Post-Traditional College Students Webinar

Author’s note:
This post is a transcription of the Post-Traditional College Students Webinar.

Scott Jeffe: With no further ado, I will turn the program over to Carol. Carol?

Carol Aslanian: Okay. Thanks, Scott. It’s typical to have a Scott and Carol show, and for many of the friends we have in the audience today, you know what that means. I’m pleased to be here today, so let me move on right away and talk about our post-traditional studies, which we’re very proud of. We know the term has been running around the country a lot, and some of us don’t understand what it means, and I’m going to try to explain that to you and tell you why it’s important to your institution. I will bypass this background information. I know we have many friends in the audience from Ocean County College to Mercer to Creighton to Caldwell to Azusa, so you know a lot about our background and what we’ve done in the past, beginning at the college board and moving on to our own entity. And we’re proud to be now members of the Education Dynamics staff and running our higher education market research service as we have for the last 20 to 30 years. So, good to have you with us. Earlier, we did work at the College Board, where we really created the offices of adult learning services at a time when everybody wondered, “What are you doing that for and why are adults so important?” But we went on and formed our own group in the year 2000, and many of you had us come in to look at your services and marketing for adult students which we helped you with through market surveys and consultation. And today, we’re part of a larger group with Education Dynamics that does a lot of online prospecting work and marketing work, and it gives us at Aslanian Market Research a good entrée into new populations of students that are coming back to school.

The agenda today has about four key parts. We’re going to begin with a little helicopter trip over the last 30 or 40 years and what’s happening in higher education and why we are where we are today. Second, I will tell you what we’ve learned about these post-traditional students, who they are, what they want, and what would draw them to your institution. Third, I will go into detail of implications for your institution, and four I’ll highlight what I think are the key findings for your next steps. Let’s look at the background. I took the last 30 years of the last century. There are a couple major trends we need to think of to produce this new type of student for us. We have a steady growth of students 25 and older over that 30-year period. Many of you were involved in those special units to serve them, whether they were called university college, continuing education, extension, school of continuing and professional studies, which some of these labels still hold forth today, but we needed those special units in those 3 decades of time so that we could attract the “adult” students, typically 25 and older to our institutions because number three, they brought in revenue. And we were revenue-generators for institutions. They were feeling the need for more resources to draw in traditional populations, to put it simply. So, there was more and more people older coming to school. We created units to specially treat them and bring them in and usually these places were down the street from the main campus, and what they did was bring in the profits that we needed.


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We then move on to the beginning of this century when another big phenomenon took place, and as you all know with Phoenix entering the market in the 90s, we got into the online learning surge, where most of the for-profits entered in 2000-2005 and drew a population we never thought would be in the numbers that they were then and they are today. At the same time, we kept feeling the pains in our institutions all over the country for more revenue, and we also learned something else in that decade—that age no longer predicts how people learn. We’re beginning to see younger people, which I say are acting like adults, we have 20-year-olds who needed part-time programs because they were working to support their families. And we had 45-year-olds going back to school full-time after losing their job to get a new credential. So, age became less and less important about how we designed and executed programs.

In the last 6 years, we’ve seen some trends of the following nature. Most of you are witnessing, of all the hundreds of colleges that are with us today, that your traditional enrollment is rather stagnant, particularly if you’re in the Midwest, the Northeast, even the Eastern Seaboard. Aside from California, Texas, and probably Florida, your admissions people are feeling the strain of a lower number of high school graduates, and that’s affecting your institution. At the same time, you all thought there are other revenue sources we can think of, and we looked at the Phoenixes and the Devrys and the Kaplans of that earlier period, and we said, “Hey, what about online marketing? What about online programs that we could market and branch out, not only in our own region but to regions across the country? And let’s sell our programs regardless of where people are through online education.” And then we learned about this population in that 6-year period. It wasn’t their age that mattered. It wasn’t their age that determined where they went and how they wanted to study. It was the format and delivery system that you offered it. Was it hybrid? Was it online? Was it classroom-based? Was it 8 weeks? Was it 16 weeks? These are the things that mattered to them. And age was something that you all thought was important, but the buyer, the consumer of any age wanted convenience and flexibility. And you were able to do that, and some of you quite well, through the formats and deliveries you created in that 6-year period of time.

