RNLNC 2019: Strategies and Tactics to Grow Undergrad Online and Graduate Enrollment

RNLNC 2019: Strategies and Tactics to Grow Undergrad Online and Graduate Enrollment

Recently released enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse indicates that overall enrollment declined again for the 8th year in Fall 2018. However, NCES projects modest enrollment increases over the next decade among all students, students 25+ years of age, graduate students and (most profoundly) online learners of all ages. Meanwhile, more than 35 million adults in the US have some college experience but no degree. So, what is the challenge for colleges and universities? More than ever, institutions are vying to attract these nontraditional student populations. The colleges and universities that will benefit from these increases will be those that have a data-driven strategy to meet these students “where they are” and understand their demands and preferences.

To that end, Converge and RNL have put together a set of sessions for the RNL National Conference in Nashville, July 24 – 26, that will provide attendees with insights into the demands and preferences of these unique student populations and real-world examples of how colleges and universities can succeed by taking a data-driven approach to marketing, cultivation and program development.

Our speakers have nearly 100 years of accumulated experience in ensuring that nontraditional undergraduate and graduate students of all types can have the educational experience they need.

Scott Jeffe has spent 20 years helping colleges underpin strategic change with hard data and is the Senior Director for Market Insights at Converge. He will walk attendees through a cost-effective way to ensure that strategic decisions related to programming – the launching of new programs, the ordering of programs and accompanying resources, or the sun setting of programs – are underpinned by market data.

Using Market Data to Inform New Program Decisions

Scott Jeffe, Senior Director of Market Insights, Converge Consulting
Colleges and universities see launching new programs as a route to enrollment growth. But what programs, and how should various proposals be screened in an objective and quantitative way? Hard data can be used to determine new programs – or to reposition struggling existing programs – without “breaking the bank.” In this session we will explore the resources that are available, where to find them, and how to use them in a manner that can infuse programming decisions with market data. We will explore what the most important demand and supply indicators are for your institution – and these may be different than for another institution. More specifically, we will evaluate: the number of existing programs; number of degrees produced; density of graduates by program; number of jobs and annual openings in the region; average salaries; and, typical skills hard and soft skills required for jobs in field.

Ann Oleson and Sarah Coen have both spent more than a decade assisting colleges and universities make strategic decisions to grow enrollment and are Senior Vice Presidents at RNL. Ann has focused on advancing digital marketing as an essential way to connect with graduate and undergraduate adult students – both online and in the classroom, while Sarah has focused on enrollment management consulting to ensure that institutions develop plans and strategies that result in enrollment growth. Ann and Sarah will be joined by Scott Jeffe in leading a session on the fundamentals needed to successfully get into or grow service to non-traditional student populations. The session will present underpinning market data on undergraduate adult students, degree completers, graduate students and online learners at all levels. Then, they will move on to the most important structures, services, policies and programs institutions need to have in place in order to meet the demands of these unique student populations.

How to Get Into the Adult/Online/Graduate Market

Sarah Coen, Senior Vice President of Consulting, RNL; Ann Oleson, Converge Consulting; Scott Jeffe, Senior Director of Market Insights, Converge Consulting
As demographics continue to pose challenges to growing traditional undergraduate classes, more and more institutions are seeking to start – or reinvigorate – programs focused on adult undergraduates, working professional graduate students, and subsets of these populations seeking online study. In the 1980’s this was a matter of offering some programs on evening and weekends, in the early 2000’s this was offering some high demand programs. Today, successful institutions must offer high demand programs, in formats and schedules that work for their students, and with services that they need. Institutions must also successfully recruit in an era with unprecedented competition and little growth in the student population. In this session, we will walk participants through a “scorecard” approach to understanding what you need to do – and what you need to have in place – in order to successfully attract and retain these nontraditional student populations. Among the topics that we will discuss are: 1) What organization structure works best? 2) How to select programs that balance institutional mission/expertise with market demand? 3) What formats and schedules do they need? 4) Marketing 101. We are not in the “build it and they will come” era anymore, so how do you reach these students? 5) What cultivation? Today’s non-trads need to be cultivated throughout their experience. How do you ensure that once you recruit them, they enroll?

