4 Problems with .edu College Student Verification (and How to Fix Them)
If you’re offering college student discounts, you know they can be a great strategy to acquire new customers and build a deeper loyalty that will keep them coming back when they’re out of school. But if you’re relying on a .edu mail loop for verification, you are putting your brand and profits at risk.
Abuse of College Student Verification is Rampant
We conducted a survey focused on the use and potential abuse of .edu email addresses as a method for verifying college student status. When we compared results with a similar survey from five years prior, it was obvious that student eligibility fraud is on the rise:
- More than half (51%) of people with .edu addresses still have it after more than 5 years, with some colleges encouraging alumni to keep it for the rest of their lives.
- One in five adults has used a .edu email address to redeem a brand’s college student offer when they were no longer a student.
One reason this type of discount abuse is so prevalent is because many otherwise honest people don’t consider it abuse. Rather, they see it as taking advantage of a perk of having graduated from college.
When you look at these statistics in the context of our customer audit, which showed that discount abuse in general can be as high as 35%, they raise serious concerns for brands who want to use exclusive offers to tap into the college student market.
Four Reasons Why the .edu College Student Verification Doesn’t Work
01 It’s Easily Spoofed
In the past few years, an entire cottage industry has built up around helping people get fake .edu addresses in order to claim college student discounts.
It’s easy to find hundreds of sites and step-by-step videos that explain how non-students can easily get a .edu address in order to access discounts and special student offers. Some sites go a step further, publishing lists of companies that make it easy for anyone to access their student offers because they only require a .edu address for college student verification.
If you are using .edu email verification for a student offer, it could just be a matter of time before you appear as an easy target on one of these sites. And the potential revenue loss for your brand is considerable.
For example, this how-to video has nearly 70K views. If your student discount was $15 and all of those viewers used their fake student email address to get it, you’d be out more than a million dollars.
02 It Limits Your Reach
According to our survey, 43% of college students were never issued a .edu email address.
Even more striking is the fact that 47% of U.S. students redeeming our customers’ gated offers use common domains, such as gmail or yahoo. And for international students, that number climbs to 76%.
Globally there are 180 million college students, and 137 million are outside the U.S. If you’re using a .edu mail address to verify eligibility for your exclusive offer, you could be missing out on more than 124 million potential customers.
03 It Can Lead to Offer Abandonment
When you send an email to confirm a .edu address, students have to leave your website and go to their email inbox to retrieve it. Then they must re-engage with your purchase process to close the deal. That’s a lot of hoops to jump through, and many students simply won’t do it.
04 It Erodes the Integrity of Your Offer
The power of student offers comes from their exclusivity. When someone feels an offer is exclusive to their group or status, it makes the offer more attractive and creates a more personal engagement with your brand.
When it’s easy to get your offer using a fake .edu address, that exclusivity and its perceived value is eroded. This reflects negatively on your brand and can impact long-term loyalty.
Digital Verification Overcomes the Limitations of .edu College Student Verification
Digital verification ensures that only valid students can redeem an exclusive offer. This protects your margins by preventing discount abuse, and boosts your revenue by enabling you to extend your offers to students who don’t have a .edu address.
A Streamlined and Privacy-Friendly Process
With digital verification platforms like SheerID, students provide a minimal amount of data, such as date of birth and the school they’re attending, and are instantly verified as part of the purchase process. They never leave your website, and the low-friction process means you don’t lose potential customers in an email loop.
Creating and Leveraging Customer Loyalty
Digital verification shows students you’re serious about them by appealing to their sense of belonging to a special group.
Ninety-one percent of students say they would be more likely to shop with a brand that offered them an exclusive discount. And 94% said a gated, exclusive offer would increase how frequently they shopped with that brand.
Using an exclusive offer to acquire new student customers is a powerful strategy for building long-term customers because college students have a customer lifecycle preference of 10 years. Brands like Comcast, CBS All Access and YouTube see their student discounts as a way to secure loyalty that will pay off in the long run.
And because students happily provide their information to receive your offer, digital verification gives you data you can use to nurture them with other marketing efforts, which facilitates even greater loyalty.
Saving Money and Resources
Many software companies that offer student discounts create stripped-down “student” versions of their product to avoid discount abuse. Digital verification prevents this abuse, enabling software companies to provide full versions instead.
This allows students to experience all of the product’s capabilities, and to build skills they will take with them into the workplace after graduation. It also saves companies the expense of creating and supporting a separate version of the product.
Reverification Enables Long-Term Protection and Engagement
Digital verification can be set to require reverification each year (or at an interval you choose). This not only helps prevent long-term offer abuse, it gives companies the opportunity to know when students have graduated, and to deliver new promotions to keep them engaged.
For software and subscription companies, reverification provides the opportunity to convert students to full price when they graduate. Subscription companies using SheerID have seen students convert to full price when they graduate at rates as high as 98%.