New solution helps re-engage and re-enroll college dropouts

InsideTrack,a provider of student success coaching services, launched its newest suite of Re-Enrollment & Re-Entry solutions to help higher education systems and institutions successfully re-engage adults with some college credit, but no degree or certificate, and assist them in completing their credentials.

The solutions leverage advanced technology and the expertise InsideTrack has gained over more than a decade supporting institutions including Penn State World Campus, Brandman University, and Webster University in re-enrolling former students and preparing them to overcome the obstacles to postsecondary education success.

“Fulfilling our mission means ensuring that all of our students graduate prepared for global citizenship and individual excellence, including those who have had their education disrupted by life’s many competing demands,” said Michael Cottam, associate vice president for Academic Affairs and director of the Online Learning Center at Webster University. “That is why we’re working with InsideTrack to provide tailored support to students who have stopped out, so they can resume their studies and achieve their full potential.”

More than 31 million adults in the U.S. have enrolled in college and left without receiving a degree or certificate, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. In response, states, institutions and systems nationwide have launched campaigns to re-engage near-completers and help them earn a credential.

InsideTrack’s solutions combine its uCoach® technology and analytics platform and executive-style coaching to directly engage former students and help them navigate the enrollment process, define long-term goals and plan to overcome potential barriers to completion. Coaches conduct multi-channel outreach campaigns, using the platform’s voice, email, text and other communication capabilities, then work with re-engaged students to design plans for graduating prepared for meaningful careers.

In a recent effort with the online division of a major public university, 997 of the 2078 former students contacted re-enrolled, at an average cost of $216 per student.

“To meet labor demand, the U.S. needs to produce nearly 11 million more college graduates by 2020.  To do that, we must focus more attention on the 85 percent of today’s students who are either working full-time, raising a family, taking classes online, or have some other post-traditional trait,” said Bob Hansen, president of UPCEA, an association for professional, continuing, and online education. “That is why UPCEA, along with fellow members of the National Adult Learner Coalition are working closely with institutions and policy makers to increase the proportion of adults with a postsecondary credential, including promoting the re-engagement of those who may have left before crossing the finish line.”

“Adults with some college, but no credential represent one of America’s greatest untapped resources,” said Pete Wheelan, CEO of InsideTrack. “Unlocking their potential by supporting them in finishing what they started benefits those individuals, their families and communities, and our nation as a whole.  It also supports colleges and universities in fulfilling their missions, while providing much needed revenue in a time of great fiscal uncertainty.”

Material from a press release was used in this report.


In the wake of innovation, is the college presidency changing?

The presence of women and minorities in higher-ed leadership has increased only very slightly in recent years, and typical U.S. college and university presidents continue to be white males in their early 60s who hold doctoral degrees, according to a new report from the American Council on Education (ACE).

The American College President Study 2017 (ACPS) contains data on presidential demographics, search and selection processes, career trajectories, and the duties and responsibilities of college and university chief executive officers. For the first time, the report examines the views of presidents in three key areas: diversity and inclusion; state funding and political climate; and areas of importance for the future.

The report provides a sobering look at the ongoing challenges of diversifying the ranks of the college presidency.

The percentage of women holding the top job at colleges and universities stood at 30 percent in 2016, up just 4 percentage points from 2011.

The percentage of minority presidents also saw only a 4 percentage point increase since 2011, rising to 17 percent in 2016 and up just 10 percentage points since 1986.

(Next: What do these slow trends mean for the college presidency?)


Incredible: Grad rates at minority-serving institutions have skyrocketed

Minority serving institutions’ (MSIs) completion rates are substantially higher than federal data indicate, according to a new paper from the American Council on Education’s (ACE) Center for Policy Research and Strategy (CPRS).

The report, Pulling Back the Curtain: Enrollment and Outcomes at Minority Serving Institutions, uses data from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) to examine how students who started college at an MSI in 2007 moved through higher education.

NSC data capture student enrollment profiles and outcomes beyond what is available through U.S. Department of Education data, such as federal graduation rates.

The report’s authors determined that MSIs have higher completion rates than suggested by federal graduation rates based on the way the NSC data follow students through their educational journeys, including when they change institutions. At times, those completion rates are substantially higher than previously believed.

(Next page: Which group of students has the highest graduation rates?)


