The Four E's of Continuing Education: The Third E is for EnrollmentJohn DeLalla | Director of Continuing Education, University of Arizona South
Continuing Education units can be structured around four inter-connected areas of focus, all starting with the letter E. The third, and the one most discussed by administrative staff it seems, is Enrollment. For purposes of this framework, ‘enrollment’ is defined as ‘the marketing, registration and follow up with students’. In other words: how do you get—and keep—students in your program?
Within the marketing thought process, the first step is generating awareness of your university, department, and/or program. This can be done through web searches, traditional print or social media marketing, and through word-of-mouth. We’ve found that, in our small market, word of mouth works the most effectively, followed by web searches. Our primary target market of students (employees of the Department of Defense) aren’t heavy users of social or traditional media in the workplace,; this allows us to focus our efforts, and dollars, on other methods within the marketing mix.
Our secondary target market, which allows us to spend the least amount of money while still generating significant revenue, has been our local workforce investment boards. These organizations work with local business and industry, including the unemployed, to connect them to training or retraining opportunities that help them enter or advance in the workforce. Grant funding and needs change over time, but being a friend and advisor to these boards can open doors for our institution to local business and industry. In addition, of course, this provides enrollments for our professional development and degree completion programs.
Ease of enrollment works in the students favor, and can take many forms.
All-inclusive tuition is one area we’ve found creates happy students. Most universities charge tuition, then fees, textbook costs, etc. Our non-credit courses have one flat fee, which includes the tuition, fees, textbooks, supplies, and related certification testing costs. The students know the total cost up front, and feel like they are getting ‘more for their money’ as additional resources show up during their time in class. Additional ease of enrollment in the last 15 years has been online registration, and recently for us, enrollment via text message. The text message process still requires a follow up email or call, but we’re working on a way to make barriers to enrollment lower for students.
Post-class support, or alumni relations, can be a key area to focus your enrollment efforts. The students know your school, the experience, and what to expect, and offering enticing new program offerings to bring them back is a constant challenge for continuing educators. When I worked for Disney the mantra was to have a guest return every three years, and hence new attractions and developments were scheduled on a 36-month cycle. I engage my past students with bi-weekly emails of new programs (via a general blast on a list serve) in addition to yearly phone calls to check-in. The process can be time consuming, but pays dividends in future enrollments.
Enrollment methods and practices can take many forms, but with a focus on making the process easy, efficient, and friendly, you can grow your continuing education program enrollment.
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Join us every Wednesday and Friday for the next three weeks as DeLalla discusses each of these elements in more detail. Next Wednesday, DeLalla will explain the fourth E, Economics.
The Four E’s of CE:
- Education: Academic topics and format (distance, in-person, etc) offered for students.
- Experience: Teaching faculty, classroom environment and campus life.
- Enrollment: Marketing, sign-up process, and alumni relations.
- Economics: Do the first three steps right, and the balance sheet should be in the black.
Author Perspective: Administrator