Now, it’s 2017. We have about 17.5 million undergraduate students. Footnote, this whole presentation is about undergraduate students. When we say “post-traditional students,” we mean, in this study, undergraduates. And we’ll talk about graduates some other time. 15% of all these students—17.5 million students—study fully online. This is not a presentation about online, by the way, but we can’t ignore the fact that this is a growing concentration, and we predict, as others do around the nation, that that 15% will rise to 25% by 2020. So, you’re looking at an element of education that will draw close to 1 out of 4 or 1 out of every 5 students. So, it becomes a very important dimension to take under our view.

And finally, the traditional student, believe it or not, the way many of you and I went to school, we were 18 at the undergraduate years, we studied full-time, we studied during the day, and many of us lived on campus. That number is now down to 25% of all college students. They tend to be concentrated in highly selective schools—the Harvards, the Yales, the Princetons—they’ll get their full-time, day, in-resident students, but many of us and many of you in that audience are looking for students that may not fit that traditional model. And, by the way, they’re a huge portion of your market base today. And that’s why this report is so important. So, those are just quick highlights of how we’ve transformed ourselves in higher education, and now we’ll get to our first polling question, which we think is great to have your participation in, and it sort of breaks up the conversation, but we do like to have you participate and this will get you in line. Our first question is “Does your institution have a minimum age requirement for certain undergraduate programs?” The answer is yes or no. And my friend Anthony over here will tell me when we’re ready to present that data here in a few seconds while I take another sip of water. Okay, how are we doing, Anthony? Remember we had divisions of continuing ed? Here it is, let me look over here. Yes, 20%. No, 74%. Great. 3 out of 4 of you have dropped the minimum age for undergraduate programs, and that is, by the way, a good way to proceed. As we have learned in the past, the recent past, age no longer predicts how people learn and I have been to a few colleges—a couple in the last month, in fact—that are looking to change, and the rationale for why you have to be 23  or 25 to enter certain programs no longer holds. In addition, many of you require work experience, which we would like to say probably is no longer relevant. 18-, 19-, 24-year-old people all have work experience.

So, this is a criterion that we used in the past when we enter the adult learner phenomenon. And we thought that you had to be of a certain age to study in the evening, you had to be of a certain age to go to school on the weekends, so on and so forth. That no longer holds true. And 24% of you who still do this, call me sometime and we’ll discuss why that is probably a hurdle for many people in your marketplace to come back to your institution. I’d love to have that discussion with you. Okay, moving on. So, the rise of this post-traditional student market. Who is a post-traditional student? Simply stated, it’s anyone who’s attending an accredited college for education, by the way, anyone of any age, but not full-time study during the day and in residence on a campus or a mile or so within the campus. That is your [inaudible] or so. So, we will talk in this study to individuals of any age who are not full-time day and not in residence in undergraduate programs. That is the post-traditional student, and it represents 75% of the undergraduate market today in the United States. So, it’s a very important element.

So, the national study we did was conducted in the spring of 2015 and through late 2016, so it really should be 2015-2016. We spoke to 1500 students nationwide who qualified by telling us they were enrolled in an undergraduate program in the past 3 years or currently enrolled or planning to enroll in the next year. They are not full-time, day, and in residence. So, who are they? Well, they are a mixture of people 45 to 21 to 32 to 18, in fact. In many ways we say these children, many of them are what we would call the younger population’s acting like adults. The only thing is they cannot do it the way we have traditionally done it by full-time day study. Life has interfered in that journey. So, let’s look at some of the demographics of the 75% of the undergraduate market in the United States that we are now calling post-traditional. No news to you. They’re 2/3 female. We already knew that portion we were talking about adults were highly female. And in fact, I think today across all college enrollments, were up to 56-57% maybe female, but with the post-traditional student, we are even more so. It’s a 2/3 women’s market, okay?


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Let me go back. Sorry. Is that where it was? Okay. Sorry, folks. So, what was their age at the time they entered undergraduate education? Even for the first time or returning with a handful of credits. I’ve circled the first two bars; why? Because you don’t think of those 24 and under as post-traditional. And look at what we have here: 31%. 31% of students under the age of 25 do not study full-time, day, and in residence. They are acting like adults. They want evening, they want weekend, they want online, they want hybrid, they want accelerated programs, and so on and so forth. Even those under 25; why? We have a whole new demographic of individuals who can’t do it the way we might have done it in our own lifetime. The median age that is half above and half below 31 is about maybe 28, 29 years old. When I first entered this field in the 80s, we were up to 34, 35 as the average age of “adults” who came back to the market, but we are much younger, much younger among those individuals who must take a post-traditional route to learning for their undergraduate degree.

