Fee for Service Solutions in Online Learning

The landscape of higher education is shifting. With a generation of digital natives arriving on campus—not to mention the increases in post-traditional student enrollment—online education is more important than ever. But you already know that. That’s why you launched your online programs in the first place! Whether you’re offering fully online degree programs or a blend of online and campus learning, you’re working to meet students where they are and give them what they need to succeed. But how do you make sure potential students know all your online programs have to offer?

If you’re not sure how to go about marketing your online programs, growing your enrollment, and building revenue—or if you have a strategy in mind, but don’t have the manpower to do it yourself—you’re not alone. Plenty of schools in your situation, with great online programs like yours, opt for some outside help to make sure they reach their future students. That’s where fee for service agreements come in. Below, we’ve broken down the basics to help you get started.

What is Fee for Service?

Exactly what it says on the title. In fee for service, often abbreviated FFS, you typically pay up front, usually on a monthly basis, for an agreed-upon service. With respect to online programs, this could be market research, digital marketing, recruitment, technology, enrollment management and more, depending on what services you need. The services themselves are à la cart, meaning you can select and pay only for the ones you want, and add more later if necessary. Unlike revenue sharing agreements, they also aren’t usually long-term contracts. Instead, you’d renew annually with the option of non-renewal without penalty. That makes them flexible if your needs change.

Fee for service agreements have the benefit of being a true partnership. That means that FFS programs work with your school to ensure that messaging stays on-brand, and that their strategies align with your school’s needs and identity. That gives you increased control over your school’s brand—so you could know exactly what message your potential students are getting, and how.

How Do I Know Fee For Service Is Right For Me?

When bringing in a partner to help with your marketing, recruitment, enrollment, and other services, it’s important to figure out which option is best for you. When it comes down to it, this decision rests on two things: your readiness to invest up front in the services you need, and what you’re trying to achieve by doing it.

Fee for service might be a good fit for you for a few reasons. For one, it’s a transparent partnership, meaning not only do you work together, but you also have the benefits of openness and communication. They also don’t ask for a cut of the revenue, so all the money you make is yours. Because fee for service usually operates on a monthly up-front payment, and renews on an annual contract, you’ll also have control over which services in particular you’re requesting and paying for—something you can adjust as you go. You’ll get the support you actually need when you need it, while keeping more control over your strategy and goals. And you’ll get all that while bringing in an expert partner, who can guide you in building the most effective recruitment strategy you can, which represents your school in the light you want.

How Fee For Service Works

So you’ve decided that fee for services is the right choice for you. But how does it actually work? Well, that depends on what you actually need. While revenue sharing services typically see online services as one big package, FFS looks at it a little differently. Instead, they see a system of interdependent but unique services, each of which enhances the others.


Market research informs the strategy used in marketing services. Marketing services reach potential students, bringing them into the contact center and motivating them to enroll. Student enrollment impacts the need for technology support and additional market research to identify current and potential student needs—thus starting the cycle again.

Fee for service allows you to select the parts of this cycle you actually need. Maybe you don’t have the capability to perform market research yourself. Or maybe you’ve been flooded with applicants and need help with enrollment. Or don’t have the in-house expertise to build effective digital marketing campaigns. FFS enables you to shore up your areas of weakness constructively, while allowing you to maintain control of the areas you want.

Fee for Service: An Illustrative Example

To help illustrate the above, here’s a (fictional) example of what it might look like in practice.

ABC University knows that online MBA programs are a key component of the future of online higher education. And they have one, but they’re not sure how to go about growing it effectively. Rather than market blindly, they approach their FFS provider of choice for market research services, to tell them more about the education landscape in their area, where their potential students are, and how to reach them.

ABC University is so impressed by what they learn that they decide to partner with them for marketing services. And it works. At first, they get a steady but manageable stream of interested students. Then the marketing campaign really takes off, and suddenly they’re flooded with eager new applicants—more than their staff can process efficiently. So to meet this new demand, they go back to their partner, and add on contact center and enrollment management services to help them process it all. And they do it with the knowledge that they can scale those services back later if things slow down again.

Start Growing Your Online Programs

You have something unique to offer your students, whether they ultimately choose to study on campus or online. Growing your online program is just a matter of communicating that fact to the right people, at the right time. Here at EducationDynamics, we’re committed to helping you achieve your goal of educating as many students as you can. Want to learn more about how marketing and enrollment services could help you? Contact us here to schedule a FREE enrollment strategy consultation.


Scott Cathcart

All stories by: Scott Cathcart