Continuing Education Drives Distance-Learning Enrollment

Continuing education accounts for a significant portion of enrollment for traditional and for-profit higher education institutions, which will drive distance learning to grow 10 times faster than on-campus growth over the next 10 years. That’s according to “2006 State of Continuing Education Marketing: How Does Your University Size Up?” released jointly by Penn State University Office of Outreach Marketing and Communications and University Continuing Education Association.

Up to 45 percent of colleges and university enrollment is from adult learners, many of whom sign-up for distance learning classes rather than on-campus classes. Revenues for continuing education rose 67 percent at responding institutions since the previous survey in 2004. The trend is expected to grow distance learning 10 times faster than campus classes over the next decade. The growth in distance learning is driven by the growth of interactive marketing.

Outside the student body that matriculates from high school, institutions market to additional groups and activities. More institutions market to adult continuing education programs (100 percent) than corporate training (75 percent); distance education (80 percent); youth programs (51 percent); conferences (47 percent) and summer session (51 percent). Marketing takes place regionally (85 percent) by more institutions than locally (76 percent); nationally (66 percent) and internationally (67 percent).

Eighty percent of continuing-education marketing departments are also responsible for marketing distance education programs. In addition, 75 percent of those departments also handle corporate training. Twenty-five percent of institutions outsource electronic marketing, up from 15 percent in 2004, and 4 percent in 2002.

Over half of the survey’s respondents believe electronic media and marketing will be a strong component of marketing for continuing education in 10 years. At that time, it is expected to be predominantly online, relationship-driven, personalized and specialized.

The biennial study was conducted by Penn State University on behalf of the University Continuing Education Association. Respondents represent 114 of UCEA’s member institutions.

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