The articles excerpted below provide examples of the different purposes of flex degree and certificate programs (dominantly online asynchronous courses and services). These purposes, for example, can include increasing:
- profitable enrollment revenues (typically for a private institution, such as Northeastern University cited in the first article)
- capacity for an institution (typically public, such as Arizona State cited in the second article) facing growing enrollment demand,
- enrollment growth for an institution with declining enrollments.
- the college-going rate in a region or state,
- the percentage of degree holders in a region or state, and/or
- access for students who can’t or won’t participate in traditional classroom-based instruction.
The University of Illinois Global Campus Initiative, Final Report (May 2006) addresses the last three items above -- and more.
On the Fast Track: After years of declining enrollment, Northeastern U.'s continuing-education division is rejuvenated with market research and faculty involvement
Jeffrey Selingo, Chronicle of Higher Education, January 20, 2006
When Christopher E. Hopey interviewed for the top job at Northeastern University's continuing-education division, in early 2003, he was blunt. Instead of looking for a new vice president, he told the search committee, it should probably consider closing the adult programs altogether. "That's the decision I would have made as president," says Mr. Hopey, who was, at the time, a vice dean at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education. It was a rough period for Northeastern's continuing-education division, known then as University College. Enrollment in the program, which was founded in 1960 with 4,000 students, peaked at 14,000 in 1980 before falling to half that by the late 1990s. While the division continued to generate revenue, its curriculum — which focused almost exclusively on adults returning for their undergraduate degrees — was stagnant, and as a result, so were its prospects for growth. "The division was stuck in its paradigm," says Northeastern's president, Richard M. Freeland. "It was not entrepreneurial at all. At a time when the world was changing rapidly, it would take us years just to start a new program." Mr. Hopey got the job and immediately pushed forward with a plan to overhaul University College. Its name was changed to the School of Professional and Continuing Studies in 2004, and its emphasis was shifted from undergraduates to graduate and certificate programs aimed at working professionals. It added 46 degree, certificate, and noncredit programs in two years, including those in high-demand areas like informatics and medical-device regulation, and it slashed 34 programs that were languishing. The result: Enrollment has climbed nearly 20 percent since Mr. Hopey arrived. And tuition revenue has jumped 21 percent. Chronicle subscribers can read more ...
Enrollment weighs on universities
Eugene Scott, The Arizona Republic, August 28, 2006
Like the rest of the state, Arizona's public universities are surging, adding more and more people through a commitment to educate as many students as possible. But rapid growth also presents challenges such as strained facilities, instructors and faculty-student ratios. Official enrollment numbers have not been released, but Arizona State University welcomed its largest freshman class this fall, about 9,100 students. James Rund, vice president of university undergraduate initiatives, said he expects total enrollment figures at ASU's four campuses to reach 63,000 this year and hit 90,000 to 95,000 by 2020. advertisement "We're pleased with the progress we're making in growth while increasing the quality of each incoming class," Rund said. The university, the country's largest last year according to an Associated Press survey, a year ago enrolled more than 61,000 students, with more than 51,500 on the Tempe campus. ASU is simply responding to the state's explosive growth, Rund said, noting the most recent census report named Arizona the country's second-fastest growing state. "The goal is not to grow. The goal is to respond to the needs of Arizona and to enroll Arizona at ASU," Rund said. "Arizona's high school graduation rate is expected to grow 55 percent by 2017, and we've accepted the responsibility to meet that demand." Read more ...
The final excerpt (below) suggests that flex programs are here to stay and will be a major growth factor in higher education.
Online Courses Fuel Growth in Colleges' Continuing-Education Programs, Survey Finds
Elyse Ashburn, Chronicle of Higher Education, August 29, 2006
The report, which is based on a survey of 43 nonprofit institutions, predicts that online continuing-education enrollments will grow by about 20 percent each year for the next few years. "What gets a lot of attention in this area is the for-profits, but just in our sample, we have about 175,000 enrollments, so that's a big chunk of the market," said Sean R. Gallagher, a senior analyst at Eduventures Inc., the research and consulting firm that conducted the survey and produced the report. A 2005 report issued by the Sloan Consortium, a collaborative of colleges that offer instruction online, estimated that online enrollments reached 2.35 million nationwide in 2004, the most recent year for which survey data are available. The 43 institutions that participated in the Eduventures survey are part of the company's Continuing and Professional Education Program. About three-quarters of the participating institutions are public, and the rest are private. Mr. Gallagher said the survey participants were representative of nonprofit institutions nationwide. In addition to its findings about online enrollment numbers, the survey also found that: Online continuing-education courses are typically more expensive to develop than comparable face-to-face courses. On average, a college invests about $11,500 in developing an online course. It typically takes six to seven months to develop an online course. The typical continuing- and professional-education division offers 150 for-credit courses, eight degree programs, and 24 noncredit courses online. Fully online courses and programs dominate the online continuing-education market, but about two-thirds of the colleges surveyed also offer hybrid courses, which combine online and classroom instruction. About half of the institutions surveyed said they outsourced at least some aspects of their online continuing-education operations. About a quarter of the colleges had licensed noncredit courses from third-party providers, and some had completely outsourced their noncredit online operations. Chronicle subscribers can read more ...