Empowering the Consumer Voice to Transform Postsecondary Education

By Bill Hansen

Strada Education Network is collaborating with Gallup, the world leader in consumer insights, to launch the Education Consumer Pulse. Through 350 daily interviews of U.S. adults ages 18 to 65, this three-year survey will create the largest set of education consumer insights in the nation to date. We believe understanding the consumer’s perspective is critical to addressing the many issues facing postsecondary education faces today. It is distressing to know that students have more education and training options than ever before, and still too many are not completing what they start when it comes to their education or falling short with the skills employers need in the 21st-century workforce.
As Strada Education Network looks to advance Completion with a Purpose, we know that understanding these insights is essential to finding solutions that work for students and postsecondary education providers. Never before have these data been captured at such depth and scale, allowing us to look at subgroups of the population not only by age, sex and race, but also by education attainment levels and career industries such as STEM, liberal arts and public service, among others.

Gallup and Strada Education examined nearly 90,000 interviews of U.S. adult education consumers to shape the first report titled “On Second Thought: U.S. Adults Reflect on Their Education Decisions.” The report, the first in a three-year series, establishes a baseline of understanding of how consumers perceive their education experiences when reflecting on their past decisions. Specifically, the report details whether or not these consumers would take the same educational path–same degree, same major, or same institution–if they had the opportunity to do it all over again.

Surprisingly, more than half (51%) of U.S. adults say they would change at least one aspect of their education path. Most notably, 36% of people would change their field of study, while 28% would choose a different school; and 12% would pursue a different degree.

In so many other industries, this type of data is used to spark innovation and transform their services to better meet consumer needs. At Strada, we believe the same approach is needed in postsecondary education. When coupled with existing data, these nuanced insights are powerful tools for postsecondary leaders, policymakers, educators, employers and other education consumers.

Consumers’ perspectives shed light on major issues facing postsecondary education in the U.S., such as career guidance and the role postsecondary education plays in addressing our nation’s growing skills gap.

Strada Education Network was created to help bridge this growing gap with tailored solutions and insights. Our nonprofit is focused on Completion With a Purpose—helping students achieve a more purposeful path to and through college and on to rewarding careers and fulfilling lives. This means students graduate high school and pursue the postsecondary education or training that is most relevant to their career aspirations and lifestyle goals.

The Education Consumer Pulse is a key to gathering information about the experiences of the U.S. education consumer to better equip students to achieve these goals and create paths to take them where they want to go in their lives.

These insights also lay an important foundation as we begin to measure how many U.S. adults are achieving Completion With a Purpose to help inform postsecondary education and workforce development policies and best practices. We believe empowering students to understand their options and define their path is the key to unleashing their potential, thereby ensuring our nation’s economic growth and prosperity.

We hope that, starting with this first report, the Education Consumer Pulse will serve as a catalyst for deeper exploration and application of these consumer insights to help shape the future of postsecondary education. We don’t presume to know all the answers, but we believe that by listening to consumers and elevating their voice in the national conversation, we’ll arrive at better solutions together.

Bill Hansen is president and CEO of Strada Education Network.

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