October 23, 2020

Selling Your Community College to Four-Year Students


Community colleges are facing an uphill battle against enrollment trends as we head into fall 2020. The impact of COVID-19 on higher education has been severe. And community colleges have been hit particularly hard. Studies are showing that community college enrollment is down nearly 8% nationwide. That is double the enrollment drop of any other higher ed institution. 

Faced with a need to generate new applicants from a changing pool of prospects, many community colleges are finding success tapping into four-year universities. These traditional university students are seeing more value and benefit to taking some courses at two-year institutions. At the same time, these students provide colleges and universities with an enrollment boost from an unlikely source. But selling existing university students on a community college offering requires some nuanced marketing and messaging. Here are a few ways you can better sell four-year students on your community college’s offerings.

Market the Benefits Up Front

When selling your community college to four-year students, remember that these are prospects already in school. You don’t need to convince them on the power of an education. And you aren’t trying to steer them completely away from a four-year institution.

Focus on the benefits of your school as a supplementary piece to their education. Studies show that four-year students who also take credits at a community college are overall more likely to get a diploma and make more money. Here are some benefits you need to highlight about your community college in marketing materials:

  • Lower cost – Community college classes are usually more cost-efficient than the equivalent university tuition. This is a major selling point for students looking to take prerequisites while saving money.
  • Flexible schedules –  Showcase how you allow four-year students to take some required courses on their own time or at more desired times.
  • Greater class or program options – Universities will have plenty of classes. But sometimes students want to supplement their education. This could be through a certificate program, a unique class that isn’t offered, or extra learning opportunities. Community colleges provide a great chance to engage those prospects looking for supplemental learning.

Be Clear about Transfer Credits

Four-year students are not necessarily looking to leave their college. Many benefits listed above would appeal most to students who want to take some classes to work toward their degree. That means transferring credits from your school back to the university. 

Unfortunately this is sometimes easier said than done. And stories about students taking some classes only to find they won’t transfer have led to prospects being more hesitant about learning at community colleges. Be sure to be up front and transparent about exactly what your credit transfer agreements are! If you have matriculation agreements with out-of-state schools, be clear about that as well. Your community college likely also doesn’t name classes the same as every university. Make sure to share information on which popular classes match to which universities.

A dedicated “transfer students” or “guest students” landing page or microsite is also a great way to engage four-year students. Using these pages to speak directly to the transfer rules and opportunities helps get key information out without prospects searching around your larger website. By creating a sense of trust that your school’s classes will transfer back to the major universities in your area, you’ll have an easier time convincing four-year students on the other benefits listed above.

If your school could benefit from guest enrollment, the strategies above are a great place to get started. Making sure that more traditional students understand the benefits that community college can bring to their education is key to expanding their learning and helping you meet your enrollment goals. 

Want to know more about how to reach four year students who might be looking to engage with a community college? Get in touch with our higher ed marketing experts.


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