Their ethnicity? They’re 2/3 white, 1/3 minority, but it’s about 37%. Guess what? The national population in the United States is 40% non-white. So, I think it’s quite positive that we have 37% of post-traditional students close to the 40% in the population that are coming back to school in a way that they can manage time, location, and other family responsibilities because we’re giving them alternatives to full-time, day, and in-residence. Okay? So, this is a very good example of attracting the minority populations to your institution by offering them the flexibility, the convenience that we’ve also always offered to our more predominantly white populations over the age of 25. I think that makes a lot of sense.

Next, their employment status. I have seen so much literature, so many publications and advertisements that are targeted toward the working, the full-time working professional. How many of you have that in your characterization? It is adult professionals potential students. And we say they’re working. Well, obviously, they’re not all working. Only 42% are working full-time, another 23% just part-time, so they not be thinking of themselves as full-time working professionals, okay? And lots of you target that population as though it’s 70-75%. Oh, no. They work part-time, some of them are not employed. So, it’s not just … Many of the for-profit institutions, and we have one or two in the audience, tend to work toward that adult working professional. Number one, I may not consider myself adult. Number two, I may not be in a profession, and I may not be working at all. So, it’s a deliminating term—deliminated term.

So, let’s understand them a little bit further. What’s their motivation? We were thinking of asking this as a poll question. We decided you already knew the answer to it. Yes, it’s careers, careers, careers. If you look at those bars, you’ll see that the vast majority, as we learned in our earlier research in years earlier, it’s jobs and career that get them back to school. They want to advance, they want to change, they want more money, etc. And if you look at that second bar, some of them don’t even start college right after school in a traditional way. They can exit high school and enroll in a part-time program and say, “I need a part-time program because I’ve got to help support my family.” Or, “I want to do something else with my life other than full-time study in school.” Very important characteristic. We also said in an earlier study way back about Americans in transition. There’s always a trigger event that says it’s time to go back to school. And it is true for the post-traditional population, too. It’s great to say, “I want to finish that nursing degree so I can support the college education of my first child” to enter a 4-year institution, but there’s got to be a trigger that says the time is now. For many of us and many of those in the post-traditional market place, guess what? Their financial situation changed. They need more money, they’re out of resources, they’ve got to go back for a better job, a higher paying job, a promotion, whatever it is. “My financial situation changed” usually doesn’t have anything to do with employment, but then look after that. “Passed over for a promotion,” “moving to a new city,” and so on and so forth, but nothing more important than “I needed to upgrade my skills to reach higher incomes.” I was at a college recently, and I was looking at their brochures and their publications, and we were critiquing them. And none of them, none of them mentioned the need for better income, the need for better education for a better job for more income. We talk about self-enrichment, the getting the degree you’ve always wanted, moving ahead, but we’ve got to get much more definite in terms of it’s all about careers and it’s all about income.

What’s their intended credential, these post-traditional students? Well, if you add up those sections that talk about degrees, they’re looking for a bachelor degree—or I’m sorry, they’re not looking, they’re enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program. They’re taking courses to transfer to a bachelor’s degree program, or they’re in an associate degree program. That comes up to 70% of the market, so it is a degree market. However, there are opportunities to for you capture that 20% or so certificate/licensing/diploma marketplaces. I predict that area will grow, the green area will grow, but at the time, you’re pushing and marketing and enticing them by offering degree programs. They want that credential.

So, those of you who are within a community college, and I think we have a few of you on our… We have Ocean County, I know. The number one area of study is in health and medicine, and that’s pretty much what we associate a lot of community college instruction in, health and medicine. It beats business, which business comes number one man, many times, but at the associate level, it’s health and medicine. A lot of this is nursing, okay? Then business, and then the arts and humanities. Many of them in the arts and humanities are transfer students heading for a four-year institution, by the way, to get their career skills. We often said that community college is for people who are heading toward a four degree offer the gen ed courses, which are often in the arts and humanities area, and then they go on to the four-year college for their career preparation.

