Let me state this again: The strategies institutions employ to attract and convert new students aren’t that different, and haven’t changed significantly over the past year. But the results among those institutions vary widely.
I can share, however how several small, tactical adjustments in marketing and recruitment seem to have the most impact.
1. Search: Students don’t search for you; they search for programs. Collegis Education reports prospective students are increasingly searching for preferred academic programs first, then the brand names of the colleges and universities offering the programs.
What does this mean for you? As you optimize both your web content and digital ads, the focus has moved toward the programs you offer. Your online ad and web content must follow suit. While the challenge to optimize and remain atop the search results continues to be great, those who don’t address the issue may fall dramatically in the results. If you aren’t among the top four to six search results, consider yourself ignored.
Institutions with strong marketing agency partners tend to excel more in accomplishing this simply because those partners know how to customize and optimize the ads and web content necessary to get to the top.
2. Web and Ad Content: Now that we know how students are searching, we need to think about content we deliver so that it is relevant to them. Companies like Hubspot do a lot of research into what types of content help convert prospects on a web page. And while the answer may seem simple enough to do, it is much more challenging than most consider it to be.
Most of the content I review on program web pages is focused on the program and not the prospective student. If you want to improve the effectiveness of the content, be sure that it answers the prospective student’s questions.
What are the top three initial questions a prospective student asks when they express interest in your programs? This is a simple but very important question to help you engage your prospective student. These questions and answers should drive your content.
If your site doesn’t provide the answers to those questions, what information does it provide, and is that more important than the answers to the prospect’s questions?
Remember if they can’t find what they are looking for on your site, they won’t necessarily search for it on your site – they may search for it on your competitor’s site.
3. Recruitment: After more than three years of stressing this point, I now find more programs and institutional leaders listening. Recruitment is a focal point that can typically provide a more significant opportunity to impact enrollment.
Most colleagues with whom I discuss this topic seem to understand the concept that not all prospects are equal, but few think of those differences among prospects, applying that to their recruitment strategies.
For example, there is a dramatic difference in how a prospect converts based on the source through which she connected with you. A prospective student that clicked on an online ad to submit a Request For Information (RFI) form on your site will convert at a significantly lower rate than a prospective student that was referred by another student or alumna.
The source type is just a single data point that can help you better engage prospects. Other points include where in your enrollment funnel, or enrollment process a prospective student is, or any special audience segment you particularly serve well, such as veterans.
If you build your recruitment strategy with a significantly more detailed level of personalization, you will should find a deeper, more enriched level of engagement with prospects in return.
If you read through each of these three points, you will find a common theme. That is the customization of content around each individual prospect.
Over the past five years, I have become equally focused on technology as well as enrollment strategy. That’s not because technology drives the prospective student’s experience, but because it enables you and your team to customize the experience. It is your team, the people involved in making the connection and engaging with prospects that drives your enrollment.
If you design your content and ads to engage prospects with the information they need and strategically build your recruitment around your team’s ability to engage and connect with prospects, you will have a more meaningful connection with your new students and a higher satisfaction with those responsible for making the connection.
March has arrived, and I recently attended the ACHE Great Lakes/ICCHE Conference in Chicago, as well as the ACHE West Conference in Salt Lake City. Both conferences offered wonderful opportunities for professional development, networking, recognition of achievement in our field and conversation on current trends in continuing education.
Visiting Brigham Young University’s Salt Lake Center brought to mind the rich history of United States higher education, and the integral nature of our colleges and universities as ground zero of new ideas and new industry throughout our country. How did this unique, diverse landscape of over 7,000 post-secondary institutions in the United States come about? A majority of our college and universities, like Brigham Young University, were established in the 19th century by religious denominations. As denominations continued to emerge, grow, and thrive in the U.S., higher education ensured the indoctrination of good church people, an educated congregation, and pragmatically, a socio-economically stable base. These denominational institutions grew into the top private U.S. universities, because the mission mattered. Both religious and laypeople contributed to the exponential growth of institutions of higher education from nine chartered colleges in the late 18th century to nine hundred at the close of the 19th century. Certainly, the sacrifice and a shared vision that contributed to the establishment of these universities attest to the higher purpose which they represent: a spiritual mission, as well as a charge to serve the betterment of society.
