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Articles: Enrollment Management

U.S. law school enrollment has dropped by 36 percent the past three years—and some schools are freezing or reducing tuition in response.

The drop is due to both “job contraction and an overreaction to that contraction,” says Judith Areen, executive director and CEO of The Association of American Law Schools. “The projected number of jobs available is higher than law school enrollment is reflecting.”

When it comes to online education, careful course development is hardly the only piece needed for successful student outcomes. Colleges without long-time experience in distance learning may be far more likely to overlook the importance of adequate support services. Just how can these needs be met? Here are seven ways to provide exceptional support for online students.

Western Governors University’s 43,000 online students make for the nation’s largest all-you-can-learn program.

Adult students are treating themselves to a higher ed buffet through a handful of programs where all-you-can-learn tuition lets them move as quickly as they can toward a degree and advancement in the workforce.

Making connections: Christine Siegel (left), associate VP for  academic affairs at Fairfield University, and grad student Stacie  Miles (right) help support students in the early college program—such as Brieanna Daniels, a senior attending high school in neighboring Bridgeport—to succeed in their college courses.

In the fall of 2012, Connecticut neighbors Fairfield University, University of Bridgeport and Housatonic Community College launched a dual-enrollment program, which initially served 78 high school students. From Bridgeport Public Schools, the students got a chance to take college-level courses for simultaneous high school and college credit.

Providing 1-to-1 support: Georgia Perimeter College Dual Enrollment program student Travis Crawford (left) works on a physics project under the instruction of Vivian Mativo and Fred Buls.

The National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP) defines concurrent enrollment—a subset of the dual-enrollment approach—as providing college-credit-bearing courses taught to high school students exclusively by college-approved high school teachers.

The NACEP program also requires that high school teachers and college faculty collaborate on aligning the secondary and postsecondary curriculums.

The University of Wisconsin’s all-you-can-learn, competency-based flex program—designed for adult students—started in January. Students can pay $2,250 for a three-month, all-you-can-learn subscription, or just $900 to work on a single set of competencies, says Vice Chancellor Aaron Brower, the interim provost of the UW Extension School.

Tuition covers assessments and faculty mentoring, and students’ get help organizing their studies from an academic coach—a new role that combines duties of an advisor and tutor. All work is graded by University of Wisconsin faculty.

Gene Wade is CEO of University Now, parent company of Patten University.

Since last June, students at the for-profit Patten University have been able to take all-you-can-learn, competency-based programs online and at the institution’s campus in Oakland, Calif.

Undergraduate tuition is $1,316 for a four-month term or $350 for a month. Students can take as many classes as they can fit into their schedule. The average student takes three classes per term, says Gene Wade, CEO of Patten’s parent company, UniversityNow.

Administrators in the IT department at the University of Ottawa help get staff in other business units excited about CRM by explaining its benefits. (Photo: Sang Trinh)

Vanderbilt University’s medical school is among the best in the country, but its officials still wanted to create awareness of it with prospective students—those who are only in high school.

The undergraduate admissions office had deployed a constituent relationship management (CRM) system, but university officials knew from the outset that the system could be used across campus to share information and target students for specialized programs.

Joel Bauman is vice president for enrollment management at Stetson University.

Walk into any high school auditorium, mall or fast food restaurant and see Millennials obsessed with their smartphones, tablets and laptops. But are they really that consumed? In a survey conducted by Intel Labs, 61 percent of young adults believe their relationship with technology is dehumanizing. That statistic is clear to many enrollment managers struggling to increase, or even maintain, enrollment.

In her 2014 State of the University of New York Address, Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher launched Open SUNY, a systemwide distance learning consortium. Over the near term, it will reduce the time it takes to complete a degree, course or certificate.

What is especially distinctive about Open SUNY is that it is one of the largest and most complex statewide public university systems in the US. By creating this multipronged approach to sharing distributed learning , Open SUNY has reduced the time it takes to complete a degree - which typically lowers the cost of instruction.

Part-time students and their needs need not get lost when continuing education gets decentralized. Fairfield U reaches out to its part-timers, many of whom have young children, with events such as the Halloween-themed “Night at the Museum,” held this fall on campus at the Bellarmine Art Museum.

With funding cuts, falling enrollments and increased competition from MOOCs and other low-cost online programs, higher education has been under enormous pressure in recent years. But pressure often leads to positive change, and many schools are looking at continuing education as an ideal area for that change.

Jacqueline Gregory is director of enrollment management marketing for RuffaloCODY.

These days, institutions can’t say they fully “control” their recruitment and enrollment process—but they can adjust to how prospective students and their families are navigating it.

In the epic Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss learns that to survive, it is not enough to know where to be—it is just as important to know where not to be. For higher education, this means knowing what programs to curtail, and what markets to stay out of.

Many institutions need to reduce their reliance on the 18- to 22-year-old domestic student population, and focus instead on adult learners and international student populations as the traditional age U.S. student demographic shrinks.

How an institution labels its continuing education division often reflects its mission or goals. Below are some examples of terminology used in the field—and insight into why each institution made that choice.

Center for Lifelong Learning

Santa Barbara Community College (Calif.)

Officials recently broke down the CE division and integrated many previously free, noncredit offerings into a new Center for Lifelong Learning, which now generates revenue. It serves a wide array of community members, especially nontraditional-aged students seeking personal enrichment.

The high and rising cost of education, coupled with a vast range of low-cost options flooding the marketplace, has impelled much of higher education into an “adapt or die” mindset. This is relatively uncharted territory for many institutions. But what they may or may not realize is that a pocket of wisdom might be found in the form of their continuing education divisions.