According to the National Center for Education Statistics, between 2000 and 2010, full-time graduate enrollment increased by 50 percent, while part-time enrollment increased by 22 percent. More recently, as the economy has stabilized, schools still saw growth in graduate enrollments, but at a slower rate. Between 2010 and 2015, full-time enrollment increased by only 3 percent, and part-time enrollments fell by 4 percent.
In sharing her graduate school experience, Lauren Kalinkewicz provides some tips on TargetX to schools looking to up their graduate enrollment, including:
- Don’t treat grad student enrollment patterns or recruiting practices the same as undergraduate processes. Many graduate students’ motivations are tied to their career and home lives, so it’s important to consider these factors in related recruitment, marketing, and counseling activities. Highlight tangible benefits like online or hybrid course formats, program flexibility, and financial aid offerings early in the communication plan.
- Grad students are often shopping for convenience and financial fit first, followed by programmatic fit. Some questions to consider in assessing your program’s approach:
- Is your program easy to identify online?
- Are you keeping forms short and mobile-friendly?
- How quickly are you responding to inquiry activity? And, do you have automated subsequent communication plans?
- What does quantifying the return on investment look like for you?
Looking ahead, between 2015 and 2026, part-time enrollment is projected to increase at a faster rate, 14 percent, than full-time enrollment, 10 percent. Although part-time students’ motivations are different than those of full-time grad students, many institutions are under-serving this population.
Students who attend part-time feel disconnected from their institutions more easily because they have less frequent interaction with peers and faculty, school can become a tertiary (rather than central) part of their busy lives, and sometimes they receive fewer outbound communications.
As the presence of part-time students increases, we can expect a longer period to degree completion, inconsistent or “stop-out” enrollment patterns, and therefore a less predictable net tuition revenue stream for graduate programs. As such, it will be crucial for institutions to focus on more meaningful ways to instill a sense of commitment and community among part-time students in graduate programs. This will keep them engaged and ensure timely completion of their degrees.
By Ashli Findley, Content Writer, Capture Higher Ed