Affordability and Value – How Community College Marketers Can Strike a Balance

I recently participated in a brand strategy training session for community college marketers and leaders. During the Q&A session, the following question was asked:

“Our college continues to lower tuition costs and it feels like we are now battling the perception of being less valuable. How can we combat that?”

This question resonated with me because it touches on an increasingly common scenario for community colleges across the country. Not only are colleges looking for ways to lower tuition costs, but as of August 2022, about half of the states nationwide offer free community college for students in some form.

So, how does a community college combat the perception that they are less valuable?

First, don’t let the cost of enrollment diminish the value of your offerings. In other words, just because something is affordable does not mean it is not valuable. When marketing your community college, it’s about how you balance those two factors within your marketing strategy and messaging. Moreover, an affordable cost is a benefit that many traditional four-year institutions cannot offer prospective students.

According to data from the College Board, community colleges cost, on average, about one-third of in-state tuition at four-year public universities. By thoughtfully marketing affordability alongside the value of your offerings, you can create distinction within the highly competitive landscape of higher education.

Second, value is not exclusively synonymous with enrollment costs. Community colleges nationwide offer tremendous value in ways that have nothing to do with how much it costs to attend. To name a few:

  • Flexibility: Many community colleges offer flexible scheduling to accommodate students who also hold jobs or have family responsibilities. Dual enrollment programs are also on the rise.
  • Workforce Training: Community colleges often offer a wide range of career and technical education programs that four-year public universities do not.
  • Accessibility: Typically, community colleges enroll students from their local region, providing a sense of comfort and convenience.

This short list is just a small sampling of ways community colleges are uniquely positioned to deliver value. With enrollment declines showing no signs of slowing, community colleges will continue to find innovative ways to make themselves more accessible and affordable. As marketers, we should embrace the shifting landscape and not disregard the discounted costs. Instead, strategically weave affordability and value together to create a compelling and impactful story.

Would love to hear your ideas on adding value strategically – contact us today!