One of the reasons I love working with our partners to grow their graduate, online, and adult enrollment is because their programs are the center of higher ed’s mission and margin. Graduate and adult-serving programs provide the career-changing opportunities that can improve the lives of entire families. Graduate and adult education programs also diversify university revenue, at a time when institutions need the additional revenue to best execute on their missions.
A great example of this is my team’s work with the University of Central Florida and 11 other institutions through the Progresando Initiative. The Initiative, which launched in early 2022 and is made possible by a grant from Bank of America, is designed to help Hispanic adults expand their careers as nurses, nurse educators, and in other health professions.
Check out this podcast to learn more about UCF's work to recruit Hispanic adult learners.
If this is a priority for your institution, where should you begin? Here are a few ways UCF and the other institutions participating in the Progresando Initiative are working towards expanding the talent pipeline for advanced practice nurses, nurse educators, leaders, and scientists among Hispanic graduate students.
- The Hispanic population in the US is increasing: Hispanic individuals are among the fastest-growing demographic groups in the US—but they are also underrepresented in higher ed. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only about 20% of Hispanics aged 25-29 hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to over 40% of non-Hispanic whites.
- Improving health outcomes: As the Hispanic population in the US grows, there’s an even greater need to increase the number of Hispanic health care workers who can overcome the language and cultural barriers to best care for these patients. As Valerie Martinez, a nursing faculty member at UCF, shared, “Since it's well-documented that health outcomes improve when patients and their families receive care from health professionals who share their racial and ethnic backgrounds, Hispanic nurses can have a great impact on reducing the disparities and working towards health equity.”
Marketing and Recruitment
Expanding enrollment in UCF’s nursing programs involves a robust marketing and recruitment strategy that starts with a deep understanding of UCF’s nursing student body. Our EAB data scientists use consumer analytics to understand demographic, behavioral, and psychographic characteristics of UCF’s students. We then use this information to design marketing messages that will resonate with prospective students at every stage of the funnel.
We’re also working with UCF to market to current seniors in their undergraduate nursing programs as well as nursing program alumni to communicate the value of continuing into graduate nursing programs at UCF. And our creative team is working with UCF to develop marketing collateral with Spanish language elements that resonate with these populations and increase engagement. The marketing campaigns created in partnership with UCF also highlight the convenience, flexibility, and quality of UCF’s nationally recognized online nursing programs.
As my team and I identify the most engaged prospective students, we send those leads directly to their admissions counselors for one-on-one outreach.
The team at UCF is also focused on expanding faculty for nursing and other health sciences programs. As my colleague Lilia explained, nursing programs struggle to recruit and retain faculty due to the sizeable pay gap between academic and practitioner roles, high retirement rates among existing faculty, and a poor student understanding of the faculty role, which makes it unlikely that current students will pursue educator careers. And these challenges are only exacerbated among students of color who might be interested in faculty roles.
As enrollment leaders know, student services are important long before a student ever comes to campus or attends an online class. In fact, a growing number of students who participated in our survey said available student services are an important factor when considering where to enroll.
To understand the obstacles most commonly facing prospective students—and thus, which student services will resonate most—our EAB team sends surveys to each prospect asking about their motivations (maybe career advancement or helping others) and barriers to enrollment, like finances or balancing school with work and family commitments. We then work with the UCF team to send marketing messages that speak to the specific goals and challenges each prospect shared.
But more than that, the UCF team can use these insights to better serve students. For example, UCF has used data about the financial challenges facing prospects to inform prospective students about scholarships and funding opportunities. Or, when students have identified the focus on writing at the graduate level as a barrier, UCF has been able to talk about their writing center and number of Spanish-speaking faculty who can support students for whom English isn’t their first language.
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