How is the rising cost of living impacting education businesses?

Ruth Ng

Ruth Ng

6 min read
Rising cost of living affecting skills training

We asked 36 senior executives at education providers what their biggest challenges are in 2022.

2 in 3 said the rising cost of living was one of their greatest concerns.

What is happening right now?

The UK is expected to have the highest inflation in the G7 until 2024. While economists expect inflation to fall again, there is increasing concern among business leaders that excessively high price rises will persist.

The cost of living crisis shouldn’t be viewed in isolation. It’s part of a far richer tapestry which shows us a far more complex story. But in short, consumers simply don’t make choices the way they used to.

The wider picture in education

But what does this mean for the education sector? Education businesses tend to be more directly sheltered from high energy prices, supply chain issues and good shortages – but life has changed fast for our customers. It means navigating complicated conflicts between people’s desire to improve their financial situation, and people’s ability to fund the change they need to get there; people’s desire to save money, and their desire to spend money in a way that aligns with their values.

The rising cost of living has to be taken in context with a number of other challenges facing educators. While 67% of senior executives named the cost of living crisis as a significant challenge, the next challenges on the list were…

  • Retaining skilled staff (42%)
  • Hiring skilled staff (36%)
  • Cashflow (28%)

Knoma’s Education Provider Survey June 2022 will be published soon.

The Great Resignation vs Consumer Confidence

Learning and Work Institute’s (L&W) survey is the largest survey of adult participation in learning in the UK. In their 2022 survey, they found…

  • 34% of adults want to change job in the next 2 years

Of those… * 31% believe training would be helpful * 24% said financial support towards training would be helpful

But it would be a mistake to assume that a desire to change job is necessarily followed by intentional actions. When times are more challenging, motivation can drop; confidence can drop, imposter syndrome can take over – it can be harder for people to picture themselves making the change that is needed to reach their goal.

The desire for change is also impeded by a more general fall in consumer confidence. Consumer confidence has fallen to its lowest level on record, plunging more people than ever into a “save” mindset rather than a “spend” mindset.

So for schools, bootcamps and any kind of educational institution for adults, having a clear, intentional path to change for your potential customers and stepping into their boots to understand their fears and concerns is more important than ever. Educational businesses need to adapt their messaging to a population in “save” mindset.

How are schools adapting?

We will be publishing an in-depth whitepaper on the cost of living and education very soon, but we wanted to share some interesting findings from our research.

It didn't surprise us that diversifying the courses on offer and, in turn, the range of course formats on offer (such as part-time, self-paced, online or hybrid), as well as geographical expansion, all made the Top 5 list of strategies for meeting the challenges brought around by economic change. Diversification lowers risk and casts a wider net to help courses fit naturally into the lives of more people looking to learn new skills.

Investing in marketing also made the Top 5. Consumers buy from brands they relate to and trust, so delivering and communicating value, driving customer loyalty and building trust when they need it most is a priority for education businesses looking to position themselves with purpose. And with budgets smaller and margins tighter, it makes sense to invest in marketing and target that spend where it will matter most, as well as finding ways to tap into new audiences of potential learners with intention to buy.

Also making the Top 5 is offering finance options for students. Increasing competition (23% of senior executives at education businesses say this is a key challenge for 2022) makes it an even greater challenge to maintain a confident pricing strategy. Maintaining a pricing strategy for a course is easier when schools offer flexible ways for learners to pay. This lowers the financial barrier to entry without compromising the pricing strategy.

But every flexible payment solution is different. Always consider… Are we getting paid upfront? (Not getting paid upfront not only has negative cashflow implications, this is exacerbated by inflation as the money is worth less when you receive it) Are we taking on any risk? (What if the learner can’t pay?) Is it attractive to learners? (Will the option help you boost enrolments?)

Is it fair for learners? (Does it fit with the ethical values of the business? Could learners end up paying significantly more than they should?)

We can help

We help learners find and finance courses at institutions like yours.

Our mission? To enable access to lifelong education and reduce the skills gap.

Offering fair and ethical finance options for your learners gives your potential customers a greater choice and a greater chance of being able to afford your programmes and enrol. This is exactly what we do – and so much more.

Knoma also has a Knowledge Marketplace, the perfect platform to get your courses in front of potential learners with strong intent to train. It’s where lifelong learners and the career-curious come to discover the courses they need to get – and stay – ahead.

We fight for fairer finance for lifelong learners, and help some of the best schools and bootcamps around the world reach a new audience of would-be career changers and upskillers.

Book a call today, or send us a message to find out more.

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