Skip to main content

Online Education Preference Rivals that of On-campus Learning

The sentiment holds true across age groups, education levels and ethnicities

This article is a brief abstract of our exclusive study that takes the guesswork
out of education advertising and marketing.


Download LAVIDGE Education Marketing Research and Insights, Volume 1.


University campuses are here to stay. Whether on-campus or online, study respondents overwhelmingly said they prefer to take classes through a university than enroll in:

  • Specialty training (28%)
  • Junior college (26%)
  • Trade school (21%)

While attending a university in person was most popular among respondents overall (58%), online education (which trailed by 9 percentage points) was still preferred by nearly half of all participants (49%).

Online education preference rivals that of on-campus learning.Inside Higher Ed reported similar findings in March 2019, stating that dozens of educational institutions coast to coast are aware of the trend to offer degree programs online that’s been in motion since at least 2012. As predicted, mainstream educational institutions are finally taking note.

“Numerous public university systems and state flagships are planning ambitious online endeavors,” the Inside Higher Ed article’s subhead states. “How many succeed in a competitive marketplace will depend on pricing, execution, and leadership.”

Current education industry leaders in online-only programs include front-runners Arizona State University and University of Maryland University College, each of which boasts student enrollments of 25,000 or more.

One of many hopeful up-and-comers in online education, University of Missouri System also announced in March its plans to increase its student body from 75,000 to 100,000 by 2023, acknowledging such programs as a “key driver of future growth.”

It’s a leap forward that shouldn’t be too difficult for more universities to get students to take. That’s because online education as a choice for taking programs or classes ranks high among all age groups, education levels, and ethnicities.

Here’s how respondents who prefer online education break down by demographic:


  • <35 years of age (52%)
  • 35-54 years of age (46%)
  • 55+ years of age (50%)


  • High school or less (45%)
  • Some college or trade school (55%)
  • College graduate + (46%)


  • Caucasian (52%)
  • Non-Caucasian (42%)

Note: Of those who are within a certain age group, X% of them favor online education. The other percentage is left unsaid as it is assumed that it is the remainder. We start all over again with the next age group and X% of this group (separately from the previous age group) feel positively toward online education.

Online education preference rivals that of On-Campus Learning.

Age, race and employment status play a role

Demographics should play a role when marketers reach out to potential students. Who they are and where they are in life does influence whether they are likely to pursue a program of study at a university or a junior college. The same applies to those who already have a degree, whether they work full time or are retired and their annual income level.

Here’s the breakdown:

Those more likely to consider junior college than other ages or ethnicities

  • 55+ years of age (36%)
  • Retired (44%)
  • Caucasians (30%)

Those who would more likely consider a university

  • Already have a college education (71%)
  • Full-time workers (66%)
  • Incomes over $75k annually (67%)




Need fresh thinking? Help is a few keystrokes away.