What’s the subject of the bachelor’s degree? Many of you in the audience are offering them number one, number one no surprise is business, but then, creeping up in our other studies that we‘ve been conducting recently in different regions of the country in different colleges, computer and IT. We need to be able to promote computers and IT and instruction and degrees more and more. The certificate and license individual courses, health and medicine and business. Those are the two primary areas, so if you’re thinking of entering this marketplace, these are the two topics to focus on. So, it’s all about jobs and careers. That’s no news to all of us, but many of you still use generic terms to say, “Why come back to school?” Fulfilment, something I’ve always wanted to do, next step in life, no, no. You’ve got to connect it to the hiring of a better job or career advancement or change of job or offer.

Here’s an interesting factor. We always thought of that old adult population in the 80s, 90s, and the beginning of the century as a part-time market. These post-traditional students are more often full-time. And then you could say to me, “Carol, how can these busy, married, working people study full-time?” And I’m going to say back to you, “You all make it easy for them to study full-time.” Think of the institutions that are registered here today that offer back-to-back terms, and I think Union does that, the Union Institute, and I know Kimbrea is with us, back-to-back terms over the course of a year, maybe 6 week courses. And over the course of the year, they are full-time because they’re pushing more into the shorter period of time. Think of the institutions that offer hybrid online and class. There are lots of post-traditional students that mix their instruction so they can get more into a limited period of time. They want to get it over, they want to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Anything that will help them finish faster and take on a full-time load is highly desirable. So, in your marketing, in your messaging, in your flyers, how can I get it over with quickly? And they know that it’s got to be full-time study, so how do you colleges, by accelerating your courses by offering year-round terms, get to that full-time status so they can get out and get to that—guess what? Income they so badly want. The reason for not enrolling full-time on campus for the other 25%? Well, guess what? I had other responsibilities. I couldn’t afford it, and I have to work. This is the new huge market in higher education.

This is a good one. The distance to the institution where you enrolled. Let’s say here, 60…70% live within 30 miles. Boy, does that make your marketing easier. Yesterday at an institution up in Westchester, we were talking about direct mail again, by the way, because lots of these potential students are within your communities nearby, within 30 miles, within 50 miles. And in our recent surveys—and I know Scott will agree with this—when we ask them how best for an institution to reach you, number 2 or 3 in preference is direct mail. I guess we’re getting overloaded with a lot of email representation and other forms of digital marketing. So, if you… the majority of these students, as at the post-traditional level, are within 30 or 40 or 50 miles. You can afford some more personal, direct contact with them. You’re not reaching far.


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Now, how many institutions do these post-traditional students look at and apply to? Over half select only one institution. Why? They’re nearby, they’ve been around, they know who you are, and if you’ve been marketing well, they kind of narrow in right away. Half of them only reach out to one institution, so what does that mean for your recruiters and your people who run the admissions funnel? That is when she calls last night or you get an email the next morning, you should be on the phone, you should be on an email correspondence with them within hours because they are a given student. Don’t let them hang around and wait and finally say, “I’ve got to go to that second institution because I’m not hearing anything.” The ones that come to you, half of them have you in mind. Get back to them quickly. Don’t wait for them to get transcripts to you; you go after their transcripts yourself and I’ll explain that alter. So, they don’t look around. They’re not shopping around at a lot of institutions, so once you get a bite, that means your enrollment funnel recruiters need to be actively and quickly respondent.

Enrolling this post-traditional student, what can we say about that? How long does it take them from the first time they inquire at, let’s say Azusa or Viola or Ocean County, how long is it from their first inquiry to enrollment in the first day of classes? Less than 4 weeks is 30, 40%. That means that you can’t say, “Oh, sorry, we can’t enroll you til next fall because that’s when our next semester is on again.” Okay? You’ve got to be able to respond to them quickly because they want to start quickly. They want to start within 4 weeks, and you’ve got 30-40% of the population. They really know what they want to do, and they really want to do it quickly. Once they make up their mind, you’ve got a buyer. So, don’t let them hang around that enrollment funnel too long because finally they’ll go on to that second and third. You’ve got a captured market, go after it right away.

How many credits do they bring with them? So, when we talk about post-traditional students, most of them have started somewhere else, but life got in the way. They’re one and half years in a university and said the themselves, “I can’t build up this loan any further. I don’t know why I’m here. I’m not sure this is the right topic, and I’m already in debt. I better go out and work for a while and then come back.” Very typical statement on the part of these students. So, when they come back, most of them have credits. By far, I think it’s over 80% come back with credits. And the average number of credits is about 30, 31, 32, okay? You’ve got to be very kind to those credits. They know credits means cost and time. They can save money and finish faster the better you are with their credits.