Here’s what hotels and higher ed have in common

In the mid-1990s, Amazon started selling books online and quickly moved to dominate the space, including running Border’s online store by 2001 and driving Borders to bankruptcy by 2011. Kodak, which once had 90 percent market share in the U.S. film market, was disrupted by digital photography and ultimately filed Chapter 11 in 2012. Corporate behemoth Xerox has struggled to find its footing after small desktop printers disrupted its larger, more complex copy machines. In each case, disruptive innovations made products that were simpler, cheaper, and more accessible—and then became so successful that they toppled the long-standing leaders of the industry.

We’ve seen disruption across industries—but not everywhere. For a long time, we didn’t see it in higher education.

But with the rise of online technology, the nature of competition is shifting: disruptive innovations now pose a viable threat to traditional higher education institutions. To understand why—and to gather insights on what is driving disruption in higher education today—we can look to a familiar part of the economy that has only recently been on the receiving end of disruption: the hotel industry.

For many years, the hotel industry did not experience disruptive innovation coming from the low end of the market. This wasn’t because the hotel industry didn’t have a low end—many a happy road trip has involved overnights at Motel 6 and Super 8. But those low-end competitors lacked a technological enabler to allow them to go upmarket. The business model of running a low-end hotel chain, like Motel 6, is very different from the business model of running a high-end chain, like the Four Seasons. For Motel 6 to be more like the Four Seasons, it would need to remodel the rooms, which is easy enough. But it would also need a bigger lobby and a restaurant, which would be tougher. It would need to add more staff and more systems. By the time Motel 6 added all of those things, it wouldn’t be a low-end competitor offering something simpler and cheaper—it would be just another Four Seasons.

Today, however, the hotel industry faces a unique competitor: AirBnB. AirBnB entered the market at the low end by offering users the chance to sleep on a stranger’s couch. But over time, the service has evolved to include higher end listings: penthouse suites, beachside mansions, and mountain lodges. Now, AirBnB is beginning to offer curated “experiences” on top of just places to stay. AirBnB’s platform is a technological enabler that has allowed it to go upmarket and compete disruptively against major hotel chains.

Similarly, until recently, higher education has lacked a technological enabler that would allow for disruptive innovation. But online education has created a path for disruptors to introduce programs to serve nonconsumers and then gradually iterate and move further and further upmarket. This technology has unleashed a variety of disruptive experiments, including bootcamps, competency-based programs, and microcredentials. It’s too early to say whether any particular program or organization will disrupt higher education, but some clearly have the potential to do so. The technological enabler is in place; higher education is ripe for disruption.

Implications for Higher Education Leaders

What does this mean for higher education leaders? In my most recent paper, we explore the implications of disruptive innovation for colleges and universities. Disruptions are first adopted by those who don’t have the money, time, or expertise to access the market. In higher education, this means nontraditional students with constraints on their time, like jobs and caring for children or parents. This, in fact, is exactly where we see online degree programs proliferating. Between 2003 and 2007, the percentage of students taking their entire graduate degree program online grew by half. Between 2007 and 2011, it grew by half again. For learners over 30, a quarter of students are earning their graduate degrees fully online. And for adults who are single parents, that number rises to 32 percent. (More stats here.)

Over time, we expect online learning to continue to gain traction among adult learners at the graduate level and then move into more core markets serving traditional-aged undergraduates. The experience of disruption in other industries suggests this core market maybe the last affected—but by no means least affected—as disruptive innovation moves upmarket in higher education.

Some might object, pointing out that employers are resistant to online degrees and that students who have the flexibility and the time to do traditional programs by-and-large are still choosing to do so. But disruptive innovations don’t sit passively on the sidelines waiting for customers to adopt them. The technology improves incrementally, creating a better and better value proposition that is attractive to more and more consumers.

We have already seen tremendous improvement since online courses first debuted over 30 years ago, and we expect to see more investments in online learning technology that address the specific pain points of students and employers going forward.

Higher education isn’t immune to the forces of disruption; they’ve just been a long time coming. Sustaining innovation has driven competition among institutions historically, and few new entrants have achieved comparable levels of prestige to the oldest institutions.

But disruption can move quickly. Take recent shifts in the hotel industry: the largest hotel chain in the world, Marriott, was founded in 1927. In the 90 years since, it has grown to over a million hotel rooms worldwide and now has a market cap of almost $34 billion. AirBnB was founded only nine years ago. But based on its most recent equity raise, AirBnB already has a valuation of over $30 billion—and over 3 million listings.

Online learning technologies are already making it possible for people who were previously shut out of the higher education system to earn their degrees. Down the line, disruptions in higher education stand likewise to move upmarket. To grapple with this new reality, institutional leaders should harness the tools of innovation in order to help their institutions respond effectively.

