[Video] Recruiting Adult, Part-Time, Non-Traditional Students


By: Christopher Tashjian Feb 02, 2017

Scott Jeffe: Hello, my name is Scott Jeffe, and I’m senior director of Aslanian Market Research here at EducationDynamics. I’d like to thank you for joining me for another spotlight session where I introduce you to speakers from our Conference on Adult Learner Enrollment Management. That is the CALEM Conference. Joining me today is Paul Marthers, who is the Associate Vice-Chancellor for Enrollment Management and student success at State University of New York. Paul is going to lead a panel discussion at CALEM entitled “What We Know, Don’t Know, And Need To Know About Recruiting Adult, Part-Time, Nontraditional, and Graduate Students.” The session is going to explore the ever changing landscapes of adult education and draw on the audience, actually, to share their insights and experiences in developing innovating practices in admissions, marketing, and financial aid. So, they could not join us today. Paul will also be joined on the panel by Ray Lutzky, the Senior Director of Graduate Enrollment at New York University, and Christina Murray, the Assistance Vice-President for Graduate Recruitment at the College of St. Rose in Albany. Thank you very much for joining me today, Paul. How are you?

Paul Marthers: Thank you, Scott. Good to be with you.

Scott Jeffe: Well, look, let’s not waste time. Let’s jump right in. I’m sure our viewers would like to know more about this massive topic that we’re going to talk about at CALEM. So, here’s my first question. In your experience, what is the most important thing everyone watching this should know about adult students in today’s higher education world?

Paul Marthers: Well, I think that the way to reach out to them, the way to recruit them, is not the same as applying enrollment management principles from undergraduate recruiting. There’s not a one-size-fits-all model. Nor does the traditional graduate, full-time Ph.D. model doesn’t work. Student values and needs and interests really vary based on the degree type, whether they’re going to be part-time or full-time, and so you really have to tailor your strategies and tactics to the needs of your students. Some students, for example, may be looking just regionally. And others may be looking for a program, and it won’t matter where it is. And it could be that it’s 3000 miles away, and they’re doing it online.

Scott Jeffe: Yes, exactly. Kind of a related question: how has the recruitment landscape for these types of students–a graduate, part-time, nontraditional–changed due to the seemingly endless amount of degree options available?

Paul Marthers: Well, it’s become a very crowded marketplace which is good for the students. We know many campuses look to this now as a supplement to their undergraduate core or their graduate bricks and mortar on campus core group of full-time students. Many private institutions woke up 20 years ago or more and recognized that having a part-time cohort or continuing education division was a good idea. And increasingly, public institutions are becoming more aware of some because it provides an additional student population and revenue stream. And others because it’s a way to fulfill their mission. Within S.U.N.Y., we see it as a way to fulfill our mission to reach out to those students for whom higher education is kind of a deferred dream. Maybe they assembled some credits but they didn’t finish, and here’s a flexible online, hybrid, or part-time option to go back and finish a degree.

Scott Jeffe: Yeah, Carol and I see state after state, that is coming, to one way or another, kind of getting on that bandwagon of getting those students who have some college but no degree to get more bachelor’s degree holders. It’s kind of a public policy issue. Well, anyway, let’s go on. How are the needs of those adult students seeking this part-time, online, hybrid, or even, quite frankly, such students seeking master’s and bachelor’s programs different from those seeking full-time traditional enrollment in either undergraduate or graduate? And I guess in your case, particularly how it relates to their enrollment needs.

Paul Marthers: Well, convenience is important, where it is, how accessible it is, price, but the accessibility and the convenience and the exact program need we have found can be more important to the student than price. So students will pick a program that really fits their needs and can be done according to their schedule, even if it’s more expensive than a program that’s less expensive and harder to manage or isn’t quite on point with what they need.

Scott Jeffe: So true, so true. We’re almost out of time here. What would you say is the most innovative adult student recruitment practice that you’ve been able to implement in your time at S.U.N.Y?

Paul Marthers: Well, it involves recruiting students for online programs that we call Open S.U.N.Y. We have partnered with a relatively new service that will help web op… It’s kind of web recruiting, web searching, finding prospects, because as we know there’s no traditional way to find these prospects. You don’t just buy search names. You don’t just search through.. We’ve all tried these kind of web sites where they’re supposed to congregate so this involves using Google analytics and getting a lot of information about who’s out there looking, and then optimizing our presence and we’ve, at a relatively low cost, entered into a pilot agreement. In the first year of implementation, it’s so successful that our campuses want us to continue.

Scott Jeffe: Oh, that’s great. I bet our audience is going to love that. I can’t tell you the number of times that we get folks that say, “Please, we need resources, we need clues on which way to go.” So, I bet they’ll really enjoy that, hearing more about that. Well, we are done. I want to thank you for taking time to answer some of our questions, Paul, and I’m looking forward to hearing the entire presentation and the panel discussion at CALEM, which, by the way folks that are listening, will take place in Denver on April 5th through 7th. And we look forward to seeing you there. For everyone out there that would like more information, visit the website which is www.calemconference.org to see a list and information on our 28 speakers and sessions. And, otherwise, we look forward to seeing you in Denver, Paul and everyone that’s watching. Thank you very much.

Paul Marthers: Thank you, Scott.

The Conference on Adult Learner Enrollment Management (CALEM 2017)