In today’s continuing education, adult education, and professional studies divisions, the mission matters now more than ever. The charge to provide affordable, accessible training, certificate, and degree programs still rings true for our programs, as we continue to innovate to broaden geographic and demographic reach, strive to offer in-demand degrees, and ensure student success and satisfaction. Through tireless reinvention and dynamic delivery of high-quality programming on behalf of our colleges and universities, the mission matters on a daily basis. We make lives better through the democratization of opportunity - all made possible through higher education.
With Warmest Regards,
Bill Boozang, Ed.D.
ACHE President, 2018
University of Oklahoma
2017 ACHE Memorial Staff Development Grant Recipient
ACHE's Memorial Staff Development Grant
In 2015, ACHE lost two champions of continuing higher education just prior to the Annual Conference and Meeting in St. Louis: Charlee Lanis of East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma, and Don Devilbiss of Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania. But Charlee and Don were not just champions of the students they served. They were also champions of supporting their staff in obtaining key professional development needed to do the important work of serving adult and non-traditional students. In honor of the spirit and character of Charlee, Don, and other ACHE champions of continuing education who have passed away, the ACHE Board of Directors authorized establishment of the ACHE Memorial Staff Development Grant to assist with funding participation of continuing education unit staff in professional development activities.
Each year, ACHE will award one grant in an amount not to exceed $1500 for a continuing education staff member to attend an ACHE professional development event - to include the annual or a regional conference, leadership training, or other type of activity as seems appropriate to the needs of the selectee - to further their professional development growth and hone their skills.
The 2017 recipient was Kathie Nicoletti, a member of the Southwest Center for Human Relations Studies (SWCHRS) at the University of Oklahoma. SWCHRS is host and coordinator of the National Conference for Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE®), and Kathie is the NCORE Logistics Coordinator. Here is her story!
Key Learnings and Applying New Knowledge
Attending the 79th Annual ACHE Conference as a Memorial Staff Development scholarship recipient was a tremendous honor. My two consistent goals in life are to find ways to continue my education and to share what I have learned with others when appropriate. I was so fortunate to be able to attend, and I tried to make the most of the opportunity.
I chose sessions of various topics during the conference to learn the latest trends, to open my mind to new ideas, and to take away bits of knowledge that are useful for myself and others. I took notes and have been sharing ideas at our staff meetings when it is my turn to facilitate. We are charged with providing an educational component in addition to run-of-the mill work updates; the content shared by presenters at ACHE has proven to be very effective in this area.
For example, wisdom and experience tells us that communication is a vital factor as we strive for success in our daily work and as we tackle common projects. This means crafting and tailoring your words when sending email, making phone calls, and speaking in person. Learning how to identify communication styles amongst team members is an important factor when determining successful communication. I learned one should pay attention to the communication style of individuals and try to match that style as closely as possible in order to be effective. For instance, if a person is particularly concise with their words but you speak in a more elaborate manner, you should go against your normal style and use fewer words. Doing so will meet that person where they are most comfortable and they will receive the message better.
Lifelong learning is a passion of mine and I enjoy sharing what I have learned with colleagues and friends. I believe we are only able to navigate through life by communicating with others and I was fortunate to learn this aspect of effective communication at ACHE.
Special thanks are in order for the generous support of ACHE members in establishing and maintaining the Memorial Staff Development Grant. Although I did not have the pleasure of knowing Charlee Lanis and Don Devilbiss, their commitment to helping staff acquire critical professional development is evident with this grant. While I learned many interesting concepts at the conference, I will also take with me Charlee and Don’s ideas to become a champion for those I work with to continue their own professional development.
Make an Impact in 2018
As your Newsletter Writer and Digital Content Manager, I have a unique perspective on trends in continuing higher education – your trends, that is – and I think your reading trends over the past year may even give me a little insight into where 2018 may take continuing higher education.
I get the privilege of reading the daily news, blogs, and reviews of scholarly articles in higher education. In doing so, I’ve noticed a few things about what seems to get “ink space” in the mainline higher education periodicals, and topics related to continuing higher education are definitely among them. Some of the topics of interest to continuing higher education professionals are even evident in general news sources from around the world.
But what makes a news story (or more likely, a news headline) one that interests the ACHE membership? As a mathematician, I’m fascinated by the analytics I get to see about how many clicks each link gets in the weekly ACHE News You Can Use, and as a researcher, I’m fascinated by the themes I’ve noticed emerging over time. Let’s explore a few trends!