Next, I’m only going to say there’s one reason that they really have to have visible to them, and that is the cost-effectiveness of enrolling at your institution because it’s all about cost of tuition and fees. Second, flexible course schedules. And third, campus locations and availability of online courses. Those are your top four, but nothing beats cost of tuition and fees. How many times have you gone through your website to find out what you charge? And what do you think your prospective student does when they go to your website to try to find out what you charge? They never know. Yes, you say, “Here’s financial aid information, yes we offer scholarships.” But rarely do you promote the two things they want to know most about. “What’s it going to cost me, and what’s your schedules of instruction?” Third, what are your formats of instruction? Are they 8-week courses, 16-week courses, 10-week courses? Do you offer hybrid, online, a classroom? Those are the things that come to mind first. So, your websites really have to be recruitment centers and not necessarily for the enrolled students but for the prospective students who need to see, “What’s it going to cost me? What kind of a schedule can I build? And where are you located?”

Preferred format for a future course. Look at that very, very carefully. I was at a suburban institution about 2 weeks ago, and I couldn’t say enough for them about hybrid, of which they were maybe 5% of their sections were hybrid, maybe 10. Hybrid is a great idea. Number one, you can fit more into a given program. The market obviously wants it. Look at that 43%. Only 30%, one-third, want classroom, and roughly the same want online. What’s the answer? You probably have to offer a little bit of both, of all three, I’m sorry, but I would most often… If you’re in a populous area, if you’re near larger cities or towns, if there is a population around you, that online program is really, really—online hybrid is really a viable option. We did a study for an institution in Pittsburgh, and we went out 200 miles of the campus and we found people that were very amenable to coming to the campus if they could come once a week and they lived 100 miles away, okay? So, it expands your population, the hybrid program, and the consumer prefers it.

Oh, we have another poll question from Anthony. Does your institution have accelerate course options (not including summers) for some or all of your undergraduate adult/post-traditional students? Yes or no? We’re waiting for the conclusion. You have it? Yes, 71%. No, 29%. Okay, and that kind of fits the earlier portions as well, which means a lot of you have begun to grasp these options and you’ve done it with… Let me try to make a guess here, you’ve done it really to accommodate your adult populations. But guess what? We’re not talking about post-traditionals of any age. Those of you who have accelerated options and—what was the first poll question, Anthony? Sorry. The first one was about a minimum age. So, some of you have begun to drop the requirements we knew so well for adult programs, which is very, very good. The only thing you’re not doing is understanding that your population now, that “adult” population that wants accelerated courses and so forth, is a huger market than you’ve ever thought of. Huge because it’s of any age but with the desire for flexibility and convenience and not full-time day. I can imagine that some people in your institution would begin to get a little bit leery that you’ll be taking market share from the day full-time program, but as we always said with the adult students, we’re not taking market share away. We’re adding students that would never come to full-time day, but would go to another institution if we didn’t do this. Okay?

Preferred length in weeks. If you look at the “all” column, you’ll see that it’s about 8 weeks, and I’ve been asked to move on, so 8 weeks is the preferred length. Okay?

Next, financing their education. I think you should look at the fact that personal and family funds is… Almost half of them use personal and family funds. That’s another thing that’s unusual with the traditional undergraduate market. These people do have resources. They’re often married, and they’re often working. So, they do have some resources to pay for their own education. Otherwise, they use loans which is really their own money anyway. Okay? So, a lot of them can support their education to some extent, and that’s good for your institution. At least you wont’ be giving them institutional discounts like you do to the 18-year-olds, which would make your institution quite happy.

Key findings. They are the new majority in American higher education. How do you market to them? You don’t market to them by having slogans for post-traditional students, do you? You market to them by offering programs in selectable and convenient ways in multiple formats. Both under 25 and over 25. Age no longer predicts the way we learn. Using the word adult means nothing to this population. What you want to promote is your format and scheduling. You don’t want to say this is an adult—what is an adult program, by the way? It’s a program that offers 8-week courses back-to-back over the course of the year. That’s what they want to hear. Or “if I’m living 30 miles from the campus, can I see a hybrid program that I could enroll in?” Or “if you have a special degree area and I’m 500 miles away from the campus, can I go online?” Alright, it’s no longer about “adult students,” it’s about individuals of any age that needs the convenience and flexibility that you people in this audience have offered but now is applicable to the majority of undergraduate students.

