Google searches fell over 10% for two education degrees and two science programs. Other fields where student demand fell in December included higher education programs in Advertising, Fashion-Merchandising, and Commercial Art. We were surprised to see a drop in searches for Computer Programming degrees, which fell 21%. This is the only sign we have seen of falling interest in software programming education.
2018 got off to a slow start for Google searches for higher education programs. Search volume dropped from January through June, before a second-half turnaround. Starting in July, Google searches for higher education programs rose every month, finishing strong with 8% growth in December.
Health Services and Mental Health Counseling programs both had a surge in December inquiries from prospective students, which rose 100% or more. These two programs had the highest inquiry growth of any of the 75 largest programs that Gray tracks.
December Inquiry Volume Rose 9% Year-Over-Year; 1.8% Higher for All of 2018
In December 2018, student demand for higher education programs rose sharply, according to Gray Associates, a higher education strategy consulting firm. The firm reported inquiry volume rose nine percent from December 2017 while Google searches for specific programs increased eight percent. Growth was particularly strong for online programs. Gray is optimistic that rising interest will lead to enrollment growth in 2019.
Despite mediocre employment opportunities and a crowded market, inquiries for Criminal Justice programs continued their surge, rising 26% in December 2018. In contrast, inquiries for Medical Assistant programs continued a multi-year decline, falling 17%. But, there are over 1.1 million people working as Medical Assistants and the number has grown an average of 4.4% annually for the last three years. There were over 191,000 related job postings in 2018. That is more than 2.8 job postings for every Medical Assisting graduate. We may yet have a shortage in a field that was once very crowded.
Inquiries for on-campus programs have been falling for years but rose in October and November 2018. Sadly, they resumed their fall in December, dropping 6.5%. The worst may still be ahead for on-ground programs.
While some believe that growth in online programs has peaked, the data suggest that the best is yet to come. Inquiry volumes rose almost every month in 2018 for an annual average growth rate of 6.2%. Growth in December beat the average, surging 9%.
Gray tracks inquiries, essentially online forms filled out by potential students interested in higher education programs. Inquiry volume had been dropping, often by double digits, for over five years. 2018 broke the trend. Inquiries increased 1.7% for the year and sprinted to the finish with a 9% rise in December.