Chasing Enrollment Against The Odds

A recent survey from the Education Advisory Board estimates that graduate-level and adult-serving programs accounted for nearly 40% of the $226 billion generated by colleges in 2019.

Realizing the revenue potential  , it’s understandable that colleges are  attempting to increase  their graduate and adult service programs. However, several are either unprepared for this change and/or are facing numerous different competitors in this expanding market.  

The concept may seem simple on paper: build out programs targeting the audience segment and watch tuition revenue grow –  but the reality of the situation is that these institutions are finding themselves in a highly competitive and saturated market.

Not only are they competing against other higher education institutions, but they are also competing with non-university programs such as professional associations, online course provider EdX and employers.  In short, there are already plenty of options for those seeking graduate or adult level programs.

These alternative programs may not have the name value of some of the national institutions, but many of those interested in graduate level and adult serving programs have time, life and job constrictions. Therefore, traditional learning paths and course programs may be less appealing than more flexible solutions.    

Another challenge institutions face is the financial risk associated with the programs. From the course materials to the marketing to the instructors, these programs need to be financed.  Additionally, even though these programs have the potential to generate large revenue, if institutions can’t fill the classes, they can’t reap that revenue.

From an infrastructure perspective, institutions are learning that these types of programs cannot always be offered in the traditional hybrid, online or in-person environments.

While online programs may sound like an easy way to net larger audiences, these types of courses are not always conducive to 100% online learning. But if courses are hybrid or in-person, geographical considerations inevitably narrow the pool of potential students who might attend.

From our perspective, higher education institutions need to be fully prepared when looking at new ways to bolster their revenue – especially when increasing graduate and adult service programs. It’s crucial for institutions to maintain constant awareness of  financial, technological and infrastructure risks.

About Schneider Downs Higher Education Services

The Schneider Downs Higher Education industry group is a dedicated team of experienced professionals specializing in serving institutions from high schools to universities. Our experience in audit and assurance, tax advisory, technology and data and more allow our professionals to stay ahead of the latest trends, developments and challenges within the education sector and provide timely and practical solutions to our clients.  

To learn more, visit our Higher Education Industry Group page.  


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Chasing Enrollment Against The Odds
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