Published on 2012/12/19

Focusing on Post-Traditional Student Services to Bring Undergraduate Programs Back from the Brink

To save undergraduate enrollments, Golden Gate University shifted its focus toward providing robust services to its non-traditional students to help facilitate their success.

Golden Gate University, in San Francisco, has long served adult students who return to school to complete a bachelor’s degree. But in 2005, after nearly 15 years of enrollment decline, the university re-committed itself to serving post-traditional students in undergraduate business programs.

Student surveys and focus groups pointed to concerns of course scheduling, academic advising, and poor customer service. Over the past seven years, the 111-year-old university has engineered a dramatic turnaround that not only saved its undergraduate programs but also boosted enrollment by about two-thirds.

In 2005, GGU was a major producer of graduate students from its business schools, but undergraduate enrollments were wilting. Cherron Hoppes, dean of undergraduate programs, was charged with finding a feasible way to improve the undergraduate experience and boost enrollment. She organized focus groups that revealed that GGU undergrads were highly unsatisfied with elements of the student experience such as limited availability of classes and poor schedule planning. Because GGU’s student population has always largely been non-traditional students, they found it difficult to balance school, work, and family obligations, and found few programs in place at the university level to help them navigate all those issues.

Under Hoppes’ direction, the university began implementing new initiatives to keep from shuttering the undergraduate programs: a blended model of 50-50 online and traditional classes to increase availability of required classes and electives; the addition of a Saturday schedule of courses; and one-on-one, executive-style coaching for prospective students through a partnership with InsideTrack, a national student success organization.

By the 2009-10 academic year, Golden Gate began seeing a small climb in numbers. Since then, enrollment of new students has more than doubled, thanks in large part to the coaching services now provided for prospective students.

“This has closed so many loops for us by helping us identify which students might be starting from a point of weakness and what we need to do to help them right from the start,” said Hoppes.

Coaching for prospective students has been so successful that starting last fall, GGU began providing coaching for enrolled students as well to keep them on track to graduation.  GGU is also expanding the use of coaching to its graduate programs, to increase enrollment and drive improved student outcomes.

“We have long had a goal to double the size of our undergraduate enrollment by 2016. Our partnership with Inside Track will allow us to meet, and quite possibly beat, that goal,” says Hoppes.

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Readers Comments

Ryan Loche 2012/12/19 at 4:04 pm

I really like the use of “post-traditional” instead of “non-traditional.” It gets used here and there, but hasn’t really been explicitly defined in its difference from “non-traditional.” To me, it means: this is not necessarily an adult student; this is not necessarily a parent taking night classes; this is not necessarily someone who never went to university. It implies the broadening of continuing ed, and the availability of lifelong learning to anyone, after the “traditional” period in which they might have initially got their education.

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