Career, career, career. If you don’t have your advertisements and marketing aimed toward how I get a better job, how I advance my job, how I move around, then they’re not going to listen. It’s not about self-fulfillment, it’s about career movement. They do prefer some form of online instruction, and depending on where you reside, if you’re in a metropolitan area or you’re close to tone and there’s lots of population. Like I aws up in Westchester County, great place for hybrid. Go out 100 miles, how many people do you track? Wow, a lot. So, online is here to stay. They’re very cost-effective, and I rarely—and Scott can correct me on this—I often say, “I rarely meet institutions that will lower its price.” However, at a recent convening we had in New York, I had several institutions say, “No, we’re beginning to think about lowering our price as a way of attracting more and more students because we know how sensitive they are.” Those of you who don’t lower your price have to give them something back if you’re a higher-priced institution in the area, and one thing you can give them back is time, time to completion and flexibility.

You must be very kind to their academic credits. The vast majority of post-traditional students started somewhere else, most often one or two other institutions. And they want those credits applicable to this next degree that you want to sell them. They make decisions quickly, so if you’re waiting around for transcripts, you know how long that takes when you leave it to the individuals. Try to think of ways and mechanisms where you can do it for them or hire an outside agency to get those transcripts, which you all know about is easy to do now when you get permission from the applicant. Recommendations are often time-consuming. You want to get them through that enrollment funnel as soon as you can. And they prefer a nearby campus, so if you are recruiting and you’re in a fairly populous area, where your marketing dollars should go is closer than farther. Within 30 miles and you’ve got a huge population. For most of your institutions, and I’m looking at some of you and I can say, of course, Mercer is in that situation, Ocean County is in that situation. St. Peters is in that situation, and Fairfield County, of course, Fairfield University has a huge population, so concentrate on the near versus the far, and we can then talk about others that need to go greater distance to find their market and why hybrid can also help there and online. Going back, business, IT, and health. Those are the areas that move most quickly. So, that’s where you have to have good, efficient, time-sensitive, financially reasonable programs. And they want to study full-time because they get out faster, they’re better and quick to get aid when they need it, so you all help them do that by offering multiple learning options from online to classroom to hybrid. They can mix and match, and you offer instruction over the course of the year. Having summers off is not the idea of a post-traditional student. It’s the idea of the faculty, so they would like to study 12 months and get out earlier than not.


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8-week courses or less, I would say, are here to stay. I know you can’t affect those day programs; they will always be 15 and 16 weeks, but I’m talking about flexibility in terms of 8-week courses in the online, evening, or hybrid programs. I’m sure that I can’t find an institution today that will change that day program schedule, except of course, I think Arizona State, which is thinking of 8-week day courses. The demographics. Largest ethnic group is white Caucasian, but 40% of minorities is still very strong and very good for you all. The high school income distribution is similar to that of the U.S. population, and is typically female and younger than older. No more gray-haired ladies pictured in your photograph. More than half are under the age of 29, so your whole demographic outlook and portrayal needs to be adapted. So, that’s the highlights of what the report says, and you all can download it for all of the specifics, but we’re now, Scott, ready for questions and answers.

Scott Jeffe: Oh, yeah. Goodness, I’m going to start with a few for you, Carol. The first question is: “If age and work experience are no longer relevant to weed these people out, what do you think about minimum number of credits?” [laughs] I know you’re going to love this question.

Carol Aslanian: Wait a minute. Say that again, and help me with these.

Scott Jeffe: If age and work experience are no longer appropriate for our criteria, how about a minimum number of credits?

Carol Aslanian: Why? What, why?

Scott Jeffe: Well, I think—

Carol Aslanian: What percent do come back with credits, Scott? Back on that slide?

Scott Jeffe: We’re talking about all but 15%.

Carol Aslanian: Yeah, all but 15%, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that.

Scott Jeffe: I certainly think that we have been saying, that for years any college that says you must have 60 is biting off its nose to spite its face, particularly when the average number of credits is about 40-45.

