Student working in coffee shop

The world of higher ed is undeniably changing … but not always in the ways you may initially think of. Pathify CEO Chase Williams dives into the trend of students viewing themselves as consumers of higher ed just as much as they view themselves as consumers of Amazon. What’s that mean for higher education institutions and what tangible changes can they put in place to meet student expectations? We’ll let Chase explain.

Chase Williams - Pathify CEO Cofounder
Chase Williams
CEO & Co-founder

Your Students are Consumers

While young people have always set trends, it’s hard to think of students pushing century-old institutions to change. But it is happening in subtle ways. Today’s young students are more vocal than ever about what they expect in their lives, including from the companies, influencers and institutions they engage with. Our culture is hyper-connected, and no one is more plugged in than the people born this millennium.

What that means for higher education is that we have to think about students and prospective students differently. While we must of course think of students as learners, we need to think about them as consumers too. Consider the world young people have grown up in and the influence they now wield on the economy. Gen Z now accounts for 40% of the global consumer base and has spending power that reaches upwards of $150 billion, according to a report by McKinsey & Company. The sleek “give them what they need before they know they need it” world of Apple products and Google Search has existed for as long as they have. The notion of corporate responsibility and green initiatives aren’t new or novel to them — it’s expected.

These affinities coupled with growing questions about the value of higher education means it’s vital that institutions take the idea of student-consumers seriously. A college isn’t just competing with colleges anymore. More and more, higher ed institutions are being judged against all products and experiences. And given the everyday applications that play such a large role in young consumers’ lives, they’re increasingly judging the overall quality of institutions based on the digital experience provided.

Below, I’ve detailed some of the important expectations young consumers have around technology, followed by the kinds of actions higher ed institutions can take to ensure they’re meeting student (and prospective student) expectations.

Consumer Technology Expectations

A Clean, Modern UI

Using online applications has become such a major part of everyday life that just about anyone can instantly recognize a modern versus outdated user interface (UI). Think about some of the websites you’ve visited that look like they haven’t been redesigned since the early 2000s. Odds are you negatively judge those companies (either consciously or subconsciously) and may even take your business elsewhere because of it.

Younger generations are so plugged into the online world that a modern UI is even more important. They judge the value of an organization based on its digital persona. If your UI isn’t clean and modern, they may have already written you off.

Websites or applications that are cluttered or look like a link farm scream of being outdated and will likely chase consumers away. Strong UI is table stakes today and investment there is the easiest way for an organization to project a perception that it’s modern.

A Simple, Seamless UX

A site or application can’t just look good though, the act of using the app (the user experience or UX) needs to be …

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