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Enrollment Trends: Career, Military, Online

Liz Kistner - Monday, October 27, 2014

In life, disaster never takes a vacation.  Preparation is the key to survival.  How are you preparing for the future when faced with daily challenges:  current economic slowdown, budget pressures/cuts with continued pressure to remain competitive, federal rules on financial aid, and tuition increases?  While the future remains uncertain, three trends  will help set the stage for recruitment, retention, and diversity: 

1.  How is your university responding to labor market demand for adult learners looking for specific degrees and skills? Projected growth in six fast-growing careers from 2010-2020 according to U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook include:

--Career #1:  Personal Financial Advisor with a 32% growth

--Career #2:  Database Administrator with a 31% growth  

--Career #3:  Market Research Analyst with a 41% growth

--Career #4:  Medical Assistant with a 31% growth

--Career #5:  Physical Therapy Assistant with a 46% growth

--Career #6:  Software Developer with a 30% growth

2.  Service members and their families are eligible for benefits under the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008.  Military personnel are currently 3,030,672 according to USA.Gov (Army=438,112; Navy = 264,618; Marine Corps- 159,321; Air Force= 261,168; Military Dependents = 1,907,453).  How are you effectively marketing programs to veterans?  Outreach efforts may include veteran-specific orientations, on-campus veteran service centers, host a benefits lunch, counseling and psychological services for veteran students.  Draw prospective students in by having accurate, authentic images on your website that represent who they are.  Build an inclusive culture. 

3.   There is a steady rise in the proportion of colleges and universities that say online learning is critical for their institutions' long-term strategies.  Online education will attain full scale adoption (the use of online technologies for teaching and learning in the delivery of education which include blended and classroom courses) in the next five to ten years according to The Sloan Consortium.   The adoption of full scale online education will not be without obstacles:  faculty acceptance, financial issues, organizational structures, tenure,  promotion polices, as well as the introduction of MOOC's.  Success for measured online growth can be seen with the presence of online and blended courses and programs at various institutions rather than large-scale implementations. Extending reach by allocating resources to specific programs such international, military, summer programs, or continuing education will increase enrollments as well as support long-term sustainability.  

It is important to think what the future may look like even if the immediate plan is to remain status quo.  Focus on student outcomes: great job, great opportunity with your university as well as the ability to respond to marketplace changes (different demographics, technology, flipped classrooms, game-based technology, and mobile apps).  Be distinctive and provide proof of past graduate outcomes that point to positive return on investment for further students.