Nereida Quiles-Wasserman recently completed her doctoral dissertation focused on adult student persistence and is the Director of Compliance and Title IX at Concordia College of New York. Her session will focus on how adult students enrolled in accelerated degree programs define persistence, how they define success, how they deal with the barriers that institutions and life often put in their way.

Determined to Graduate: How Adult Undergraduate Students Define Persistence and Success in Accelerated Degree Completion Programs

Nereida Quiles-Wasserman, Director of Compliance and Title IX, Concordia College of New York
This session presents unique and engaging findings from a recent study of adult undergraduate students enrolled in accelerated degree completion programs. These adult students defined what they think of as persistence and success in an accelerated program, shared their experiences of the program and how the programs addressed the barriers nontraditional students often encounter in college study. Participants will engage in a discussion about how degree completion programs can proactively foster an environment in which persistence and success are fostered. Additionally, participants will learn the attributes of a successful accelerated degree completion program from the students’ perspective.

Lisa Braverman is a life-long adult student advocate and Dean of Fairleigh Dickinson’s adult-focused Petrocelli College. She will lead two sessions: one on how to reinvigorate industry partnerships that serve both working adult students and the communities in which colleges and universities operate, and one on how to navigate the complicated process of considering working with an OPM.

Adult Learning: Vital Industry Partnerships that Fuel the Nontraditional Student Pipeline

Dr. Lisa Braverman, Dean Petrocelli College of Continuing Studies, Fairleigh Dickinson University
As the traditional high school student market declines and universities increasingly look to recruiting adult learners, more and more colleges are seeking to partner with employers to yield solid enrollments and revenue. Employees within companies and corporations represent a rich target market for colleges and universities that, when recruited skillfully, can provide a boost to institutional enrollments. In this session, participants will discuss how industry partnerships yield students, extend the reach of the university into the business sector, and advance business-university relations in a way that can yield significant rewards for both the institution and the regional economy for years to come.

Do’s and Dont’s for Partnering with OPMs

Dr. Lisa Braverman, Dean Petrocelli College of Continuing Studies, Fairleigh Dickinson University
Over the last several years, partnering with OPMs has been a very strong trend among colleges and universities seeking to get into the online education space with limited resources, and low levels of appetite for “risk.” More recently institutions of higher ed have begun to reconsider whether or not building their own internal capacity to mount online programs – everything from instructional design to digital marketing – makes more strategic sense in the long run than the wholesale outsourcing of these functions. In this session, attendees will discuss best practices in making these strategic decisions, what to look out for when considering this type of partnership, and how to work with OPMs in a way that best supports the long-term strategy of your institution.

Marie Power-Barnes passionately believes that marketing needs to be underpinned with data and is the Director of Marketing Research at Thomas Edison State University. She will lead a session that works through how you can take a data-driven approach to marketing to adult/online students that takes into account their perceptions, expectations, behaviors and demographics and faces the reality of limited institutional resources.

Marketing to the Adult Online Market – Competition, Resource Challenges, and A Changing Landscape – Where DO You Start?

Marie Power-Barnes, Director, Marketing Research and Assessment, Thomas Edison State University
The landscape of the adult and online higher education market has changed dramatically over the past decade, as have the perceptions, expectations, behaviors and demographics of the adult student. Who is this person? How do you know who your competition is in the online space, how do you define your target markets within that space, and how do you compete with limited resources in a market where odds are you are outspent before you begin? Understanding this audience and its specific nuances as they relate to YOUR institution is key to building your marketing and recruitment strategy. Learn about how Thomas Edison State University has evolved its data driven marketing strategy to respond to this changing environment; why utilization of data is critical, especially when resources are limited; sources you can utilize at your institution; and garner an understanding of the complexities of this exploding market.

Scott Jeffe
Scott Jeffe
July 12, 2019