Benchmark This!

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

Problem Solved. Flexible, Future-Facing, Non-Degree Education Supporting Degreed Education

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 employees offers temporary relief, only to have the position vacated shortly after.  Unemployment is relatively low with 4.5 million workers in the U.S. leaving their jobs according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Further compounding the problems in the economy is The Great Interruption[i] where over a million students left college or did not seek college after graduating high school.  There are many theories as to why this occurred, but it will certainly reshape higher education as we know it today. 

According to a number of sources, the traditional college degree market is not expected to grow. At best, it will remain flat.  However, some segments will grow while others will retract.  One such growth segment could be degree completion, as The Great Interruption forced many students to the sidelines.  Their re-entry will be largely dependent on a more affordable and/or accessible model that carries with it stackability and greater value in the marketplace.  Another growth segment could be career-changers or skill-builders (who want to increase job security) among others.

As a result, colleges and universities will need to question the true value of the degree in a new economy that is more highly automated, data-driven, diverse, multi-generational, and global in nature.  Will the college degree move fast enough to adapt to the changing needs of business and industry, but most likely not involving many professions?  Institutions of higher education will need to re-engineer many of their educational offerings to diversify their portfolio of products and services.  This is where an unbundled or stackable credential could play a major role in addressing value and accessibility.

During the pandemic, UPCEA surveyed thousands of active students, disengaged learners and potential adult learners.  This showed that their needs and impressions regarding higher education have changed.  During that same time, UPCEA surveyed hundreds of colleges and universities to learn that they were depending more on online education, alternative or nondegree credentials, and other programs to offset potential lost revenues.  While institutions were moving down the path of program and market diversification, a recent study by Modern Campus[ii] and UPCEA showed that units responsible for these new programs were not being resourced to appropriate levels. 

The final missing link to it all was the needs and opinions of employers.  A recent study[iii] of over a thousand employers conducted by UPCEA and InsideTrack and co-funded by Strada Education and the Non-Degree Credentials Research Network (NCRN) showed that most employers still rely heavily on the college degree, but many also value a short-term credential such as a certificate.  More importantly, employers want more involvement and engagement with higher education.  While some institutions do this well, it can be argued that beyond an occasional advisory committee, deeper involvement of employers regarding their future needs will be critical to keep advancing in a new economy. 

While doing a better job of listening and engaging employers will be essential for colleges and universities in the future, they will have to also fix many of their processes to be more nimble and decisive.  During the 2022 UPCEA REACH Conference, Dr. Charles Iavocou, the Founding Dean of the Wake Forest University School of Professional Studies, pointed out that the creation of this new academic school was a result of needing to respond to the market better and more quickly.  In fact, Iavocou points out the need to have a rapid prototyping for online programs where in 90 days a program is researched and validated, concepted, and backwards-designed with the student in mind, as well as standardization for internal efficiency purposes.

 

Read the full report here.

 

[i] InsideHigherEd, February 28, 2022

[ii] Modern Campus and UPCEA The State of Continuing Education Report, April 2022.

[iii] https://www.insidetrack.org/resources/short-term-credentials-are-here-to-stay-but-how-do-employers-view-them/

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.

Do you need help with your PCO unit or campus? We can help. Contact UPCEA's Center for Research and Strategy for a brief consult. Email [email protected] or call us at 202-659-3130.

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.


Data that tells your story.

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.


Click here to learn more.

Other UPCEA Updates + Blogs

U.S. Department of Education Announces Regulatory Agenda; Pushes Some Rulemaking Issues to Next Federal Calendar | Policy Matters (June 2022)

Major Updates U.S. Department of Education Announces Regulatory Agenda; Pushes Some Rulemaking Issues to Next Federal Calendar The Department of Education released their Spring 2022 Agenda and Regulatory Plan, providing timelines and intended regulations they will release this year, and which they will push until the next yearly cycle. The Department broke apart the recent…

Read More

Marketing in a Post-Pandemic World

Marketing budgets and staffing have significantly increased from pre-pandemic levels I once heard that when faced with trauma or chaos, humans consider a number of options … fight, flight (or flee) or freeze. Institutions and their leadership make similar choices when faced with economic adversity. Based on the 2022 UPCEA Marketing Survey, institutions of higher…

Read More

US Government Accountability Office Releases Long-Awaited Report on OPMs | Policy Matters (May 2022)

Major Updates   US Government Accountability Office Releases Long-Awaited Report on OPMs The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a highly anticipated report following a multi-year review of the relationships between Online Program Managers (OPMs) and universities. In their report, they recommended some changes around how the Department of Education deals with universities and…

Read More

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…

Read More

Problem Solved. Flexible, Future-Facing, Non-Degree Education Supporting Degreed Education

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…

Read More

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…

Read More

The Nation's Top Universities Choose UPCEA Consulting

Informed decisions. Ideas that work. The data you need. Trusted by the top universities in the nation.