Factors affecting student choices: a higher education marketing study

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Traditional higher education institutions are being admonished by federal commissions as well as scholars for being unresponsive to student and societal needs. Several studies have pointed out the growth of proprietary and corporate postsecondary education programs at the expense of market share formerly enjoyed by traditional higher educational institutions. There is considerable conflict among scholars, businessmen, and commissions on what higher education institutions should do to be more responsive.

The major objectives of the market research study were to determine the following: (1) What potential students' long-term goals were and (2) What expectations that had for educational institutions contributing to realization of those goals. The theoretical foundation for this study was Vroom's expectancy theory in which he hypothesized that motivation was a function of valence or value of individual goals and the expectancy of realizing those goals through individual effort and the instrumentality of an organization.

A random sample of potential students was asked to put in order or priority five major goals and expectations for achieving those goals through various means, ranging from educational effort through luck.

The results and conclusions of this study were: (a) In general all socio-economic groups were in agreement on goals--making money and good health among others. Most agreed that luck, rather than any effort on their part, would be the main instrumentality for achieving good health; (b) Education and hard work were perceived as the most likely means for obtaining money; (c) Those with previous higher education experiences valued it more as a means to obtain goals/values than did those with little higher education.