Carol Aslanian: And let me tell you about that 60-credit degree completion concept of the past, okay? We all thought one day that community colleges might have a 60-credit completion large cohort that we could then, the 2+2 idea, go to the community college, get 60 credits, and then come to us. But the majority of community college students, for one reason or other, do not finish with 60 credits. If they get to 45, they begin to look for that 4-year institution because many of them think that some of those later credits won’t apply for transfer. So, waiting for 60 credits is not a great idea anymore. Why don’t you give them the 15 or 10 or 5 credits they need for that 60-credit program that you have as a 2-year program? But to send them off and say, “Sorry, go somewhere else to get your 10 credits and come back with 60.” You’re just sending them to another institution. So, I think the 60-credit requirement is passed.

Scott Jeffe: Alright, Carol. What about this? “With the elimination of age, how do you address institute’s leadership’s concern that traditional students will flock to the evening program because it’s less expensive?” Another one I know you’re going to love.

Carol Aslanian: I love this one because I know the institutions that are with us today. And you trying to convince a 19-year-old who gets a 40% discount for day enrollment to go evening or hybrid or online for no discount, do you think they’re going to run to those other options? No way. And it’s like selling apples and oranges. If you want an apple,  you want an apple. If you want an orange, you’ll go somewhere else. You’re not taking away, you’re adding a population. I can’t imagine many traditional daytime students who would opt for hybrid, online, evening programs and miss the character of what they’re looking for as an 18-year-old for them, the campus environment, the cost-effectiveness of the loans and discounts they can get. No, you’re not transferring students; you’re adding students.


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Scott Jeffe: Yeah, and to say nothing of the fact that I would doubt that what they are really paying with their discount is much different than the adult tuition, whatever that might be. Next question, Carol, they’ve got them rolling in, so I’m just going to push you along here. Why more women than men?

Carol Aslanian: I used to say, back in my earlier days, that women are doing later what men did earlier. I don’t think I can say that anymore. You know what I think it is? A lot of the professions women go into—health, social services , and others—tend to require credentials and certifications and so forth, so education… Education, social services, health, where women predominate, are those that also have further credential requirements more often.

Scott Jeffe: So many questions, I hate to push you along. One person asks, “Are commuter students post-traditional?” And by our definition, I’ll just answer that one quickly. Our definition was if you live within 5 miles of the campus to try to eliminate the individual that really is a traditional student but is just living off-campus. Many commuters are post-traditional students, not all, but many under most definitions that people are going to see out there. Carol, I’m going to go on because there are really so many. “How do you combat the unwillingness to lower tuition when price is continuously the reason why people don’t come, and when you probe them, they say, ‘you’re not worth what you’re charging’?” How would you like to be in that situation?

Carol Aslanian: Well, if you can’t change your tuition, you’ve got to give them something back. So, I’d say time to completion is one factor, that if you can get them to finish faster, they spend less money, or they get out earlier to make more money.

Scott Jeffe: Absolutely.

Carol Aslanian: If you can’t lower tuition, another thing to do is analyze all the institutions around you and we did that yesterday at a college I was at. We did analysis of the 10 colleges that were in their community. We found out what they charge per credit and tuition, matched it to our client college, and we said, “You can’t go on like this. Either you’ve got to bend backwards or you’re going to lose this market. You’ve got to be competitive in it because this is what your competition is doing. And we can show them through our data how enrollments have increased by the institutions with price sensitivity.”

Scott Jeffe: Absolutely. We have a couple of questions that are trying to address cannibalization, and you’ve started on that about taking away the age minimum and you just don’t think people are going to flock and we just don’t see that. And in our online studies, we find when we have folks, for example, that are approaching an online program, how likely would they be to enroll in a classroom program if they couldn’t find their program online, which is a way of reverse engineering the issue of cannibalization. We see only about 30% that say they would be highly likely to, and we believe that the data are fairly similar. It’s what Carol already said about the issue of … The concern is going to be far less. The impact is going to be far less than the concern that people are doing. Anything else to add on that, Carol? We’ve got some good ones coming.

Carol Aslanian: Alright, go ahead.

Scott Jeffe: There’s one person asked a question, and maybe I’ll take a stab at it. “If traditional mail is so good now, how do you target people like that?” Here’s what I would say, folks, as a starting point, approach one of those mail houses, take the demographics right from this report, and plug them. Most of them have this kind of template thing where you can say, “I want this demographic.” Start with, perhaps, the demographics right from this report, the average demographics and get a mailing list from that.

