Benchmark This!

Latest Trends Impacting Marketing and Higher Education
from Director of UPCEA's Center for Research and Strategy, Jim Fong

Looking at the New Learner

Recent Center for Research and Strategy studies have explored different facets of today’s new learner. Explore these studies for details on how your institution can best meet new learners’ needs. 

The Six Personas of the New Learner: Changing Motivations and Situations of the New Learner Landscape (with Thinking Cap)

As we move into the future, the adult learner will become more and more important. However, there are many faces to the adult learner. UPCEA collaborated with the Thinking Cap Agency to unmask some of these segments. While there are certainly older learners, professional learners and others, we focused on the Generation Z and Millennial segment of adult students. The analysis revealed that six personas that tended to fall on gender and age cohort lines. The study shows that the six personas rely on social media differently, as well as have different preferences and motivations, all of which are critical for institutions of higher education to reach and communicate more efficiently with them in the future.

Supporting & Retaining the New Professional Learner (with

Today’s new adult and professional learner is very different from past generations. However, our systems and processes to respond to students and especially inquirers have been built to previous generations. UPCEA partnered with Salesforce to better understand the intersection of people, processes and technology as it pertained to the adult learner of today and of the future. The research that we jointly conducted identified that today’s adult learner demands greater accessibility to the resources of the college or university, as well as expects immediacy and flexibility to their needs. As a result, colleges and universities need to leverage the tools of technology and automation and weave in the human element at critical junctures. This requires deliberate planning, creating a student-centered process and having a strategy for engagement.

Today’s Disengaged Learner is Tomorrow’s Adult Learner (with StraighterLine)

Over the past decade, higher education enrollments were steadily declining, but at a slow and almost unnoticeable rate, with the likely reason being increasing tuition, lower disposable household income and not necessarily a significantly improved product to justify the cost increase. Students today expect greater value and a higher return on investment. The pandemic accentuated this problem with the value equation thus forcing many students to the sidelines, primarily 18 to 22 year-olds. With over 37 million Americans with some college but no degree, higher education has an opportunity to re-capture their lost students. However, value, messaging and relationship management will have to improve. UPCEA and StraighterLine embarked on a research initiative to better understand this disengaged student to help institutions reconnect with them to help fuel a new economy and contribute in new ways to society.

Jim Fong, UPCEA

Lead consultant Jim Fong, the founding director of UPCEA’s Center for Research and Strategy, has extensive background in marketing at Penn State, as well as experience in private industry. Jim brings a rich understanding of the dynamics driving today’s higher education leaders, providing research-driven strategy and positioning. Jim often presents at UPCEA’s regional and national conferences, sharing vital information with attendees.

Whether you need benchmarking studies, or market research for a new program, UPCEA Consulting is the right choice.

We know you. We know the challenges you face and we have the solutions you need. We speak your language and have been serving leaders like you for more than 100 years. UPCEA consultants are current or former continuing and online higher education professionals who are experts in the industry—put our expertise to work for you.

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Whether you need to assess the viability of a new program, find out how you stack up with the competition or would like a program portfolio review, we can assist with research and data that will help move your unit forward. Your decisions impact the quality of your operation, as well as the bottom line. We’ll provide data that does more than sit on a page—it’s data that tells the story.

The UPCEA Center for Research and Strategy offers a variety of custom research options through a variable pricing model.

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Other UPCEA Updates + Blogs

Apply today for the 2022 cohort of the Bethaida “Bea” González Diversity in Leadership Scholars program

UPCEA is proud to once again be offering UPCEA members the Bethaida “Bea” González Diversity in Leadership Scholars Program. Representative and diverse leadership is a cornerstone of UPCEA’s Commitment to Diversity and Inclusive Excellence.  The goal of the Diversity Scholars program is to equip diverse professionals at any stage of their career with the skills…

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Beyond the health and social implications of the pandemic, the economic dominos that fell for higher education included The Great Resignation followed by The Great Interruption.  The economy in the U.S. and other parts of the world continues to be impacted by the former, as many jobs remain unfilled or where a constant churn of…

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Program Development During and After the Pandemic

Prior to the pandemic, for the UPCEA Center for Research and Strategy it was business as usual – conducting feasibility studies, environmental scans and an occasional review of a professional, continuing and online education unit’s portfolio.  During the pandemic, this flip-flopped as our unit did more portfolio reviews, market needs studies and marketing and enrollment…

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Biden Administration Extends Student Loan Pause Through August 31; Signals Debt Cancellation | Policy Matters (April 2022)

Major Updates Biden Administration Extends Student Loan Pause Through August 31; Signals Debt Cancellation Citing the ongoing COVID pandemic and the economic consequences of it, Federal Student Aid (FSA) has extended the federal student loan relief to borrowers which began in March 2020 through August 31, 2022. All student loans that are federally held will…

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Report: Limited Resources Hinder Continuing Education (Government Technology)

[…] Jim Fong, founding director of UPCEA’s Center for Research and Strategy, said the study found neither adequate staffing nor resources focused on continuing education at these institutions. He said that the systems for the typical two- and four-year enrollment process and the continuing-ed systems aren’t necessarily tied together, adding that many institutions are using…

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UPCEA Welcomes 13 New Board Members

WASHINGTON, April 14, 2022 – UPCEA, the Washington, D.C.-based association for college and university leaders in professional, continuing, and online education, is pleased to announce the election of four new officers and nine new directors to serve on the UPCEA Board of Directors. Elected in November 2021, these individuals assumed their roles at the conclusion…

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