment departments, they seem to agree with this as well,” Harrell explained.

“The general sentiment is that [the change in administration] may not have a meaningful impact this year in terms of enrolments, but they expect it to show up in results for 2022 enrolment.”

The survey also found that 80% will apply to two or more institutions which Keystone said indicates a competitive markets – a recent Navitas survey also revealed that agents have been recommending clients to prepare alternative back-up study options.

“With competition, it’s really a sales and marketing job and a messaging job,” Harrell suggested to recruiters.

“You have to work harder, have the right messages… We certainly, from our experience, see that the universities do that best are ones which respond within 24 hours to leads that come in.

“The universities do that best are ones which respond within 24 hours to leads that come in”

“They are very proactive in terms of using the phone. Phone is the most effective in terms of converting people from a lead to an enrolment. But we see that email and messaging through WhatsApp, for example, are also effective.”

Key motivations for studying in the US the 8,500+ prospective students was led by 38% nodding to the ability to live & work in US after graduation, 37% highlighted the reputation of degree/institution in US followed by 32% saying the experience of studying in the US.

Career opportunities in home country after graduation and flexibility in studies (part-time work, internships) followed thereafter with 30% and 28%, respectively.

“Reputation of the institution is sort of a given, and I think that’s where everyone tends to focus on,” Harrell said.

“But what we see clearly from the survey results is that people want to live and work in the US after graduation. That’s a big deal. They want to get work experience.”

Making sure students have information around the opportunities specific degrees offer is “pivotal”, he continued.

Pointing to the 16% of respondents suggesting they would be most interested in having the opportunity to speak with current student or alumni from their preferred university, prospective students are “going to get comfort by listening to the experiences that others are having in the US”.

“It is always helpful, of course, on your website to have interviews with with existing students about what it’s like,” he said.

However, respondents indicated they would most like to receive an invitation to meet with admissions counsellor, either virtually or in-person, with 40% saying so. Some 39% said they’d most appreciate a welcome pack.

“[Meeting with an admissions counsellor] really seems to be a very decisive factor in steering the student your direction. You can also see the power of student fairs, virtual or physical… It’s extremely convenient for students and for universities and highly effective for both students and universities to connect.”

The survey also found that primary concerns were around costs of studies.

Photo: Keystone

The “big theme” around top factors when selecting a program was around funding, Keystone noted.

“How to fund this education and the availability of funding is something which is on [students’] minds”

“How to fund this education and the availability of funding is something which is on [students’] minds,” Harrell explained.

“The ability to work and study at the same time, again, is about being able to fund their degree. Internship opportunities, career opportunities obviously are also part of that same equation,” he said.

“If you’re a university that has close connections with the business community, that’s terrific to emphasise that.” Access will “give students real comfort that if they take a loan, they’ll be able to slide into a really good job when they finish their studies.”

Keystone has a portfolio that includes 420 websites across 33 languages and eight main higher education verticals. Earlier this year it acquired UK-based FindAUniversity and US college athletics placement firm, CSUSA.

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