What messages are Community Colleges using to successfully appeal to adult learners?

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What messages are Community Colleges using to successfully appeal to adult learners?

I have found several examples of how community colleges are successfully appealing to adult learners. Overall, they are generally sending the following messages: That their campus has a large proportion of older students, that courses at their institution are part of clear career paths, that they understand the different lifestyles of this older demographic (such as being a working parent), that they are flexible, and that they understand potential obstacles to learning specific to the older age group.

METHODOLOGY

After searching through academic papers, case studies, online articles, news stories and on individual college's websites I can conclude that limited data is available on this topic. I believe this to be because most research in this area is done on colleges rather than community colleges. After finding no empirical research or statistics on this topic I then triangulated the answer to this question by looking at individual community colleges who have successfully attracted an older student population, and have then analyzed their recent marketing campaigns.

In addition to this, while I initially focused on information on community colleges in areas with a population of 300,000 – 500,000 and an average income between $35,000 — $45,000, I had to extend these parameters due to the lack of information available on this topic.

FINDINGS

Community colleges are good at recognizing that mature students are more aware of the value of education, and are therefore "prime candidates for targeted lead nurturing content such as email marketing campaigns. LinkedIn sponsored InMail, which allows advertisers to deliver paid messages directly into a user’s inbox, can also be a great option for professionally focused programs." Community colleges are also successfully appealing to mature students by conveying the message of possible career paths and graduate outcomes of studying with them.

Some colleges are appealing to adult learners by becoming part of the Plus 50 program. The program is a "benchmark and showcase the most current and innovative programs at community colleges that engage learners age 50 and over." The program intends to indicate to those of the baby boomer generation which community colleges offer courses to "prepare older adults for careers, such as early childhood educators, certified nursing assistants, substance abuse counselors, adult basic education instructors, human resources specialists, and positions in other in-demand fields."

Tallahassee Community College has a relatively high number of older students. 25% are aged 25-64 yrs old. They are focused on marketing to the older age group, as they have recently received the Plus 50 grant. In regard to their recent marketing efforts, I found that they recently launched their TCC2FSU Campaign. This campaign won silver in their category in the American Advertising Awards. The aim of the campaign was to highlight the pathway of starting studying at Tallahassee Community College and finishing at Florida State University. Therefore, the campaign emphasized the message that studying Tallahassee Community College can be the first step in achieving larger goals. Something that (as discussed above) mature students are focused on.

Central Texas College has been identified by Washington Monthly as one of the country's best community colleges for adult learners. Central Texas College won 5 gold Educational Advertising Awards for their advertising campaigns of 2017. After a thorough search I have concluded that there are no case studies, or articles published online in regard to any of Central Texas College's (CTC) recent advertising campaigns. For this reason I went to their YouTube page view their advertising material. Here I found that their recent campaign featured topics that resound with an older demographic. Their topics included working mothers and transitioning military personal. It would seem that CTC are appealing to adult learners by highlighting that the college is relevant to the lifestyles that they may have that are different to younger learners.

This is a link to another one of CTC's recent adverts. This particular advert emphasizes that student at CTC are also of an older generation, not just coming straight from high school. The advert also focuses on communicating that CTC is flexible and can help studies fit around your life whatever your other commitments may be, such as children or a part-time job. In this advert we can really see how CTC may appeal to adult learners through the message of flexibility, and of understanding their circumstances and also their obstacles to learning.

Virginia Western Community College is another college participating in the Plus 50 program. This recent advert created by the college focuses on communicating the message that a large portion of their students are older, (12% are over 40). They also demonstrate how the college is there to assist in more complex life situations that may be experienced by students at this point in their life.

CONCLUSION

After analyzing advertising campaigns by various community colleges who have been successful at attracting older students, I have found that the following messages are those that are being conveyed in their advertising material: That their campus has a large proportion of older students, that courses at their institution are part of clear career paths, that they understand the different lifestyles of this older demographic (such as being a working parent), that they are flexible, and that they understand potential obstacles to learning specific to the older age group.
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