The most clicked link in the last year, “The Twelve Most Innovative Colleges for Adult Learners,” hits two of the top topics during the same time frame: innovation and adult students. A similarly popular headline, “4 Ways Universities Can Better Engage Nontraditional Students,” hits another couple of hot topics: engagement and nontraditional students. But I noticed something else about these two very popular headlines, they both have lists (one identifies 12 colleges and the other identifies 4 methods). Therefore, I’m going to share with you my lists.
The 5 Most Clicked News Topics (of the last twelve months in ACHE News You Can Use newsletters):
Other frequently clicked topics are evident in this word cloud I created based on my qualitative analysis of news themes.
The Seven Most Clicked News Stories (of the last twelve months in ACHE News You Can Use newsletters):
I’ve also noticed some recent changes in these trends. For example, two of the most frequently clicked headlines recently relate to prior learning assessments/credit for prior learning, but several months ago, these types of stories were not grabbing the attention of many in our organization.
My Predictions from Your Trends
So what do I think I have learned by reviewing these analytics?
Several of the most popular stories over the last year have featured colleges, universities, and programs whose leaders and instructors are members of ACHE; therefore, I anticipate that ACHE members will lead the way in exploring new possibilities as well as scaling up promising practices in 2018.
I’ll continue to “study” your habits of reading while you continue to study the best ways to improve your practice in support of our students. Thank you for the opportunity to learn from you!
Kerri K. White, Ed.D.
ACHE Newsletter Writer and Digital Content Manager
University of Oklahoma Outreach
Join us at the 2018 ACHE West Annual Conference February 21-23 in Salt Lake City, Utah to hear from our dynamic Keynote Speakers.
Don't miss high-energy concurrent sessions presented by your peers, engaging speakers, and robust networking at the top conference for professional, continuing, and online education.
Greetings from Scottsdale, where I’m attending a conference of coding boot camp administrators. This summit was a rare opportunity for me to meet with continuing education deans, directors, and non-credit coordinators outside my usual ACHE crowd.
Aside from great programming over the last few days, this conference provided plenty of networking occasions, and shared insight related to our programming, challenges, and opportunities - truly great wisdom from seasoned continuing education administrators.
Yet there’s another sentiment to which many related in our conversations: the sense of isolation on campus when a majority of our colleagues are involved in the “day school” function, and simply don’t understand the work that we do to further the mission and purpose of the institution.
This isn’t necessarily an “us vs. them” dynamic, as increasingly more of the non-traditional students who we serve enroll in our programs, year after year - soon to be in the majority of post-secondary enrollments. Given that CE is characteristically enrollment-driven, entrepreneurial, and often competitive, we simply don’t take the time for community building within our institutions, as well as among other institutions on-region.
In thinking of the people that I’ve met over the last few days, several have moved across state or across the country recently, in pursuit of the next position. As such, they don’t have outlet or opportunities to readily foster relationships with counterparts and colleagues in the area.
This is why our ACHE regional conferences are so important, as well as the interactions, which take place in between our meetings. I look forward to seeing all of you at the regional events. As part of the spirit of our organization, we enthusiastically welcome newcomers at every event. Are you aware of someone new to town, or new to your division? Invite them to coffee or lunch next week, and offer a personal invitation to join us at the upcoming conference. Share the organization’s role in your personal and professional growth. Relate the value of the organization in meeting your goals as a higher education professional.
Over the upcoming weeks, I look forward to seeing old friends, meeting professionals new to the organization, and sharing best practices and emerging trends in professional and continuing education.
Laura ParkerUniversity of Oklahoma
2017 ACHE Graduate Student Conference Grant Recipient
Ms. Parker's recognition at the 79th Annual ACHE Conference and Meeting by 2017 ACHE President Clare Roby
ACHE's Graduate Student Conference Grant The purpose of the ACHE Graduate Student Conference Grant is to provide financial support to graduate students interested in attending the annual ACHE meeting. The Association members believe that their interest and future contributions to the field of continuing higher education will help maintain the vitality of the organization. The ACHE Graduate Student Conference Grant covers the awardee's conference registration fee, travel and lodging up to a maximum of $1500.
