Adult learner organizational benchmarks

Adult learner organizational benchmarks

Inform your growth strategy with data and resources from EAB's Organizational Benchmarking Initiative

Use the industry-wide data and resources below to inform your graduate, online, and adult degree completer growth strategy.

Data shown on this page is drawn from EAB’s Organizational Benchmarking Survey. The survey collects over 80 different data points from nearly 300 institutions on academic governance, portfolio composition, and revenue outcomes for professional, continuing, and online education divisions.

Organizational model

Survey question: Do you consider your division to be primarily an independent academic unit offering its own programs or a shared service center supporting programs owned by other academic units?

Key considerations

While about 60% of units operate as a shared service center, 40% are independent academic units. For units using the shared service center model, lack of stakeholder knowledge and buy-in can sometimes impede decision-making and change.

Online degrees

Survey question: Do you have the authority to confer graduate or undergraduate degrees online?

Key considerations

Only a small proportion of units have the ability to launch and confer online degrees. To build support around online degree conferral, adult education leaders often need to educate stakeholders on campus about the need for flexible program options.   

Revenue growth

Survey question: How much revenue growth has your division experienced in the past five years?

Key considerations

Growth rates vary significantly across professional and adult education units, indicating that in today’s maturing adult learner market, campus leaders must closely align their program and portfolio design with their institution’s specific market and with the preferences of today’s students.

Marketing and recruitment

Survey question: Does your division maintain its own marketing and recruiting support function?

Key considerations

EAB research suggests that up to 70% of graduate prospects are stealth applicants, indicating that reaching and recruiting adult learners requires a sophisticated approach to marketing. However, many institutions lack the resources to build the required staff expertise in marketing and analytics.  

Growth strategy

Survey question: What is your primary strategy for enrollment growth?

Key considerations

A majority of professional, adult, and online units prioritize the growth of their fully-online programs. Fewer units focus attention on expanding their physical presence, either through satellite presences or new full-service campuses. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we expect institutions to continue to highly prioritize online growth, meaning effective program design will become more critical.

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