Trends in Online Student Demographics

Explore the characteristics of today's online students and their insights on college decision-making and the online learning experience.

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Report overview

Key Findings

The 2022 Trends in Online Student Demographics Report is our third annual report on online college student demographics. It includes findings collected from 1,300 online college students representing three enrollment categories: current online students, prospective online students, and graduates of online programs. The goal of this student demographics report series is to provide a closer look at the experience of participants who self- identify as online learners — those who chose or are choosing to enroll in a program that was designed for online delivery.

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Choosing an Online Program

  • Online students continue to rely primarily on college websites (33%) and online reviews from students (25%) when comparing programs.
  • Thirty-one percent of respondents enrolled in online programs in order to accommodate existing commitments such as work and family responsibilities.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic continued to impact students’ decisions to enroll online vs. on campus in 2022.
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Enrollment Trends

  • School administrators report continued trends related to student age — the age range of students enrolling is increasing to include both students who are both older and younger than previously seen.
  • School administrators report continued demand for online learning, including from on-campus students who also want to take online courses.
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Preparing for the Future

  • Eighty-eight percent of online students think skills-based learning is important to their career development, and 41% said that their courses included class assignments they could relate to their current jobs.
  • About one in five (21%) online bachelor’s students have also completed or plan to complete technical or vocational training.
  • Seventy percent of online graduates said that their programs prepared them for their first job after graduation.

Our Research Methodology

We help make sense of the latest trends through our propriety research, data analysis, and expert insights. Our Trends Reports, Survey Reports, and Data Reports explore pressing issues, such as online learning, student demographics, and the rising cost of college.

Meet the Author

Portrait of Melissa A. Venable

Melissa A. Venable


Melissa A. Venable, Ph.D., is an online education advisor for BestColleges. In thisrole, she leads this annual survey research project reporting online education trends found through student and school administrator feedback. Melissa is an adjunct faculty member and course designer at Saint Leo University and a certified career coach with a background in career development services. She earned her doctorate in instructional technology at the University of South Florida where her research interests focused on distance education and support services for online students.

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