For more, see:

[Editor’s note: This post originally published on the Christensen Institute’s blog.]


4 strategies that make moving to the cloud less beastly

Whether for functional need, budgetary alignment, or due to top-down pressure, all universities will move to the public cloud at some level. If an organization has less than, say, 50 terabytes of data to manage, it’s easy to move everything there. For those of you in this boat, you can stop reading this article and proceed directly to the cloud, and collect $200.

For those with hundreds of terabytes, even petabytes, of data – including most universities – this is challenging and unrealistic. The business value of public cloud infrastructure is desirable, but when there are such large volumes of data, it’s hard to get there. “Lift and shift” strategies to mimic on-site infrastructure in the cloud are not often viable when petabytes of data are involved, and many universities need to keep at least some data on the premises. Luckily the utilization of public and private infrastructure does not have to be an either/or decision.

Fortunately, you can realize many of the business benefits of the public cloud in your own data centers. Elimination of silos, data that’s globally accessible, and pay-as-you-grow pricing models are all possible on-premises, behind your firewall. The “hybrid cloud” approach is not simply having some apps running in your data center and other apps running in Amazon or Google. Workflows do not have to wholly reside within either private or public infrastructure – a single workflow can take advantage of both. True hybrid cloud is when public and private resources can be utilized whenever it’s best for the application or process.

Here are four key steps to accelerate your journey to the cloud:

Step 1: Go Cloud-Native

Storage is the primary inhibitor preventing movement towards the public cloud and cloud architectures in general. Data is siloed – stuck in separate repositories – and locked down by specific access methods required by specific applications. This makes it impossible, or at least extremely expensive, to effectively manage, protect, share, or analyze data.

“Classic” applications use older protocols to access data, while newer cloud-native applications use unique interfaces. Converting everything to cloud-native format will save much time, money, and headache in the long run. This does not have to be a massive project; you can start small and progress over time to phase out last generation’s technology.

Figure 2: Start on your journey to the cloud by leveraging cloud-native storage on-premises.

Once you’re cloud-native, not only is your data ready to take advantage of public cloud resources, but you immediately start seeing benefits in your own environment.

Step 2: Go According to Policy

On-premises data on cloud-native storage can be easily replicated to the public cloud in a format all your applications and users can work with. But remember, we’re talking about hundreds of terabytes or more, with each data set having different value and usability.

Data management policies in the form of rules help decide where data should be placed based on the applications and users that need it – parts of your workflow behind your firewall and other parts in the public cloud. For example, you may be working with hundreds of terabytes of video, but would like to take advantage of the massive, on-demand processing resources in Google Cloud Platform for transcoding jobs instead of local hardware. Set a policy in your cloud storage software to replicate that on-prem video to the public cloud, then let Google do all the work, and set a policy that says move the transcoded assets back down when complete for the next step in the flow.

Don’t worry – the cloud data management software “views” the entire infrastructure as a single pool, universally accessible, regardless of the kind of storage or location.

(Next page: Steps 3-4)


Students list the top 5 benefits of a campus app

A new survey reveals that while 38 percent of students are somewhat or very worried they will not graduate on time, students also say their campus app helps them stay on top of their academic responsibilities.

The 2017 Student Life and Technology survey comes from DubLabs, a provider of personalized campus mobile applications focused on the student experience.

The survey aims to understand today’s postsecondary student experience and it reveals potential barriers to graduation and how students are leveraging campus resources to stay on track.

When asked what barriers might prevent them from graduating, students cited:
● Challenging curriculum (35 percent)
● Financial issues (27 percent)
● Additional responsibilities including work and family (18 percent)
● Lack of support/guidance from administration/faculty (8 percent)

(Next page: Research indicates technology can help support student success–how?)


University leads the way with new $10m Refugee Education Initiative

Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) has launched a major initiative to bring university degrees to refugees in the U.S. and around the world.

Over the last decade, the refugee crisis has dramatically accelerated with 65.3 million displaced worldwide, and globally, less than one percent of refugees have access to higher education. This will be the first large-scale initiative to bring American accredited university degrees to the most marginalized population in the world with a goal of educating 50,000 refugees in 20 locations by 2022.

Phase one of the initiative, a $10-million-dollar effort to bring SNHU’s online, competency-based bachelor’s and associate degrees to refugees and others affected by displacement, was made possible by a group of anonymous donors.

