Benchmark This!

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

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 management audits.  This shift signaled to us that our members were preparing for a post-pandemic situation where they needed to know whether or not their current programmatic assets were aligned with future needs.  In addition, we did more marketing and enrollment reviews which also indicated the need for greater efficiency, conversion, and student-centered processes.

A recent snap poll by UPCEA showed that this in fact happened.  Two-thirds of PCO units agreed with a statement that their unit spent more time reviewing their portfolio.  While many also said that their new development efforts increased and few said they slowed, it is likely that a review of new online degrees, moving campus-based degrees online, or the development of alternative credentials made up for new programming activities during the pandemic.  In fact, the snap poll showed that the highest rated response regarding a unit’s post-pandemic response would be that it would emerge from the pandemic developing more online noncredit programs, followed by more online graduate programs.  While 39% stated that they would be moving more undergraduate programs online, our other research suggests greater opportunities in this category.

Bruce Etter, UPCEA’s Director of Research and Consulting, observed “As a result of the pandemic, the marketplace is shifting at a rapid pace for an industry that is often reluctant to change. The future portfolio will need to offer increased value to potential students through the development of non-credit to credit pathways and stackable credentials. PCO units can be leveraged as catalysts for change. The results of this snap poll indicate that while a considerable portion of UPCEA’s membership is beginning to make some of the necessary changes through increased development of non-credit programming, many institutions are still stuck doing business as usual. Much like the online degree marketplace, the early adopters of this student-centric model will see significant benefits, while those that are slow to change will face increasingly dire consequences.”

As we emerge from over two years of chaos and uncertainty, the next few years will be critical for higher education as to whether institutions can smoothly transition to new ways of learning and new credentials and whether or not they will continue to focus on consumers and employers.  Our units are investing in these areas and will need the continued support of not only central administrations, but that of the employment community, professional certification associations, government, and other stakeholders. See the full snap poll results here.

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.


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