The 2017 recipient was Laura Parker, an instructor at the University of Oklahoma Center for English as a Second Language (CESL). Here is her story!
Introduction My name is Laura Parker, and I am an instructor at the University of Oklahoma Center for English as a Second Language (CESL). I have my master’s in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) through Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas, and am currently working on my Doctorate of Education in Adult Education at Capella University. I heard of the ACHE Annual Conference in Portland, OR and was excited to apply for the ACHE Graduate Student Conference Grant for the opportunity to attend. I have never participated in the conference before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised, made connections I wouldn’t have made and learned more in-depth what ACHE was all about.
Ms. Parker with Dr. Belinda Biscoe, ACHE Executive Vice President and Vice President for University Outreach, University of Oklahoma
A First Timer’s Perspective
As a first-timer, the annual ACHE conference was fantastic! Everyone was welcoming and friendly, and I felt like I was among friends that I have known for a long time. The ACHE annual conference gave me an opportunity to network with other professionals in the field of adult education and provided me with the tools and strategies to further develop my skills in teaching university-level English as a Second Language (ESL). It also allowed me to gain insight into leadership within the continuing higher education arena and helped with research ideas for the ESL classroom and with my doctorate studies in Adult Education. The atmosphere was laid back and comfortable, and the number of attendees was perfect.
Key Learnings and Applying New Knowledge The breakout sessions were engaging and informative. I was able to immediately make networking connections through Dr. Covelli and Ms. Hearn’s LinkedIn workshop.
As an instructor at the University of Oklahoma Center for English as a Second Language (CESL), I was able to take what I learned from Natasha Teetsov’s session on “Creating a Student Ambassador Community” and develop an ambassador program at CESL. I successfully piloted the ambassador program Fall 2017 session with three students and will have a total of eight students to start Spring 2018 session.
Ms. Parker with the Student Ambassadors at the CESL Graduation
As an instructor of international students, plagiarism is a big issue with some students, and teaching how not to can be a challenge. The workshop “Plagiarism: Helping the Adult Learner to Avoid it,” by Dr. Bonhomme, helped me to identify solutions and approaches to help students avoid plagiarism. Since the conference, I have been able to share the valuable information with my colleagues at CESL.
Finally, I recently presented at the annual Oklahoma TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) conference this past November, and the information gained from the workshop “Convert a Presentation to a Publication” by Royce Ann Collins, gave a step-by-step process on how I may be able to convert a presentation into a publication.
My Professional Next Steps My future professional plans are to present at the 80th Annual ACHE conference, continue to grow the CESL Student Ambassador Program, and continue my research on instructor professional development through my doctorate program in Adult Education.
We’ve had good success at Loyola University Chicago in the School for Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS). A healthy upswing in the number of students (despite our limited marketing budget), rising persistence rates, increasing affordability through scholarship funds, growing student satisfaction, and a highly rated online program are markers of our success.
Our growth in SCPS has been substantial. The number of credits generated has risen 230% over the past 5 years. This success in admissions has come on a limited ad budget. We spend $300,000 each year, plus some resources from the broader university. This advertising campaign produces about 2900 inquiries per year. We’ve experienced a big jump in enrollment after admission. In the past we enrolled about 60% after admission, and we are now better than 80%. We’ve added resources in our admission office, and we are making progress toward the benchmark of 29% of inquiries starting an application and 80% of those matriculating.
Rising persistence rates
Our students used to have a persistence rate of around 50%, not uncommon among adult learning programs. Adults struggle with many distractions in their lives, not the least of which are work and family. This leads to lower persistence rates. However, with the changes we’ve made to support persistence, we now have 80% of our students persisting. How have we accomplished this?
Orientation, provided both online and in person, is required in advance of the fall and spring semesters and is taught by our Assistant Dean with support from the entire faculty and staff. Requiring completion of our Mastering Learning Tools mini-course has led to greater tech familiarity and better performance in the first course. The good on-boarding processes followed by our Admissions Advisor have resulted in nearly 80% enrollment by admitted students and also led to good persistence. We provide the required entry course (3-credit Introduction to Degree Completion) for free. In this course we require a plan for graduation and a financial plan for completion, and we refresh students’ writing skills, all of which enables greater persistence.
Systematic follow-up with non-enrolled students helps us prevent and recover from stop-outs. We email them, write to them, and call them. Our structured school requirements (an entry course, a career course early in the program, and a capstone at the end) provide a clear structure to the student experience, enhancing persistence.
