Marketing spending and staffing in higher education

A look at the first installment of the Simpson Scarborough 2024 CMO Study

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Higher education marketing agency Simpson Scarborough recently released the first part of the 2024 Higher Ed CMO Study. They have been surveying higher education every two years since 2014, and the topic for today deals with Budgets and Staffing.

You might wonder why you are reading about marketing in an EdTech newsletter. Simply put, it has become a critical issue and one with which EdTech leaders need to become conversant for two reasons.

  • Because of the impact that marketing has on enrollment - As institutions (especially non-elite institutions) struggle to address enrollment declines, marketing is becoming increasingly important. Given our coverage of enrollment changes and challenges, marketing is an obvious issue to address.

  • Because of the centrality of marketing for fully online programs - This is specially important as online learning becomes more competitive and as new players enter the space.

Core messages from the survey

The key insights from the survey and accompanying webinar for me were the following.

  • There is what Simpson-Scarborough calls the great “unevening” – the gap between bigger institutions and smaller institutions when it comes to marketing is growing.

  • The survey is probably underestimating the total spend on marketing.

  • In marketing, higher education is investing more in staff and continues to under-invest in technology.

Marketing spending in small versus large institutions

Simpson Scarborough breaks down institutions by size. Small institutions(< 3,000 students), medium institutions (between 3,000 and 12,000 students), and large institutions (> 12,000 students). As is to be expected, larger institutions spend far more on marketing.

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