The Professional & Adult Education Forum always monitors trends to identify how the units we serve are organized, resourced, and adapting to the challenges of an increasingly competitive market for adult students. Our latest benchmarking survey revealed three key trends across the membership:
1. More independent COE units operate like shared service centers for other academic units on campus
Many institutions prioritized building fully independent COE units that could develop programs using their own faculty and internal governance processes. But these units often drive change across campus by helping partners in traditional academic colleges launch online or adult-serving programs. Now, 55% of independent COE units also support programs for other academic units on campus. This trend presents new questions about ownership of programs and how revenue should be split or shared across campus.
2. Specialized staff roles in project management boost successful program launch
Our data indicates that 21% of COE units now employ full-time project managers to support faculty in development and launch of new programs. A further 15% of COE units maintain staff members who provide part-time project management support for program launch. COE executives increasingly face the challenge of engaging late adopter faculty, requiring more intentional, high-touch support systems to support them and develop programs.
3. Strategic investment funds are critical for growth, but are only half of COE units have access
Our analysis of benchmarking data indicates a strong relationship between strategic investment funds and revenue growth. These funds can be used to seed development of new revenue-generating programs, to invest in marketing underperforming offerings, or to offer financial support to working adult students. Yet 51% of COE units don’t have authority to maintain strategic investment funds in the face of tight institutional budgets and what are seen as more critical priorities for existing funding.