SCPS distributes nearly $500,000 each year from funded scholarships contributed by our many donors. We’ve improved scholarship processes by making the awards annual and providing a web-based tool to help students gather their applications in one spot. Helping students use prior learning assessment and being transfer-friendly are other ways in which we bring down the cost of the degree.
The SCPS Ambassadors program has played a key role in our success. Ambassadors are current students and alumni who volunteer at information and orientation sessions and assist with Mastering Learning Tools. They testify to the value of the SCPS experience.
Satisfied students persist, and our scores in the Ruffalo Noel Levitz Adult Student Priorities Survey are outstanding. In this survey, this question predicts overall satisfaction: There is a commitment to academic excellence. SCPS scores very highly on this question.
Online program rated #14 in the nation: Why?
Our engagement with students was significant in this ranking of #14 in the country, but we are also pleased with the way in which the survey rates our work with faculty. Good faculty development, including new faculty orientation, regular development sessions, and twice-yearly interactive faculty meetings, is essential. We provide instructional design support for every faculty member. We mentor new faculty, engaging peers in the work of inducting new faculty. We meet at least twice a year with the Faculty Advisory board (composed of both part-time and full-time faculty), take serious questions to them, and follow their advice.
Student Demonstrates Benefits of Online Learning
"Once they introduced the online component to our program no one was more excited than I was," SCPS student Robin May-McMorris says. "It provides comfort, convenience, and flexibility."
Since 1914, Loyola University Chicago has fulfilled its mission of educational outreach and inclusiveness by offering a wide range of educational options to a diverse community of students and professionals. Our goal is for our students to lead, succeed, and create meaning in their lives. We continue in our mission of providing unwavering support for working adults who wish to advance their education.
Have bags. Will travel.
For professional learning, that is!
In the coming months, many professional learning opportunities will arise, but none will be more focused on meeting your professional needs in continuing higher education than those offered by ACHE.
Today, we spotlight two excellent ACHE opportunities!
2018 Emerging Leaders Institute
2018 Emerging Leaders Institute
June 20-22, 2018
The ACHE Emerging Leaders Institute is designed to provide professional development and leadership training to continuing education professionals.
"The Emerging Leader Institute provides an extended opportunity for mid-career professionals to connect with like-minded individuals. There is an openness to learning and sharing that is beneficial for everyone involved, regardless of your specific job responsibilities or title."
- Erin, Cohort 2
"The ELI was a valuable experience as I connected with others focused on continuing higher education from my university as well as universities across the country. I learned about emerging trends in this field and how I might contribute to the conversation with my own leadership experiences."
- Kyle, Cohort 2
Contact us at (423) 439-8661
Application Deadline: April 16, 2018
$1950 ACHE Members
$2350 Non-ACHE Rate
View the application or
80th Annual ACHE Conference and Meeting
October 8-10, 2018
"The absolute best interactions occur at the ACHE's Annual Conference!"
- Bruce, 2017 First-Timer
The Program Committee for the 2018 ACHE Conference & Meeting in Newport, RI invites members as well as thought leaders in the higher education community to submit proposals for conference sessions and workshops.
The 2018 ACHE Conference will provide the opportunity for both continuing education professionals and students of education to showcase solution-driven concepts which enhance program delivery; increase access to high quality, accessible and affordable higher education options; and share evidence-based practice that is both impactful and replicable in our member institutions.
Proposal Submission Deadline:
March 30, 2018
We hope you strongly consider participation in these two events and recommend these opportunities to your colleagues.
Happy New Year, Colleagues!
While September always holds the allure of a new start, I particularly like the promise that a new year entails at our institutions. Our students resolve to return to school, learn a new set of skills, complete a degree (finally!), or launch a new career; as continuing education professionals, we consider innovative strategy and practice which provide our students with more numerous, accessible and affordable options.
As a continuing education organization, networking and sharing of best practice is our lifeblood.
In 2018, resolve to get involved in ACHE!
Not only will you reap the rewards of professional development, but your institution will ultimately benefit through your knowledge of the best in continuing education programming nationally.
Here’s to a wonderful 2018 - I look forward to seeing you at regional events in the coming weeks!
423.439.6192 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Association for Continuing Higher Education
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