“The refugee crisis will require concerted social, legal, and political action, but education holds the key to an alternative future of possibility,” said Paul LeBlanc, president, SNHU. “At SNHU, we believe education is a fundamental human right, that’s why we want to bring our degrees to some of the most underserved populations in the world.”

SNHU has piloted its work with refugees in Rwanda, nearly 7,000 miles away from its Manchester, New Hampshire, campus. The program is offered at two sites in Rwanda, one in the Kiziba Refugee Camp where all students are refugee learners, and one in the capital city Kigali, where a substantial number of students are refugees.

Collectively, the campuses enroll more than 500 students. This summer the first cohort of refugee students graduated with associate degrees from the Kiziba campus. All of the graduates are engaged in internships outside of the camp and are now working on their bachelor’s degrees.

“We’re giving refugees hope for the future, the tools to rebuild their lives, and a transformational opportunity,” said Chrystina Russell, who leads the refugee learning initiative at SNHU. “Over the next five years, we will scale our work to many other locations, many of which are ready and eager to begin tomorrow.”

In Rwanda, SNHU partners with Kepler, a nonprofit organization, to deliver competency-based degrees through a blended learning delivery model that offers in-person instruction and academic and employment support. The University will form similar partnerships with other organizations as it looks to expand into other countries. Phase one of the project will include sites in East Africa and the Middle East. SNHU will partner with the UN High Commission on Refugees, the Connected Learning in Crisis Consortium, SOLVE at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the American University of Beirut.

The initiative will also be guided by an advisory board with diverse backgrounds and experiences, including former U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan; Dean of the Yale School of Architecture, Deborah Berke; and Director of Refugee Studies at the University of Oxford, Alexander Betts.

“Education remains the greatest source of hope and opportunity for people on the far margins of society,” said Arne Duncan, advisory board member of the SNHU refugee initiative, and former U.S. Secretary of Education. “SNHU’s work in the camps brings education to some of the most desperate and poorly served people in the world today.”

Over the next two years, SNHU will begin programming at four new sites around the world. SNHU is also exploring ways to support the refugee population in Manchester, and is partnering with the YWCA NH to expand services locally.

Material from a press release was used in this report.


Ranking: The top 100 online colleges

Today, college students exist in all age groups. Fortunately, with the improvements in technology and communication, online courses keep getting better and better. But in an era when online learning is nearly ubiquitous, which colleges and programs are the best for students who need to balance their jobs, family life, and school?

David Washington, research editor at, investigated to find out which online schools were the best to attend with criteria including technology used for course delivery, flexibility of classes, average cost of attendance, and academic offerings.

The product of his research is the ranking, “The Top 100 Best Online Colleges.”

The top 10 include:

10. Lewis University – Romeoville, Illinois

Lewis University houses 6,800 students through its five colleges and schools. The school’s online program offers bachelor degrees in business administration, information security and risk management, information technology management, and professional studies, as well as seven online master’s degrees in areas of aviation and transportation, business analytics, and organizational leadership. A doctoral in nursing practice is also offered.

9. University of Alabama at Birmingham, UAB Online – Tuscaloosa, Alabama

UAB has enrolled more than 18,500 students who are pursuing undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The online program offers seven bachelor’s degrees in healthcare management and business topics such as financing and marketing, as well as nearly 20 master’s programs including topics in areas of sociology, civil structural engineering, and elementary education.

8. Florida State University, Office of Distance Learning – Tallahassee, Florida

Florida State has over 42,000 students spread between 16 colleges and more than a hundred facilities, labs, and centers. Through the Office of Distance Learning, the university offers bachelor’s degrees in computer science, public safety and security, criminology and interdisciplinary social science. They also offer nearly 20 master’s degree programs in topics including criminology, business administration, communication disorders, and much more.

7. Fort Hays State University, Virtual College – Hays, Kansas

Fort Hays has about 11,200 students enrolled throughout four colleges. The university offers 40 online degrees through its Virtual College. Students can complete associate’s degrees in general studies and applied technology, as well as two dozen bachelor’s degrees ranging from information networking to business education. Master’s degrees in areas such as health and human performance, liberal studies, and special education are also available.

6. University of North Dakota – Grand Forks, North Dakota

The University of North Dakota has over 15,000 students distributed within 10 academic divisions. They offer more than 220 programs of undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as professional degrees in medicine and law. The online program offers 10 bachelor degrees such as communication, civil engineering, and psychology as well as 20 master’s degrees in programs such as aviation, space studies, and education. On top of that, they offer two doctoral programs in nursing.

(Next page: The top 5 best online colleges)