Enrollment Success Requires Diversified Investment

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When you’re serious about investing for your long-term future, typically the first step you take is to schedule an appointment with an investment professional. And one of the first things they’ll tell you is to diversify your portfolio. You wouldn’t want to put all of your money in one type of investment, like stocks in a new start-up. We don’t know what the stock market, bonds or interest rates will do in the near future, so it’s important that you have a well-balanced portfolio for long-term growth and protection against the short-term ups-and-downs.

The same is true of enrollment management.

The enrollment market can be volatile, with changing employer needs, outside competition, financial aid variables and the economy. Long-term enrollment success is best managed with a diverse portfolio of programs, populations and delivery models.

The Fresno Pacific University enrollment portfolio has five enrollment areas and myriad programs: traditional undergraduate, adult degree completion, graduate, seminary and online. It is extremely rare that we would see growth in all five areas at once. Each area has unique strategies for recruitment and marketing. To build our traditional undergraduate pipeline, we buy names from the PSAT, SAT and ACT testing services. We visit high schools, college fairs and community colleges to gather more names. We send out communications and host events. This fall, we have 1,053 traditional undergraduate students enrolled, down from 1,082 a year ago. We are continuing to diversify offerings with our newest major, software engineering. Nursing for traditional undergraduates is in development.

The four adult populations of enrollment require different strategies to bring in new students. The vast majority of leads are generated through digital marketing and targeted recruitment outreach strategies.

Our degree completion population is currently our fastest-growing area. We now have over 1,680 of these students enrolled. That’s up from last fall’s 11-day census, which reported 1,281 DC students. One advantage this population has is that students can enroll and start taking classes every six weeks. We have been working with community colleges to promote transfer pathways and increased the number of Enrollment Express events. We’ve added computer information systems to the DC portfolio, which is being taught at Bitwise Stadium in downtown Fresno.

Graduate programs have also been growing. We now have 1,298 students enrolled this fall. Last fall’s 11-day census had us at 1,157 grad students. We’ve seen significant growth in our Master of Science in Nursing program and our education programs. We are also seeing growth in our seminary, with 170 MA students there, compared to 148 a year ago.

Our online programs are experiencing another shift as we are currently not working with an online program management (OPM) provider. Enrollment and Academic Innovation have put together a task force to explore new OPM options on how best to grow our online population. Healthy universities have solid online offerings as a part of their portfolio. We are currently moving these programs back to FPU and are starting a few programs this fall in both graduate and degree completion.

All student populations require resources to grow enrollment, and we are not ignoring any of them. It is true that different populations bring in greater net revenue. As we look to be more strategic and set our university up for better financial health, it will be wise for us to continue to invest in areas with the greatest net revenue.

Financial aid is also required for all enrollment populations. Each of our students has access to various federal (Pell grants and loans), state (Cal Grant) and outside aid sources. Only two of the populations have significant financial aid from FPU institutional dollars. In traditional undergraduate, we discount tuition by giving back to our students through academic and need-based awards. That rate is currently about 45 percent of tuition. We also have scholarships and grants for our seminary students.

As we manage our enrollment portfolio, we are looking at new ways to grow the areas with strong market demand. Our portfolio is a diverse mix of various populations and programs. Our 11-day census has us at roughly 3,930 students; last year we had 3,520 students. In the last eight weeks we have added an additional 100 degree completion students.

Yes, you counted correctly. This means our current enrollment for the first time is over 4,000!