Carol Aslanian: Yep. Have you seen email as a preference like number two or number three from our survey respondents?

Scott Jeffe: Surely email.

Carol Aslanian: Yeah. Email. Or direct mail, too. Okay.

Scott Jeffe: Yeah. Carol, here’s another. This is one of your favorites. “Have you any knowledge or research on this supposed preference for the micro-credentials, including stackable programs, competency-based, self-paced, all of those things?” We certainly know that stackable certificates is great, but I know you have a strong feeling about these other micro-credentials with badges and things like that.

Carol Aslanian: Yeah. We don’t have great data about it, but I don’t’ see competency-based. We do ask it in our online survey, national instrument, Scott, and I haven’t visited a college in a couple years that talked to me about their competency-based program. So, I don’t know how [inaudible] it is.

Scott Jeffe: Here’s what we do know. Carol and I were just taking a peek at our 2017 data that’s starting to come in for our online study, and what we did see, what we are starting to see is, there’s not a lot more students that are enrolled in competency-based but knowledge and awareness of competency-based has grown significantly. We’re down to less than 25% who have never heard of it, and that’s not … That’s a very weak statistic, but that is what the data from the online study seems to be indicating. Anything more on that one, Carol?

Carol Aslanian: Well, I just think I would be careful and really understand whether my potential student body and my 100-mile radius or so knows about it and would do what it takes to enter a competency-based program before I’d invest in it.

Scott Jeffe: Yeah. Carol, two questions about faculty that I’d like you to address. This person just flatly says, “Faculty just have a problem with credit transfers.” So, you want to take a stab at that one?

Carol Aslanian: Well, unless your institution is in a very soft, nice, lucrative position, I think the administration has to step in and say, “Look, these are the data, these are the needs.” And it’s like an institution you and I visited, Scott, where it took the graduate dean, what, 3 months to decide on a graduate applicant. They cannot do that anymore; we cannot let them spread out and have these unreasonable expectations when the market… They have to be aware of the market demand unless you’re in a very soft situation, you probably want to increase enrollments, you need students, and you have to accommodate. And it takes leadership. It takes the leaders of your institution to lay it out and say, “Look, these are things that have changed, and we need to adapt.” And I don’t think that maybe the individual who asked that question should be able to do it by himself or herself, you need your superiors who are on your back to increase enrollments to join with you and get those resistors to understand the market profile.

Scott Jeffe: Yep. That is absolutely the case. Well, Carol, unfortunately, we are out of time. There are quite a few other questions, and we’ll try to, perhaps, get back to these people one-on-one.

Carol Aslanian: Or you can email me directly, and I’ll try to answer questions as they come in.

Scott Jeffe: Absolutely.

Carol Aslanian: We might do that.

Scott Jeffe: Absolutely. So, this really has been some amazing information-sharing, and we loved your questions. As we said, we will try to get back to you, but certainly, be in touch with Carol directly if your question did not get answered. She would love to talk with you one-on-one. So, okay, as I’ve just said, we are approaching the end of the webinar. I hope you did enjoy the presentation and that you’ll be able to apply some of what you’ve learned today to the strategies and tactics that you have in place to enroll post-traditional students. I had one last question there that is not addressed in my closing remarks, but I will remind you is that everybody will receive a recording of this webinar and the PowerPoint slides very shortly after we conclude today, so look for those in your inbox. If you do not get them, it is likely that they are in your spam folder, but if you don’t, please email Carol. And that email address is I would also like to say that, as a special thank you for attending today’s webinar, I would like to offer you a one-time promo code for our upcoming conference on adult learner enrollment management in Denver, Colorado. This year’s conference is going to be taking place on April 5th through 7th, so you’d have to get on it immediately. And in that spirit, the promo code to use on your registration form would be webinar2017. It will give you $300 off the current ticket price, and it is only valid until 11:59 pm tonight, so register before it’s too late. And make your travel arrangements to join us in Denver for an absolutely tremendous conference.

Carol Aslanian: Scott, they can look at the website——and look at the vast array of people we have presenting.

Scott Jeffe: Exactly, that is, folks, org. And we thank you again for attending, and please do have a great day.

Carol Aslanian: Yes, thank you very much.


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Anthony Levato

Anthony Levato

I'm the Director of Marketing at EducationDynamics. I enjoy taking classes online, reading and writing about marketing, and riding my bicycle in New York City. You may contact me directly at

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