Winners and Losers: Why CE Is Indispensable to Universities Today and Tomorrow

The EvoLLLution | Winners and Losers: Why CE Is Indispensable to Universities Today and Tomorrow
Continuing education units are central to a university’s capacity to be responsive to labor market changes and competitive in the growing non-traditional postsecondary marketplace.

Universities across North America will face big challenges in 2015 as the ground continues to shift under them. The decade-long concern about declining enrollment, the value and relevancy of degrees and very purpose of universities will intensify in the future.

Universities are in a bind. They must increase enrollment but their traditional student market—18 to 20 year olds—is tapped out and shrinking. To make matters worse, increasing numbers of their market, and more specifically the parents (read: purse keepers) of their market, are questioning the return on investment of a university degree.

At the same time universities are struggling with technological changes, and the technological expectations of their students. Today’s students are digital natives. They are comfortable with technology and expect it in the classroom. They are demanding changes to centuries-old university teaching and learning formats. At the same time many faculty are digital immigrants, newcomers to technology, and shun it in the classroom and lecture hall.

Reduced government funding means a growing number of universities are facing budget deficits. As the population ages across the continent government funding priorities have shifted from education to healthcare, putting added stress on universities struggling with deficits and faculty opposition to priority planning. The result is an increase in reduced-, closed- and low-enrollment programs.

To make matters worse too many universities are offering too many of the same programs to the same shrinking market. Institutions that adapt to the changing PSE reality will win. Universities that don’t will lose and perhaps fail.

Universities must reach out to and collaborate with their Continuing Education (CE) units to attract and retain older, non-traditional, post-graduate and job-focused students. A focused CE unit that develops and offers innovative, technologically advanced career and professional certificates, diplomas and courses is something all universities should consider.

With their strong connections to industry, expert instruction and comprehensive marketing, CE units offer practical, real-world certificates, diplomas and courses that translate into high graduation rates and jobs.

Offering flexible consumer-friendly experiential programs and courses, CE units build on their university’s academic strength by providing their students a value-added education. For example, according to grads, Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University CE Public Relations Certificate, a six-week full time program with a practicum, acts as a finishing school for the university’s communications degree.

CE units are experts at developing timely and financially successful programs aimed at labor market needs. They give universities “curb appeal” for new and current students by offering programs and courses that tap into market changes, social trends and community interest.

For example, we currently offer more than 330 programs, from a day-long SEO boot camp to a new Craft Beer and Brewing Essentials Certificate to a 14-month online Business-to-Business Content Marketing Certificate.

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