Retention rates for both undergraduate and graduate students have improved by more than five percent over the past five years.Adelphi, Md (Dec. 4)—University of Maryland University College (UMUC) has reached record enrollments for its students within the United States, even as most American colleges and Universities are fighting a decline, UMUC President Javier Miyares announced.
“We are proud to be succeeding while operating in the most competitive environment in the history of higher education and in a time of unprecedented change,” Miyares said. “Despite market challenges and competition—both locally and nationally—our message is reaching adults who seek to improve their lives with a high-quality, low-cost, accessible education.”
The 2017 summer and fall terms saw a stateside record high of 52,987 new and returning students, that’s the highest in the university’s 70-year history. Worldwide, UMUC’s annual enrollments total close to 91,000 students.
Those numbers came on the heels of record-breaking enrollments of new students in the summer term, which reached nearly 4,300. Enrollment of new students in the Fall term reached a record high as well, with more than 9,200 students.
“We grew the enrollment of new students in our summer session by more than 10 percent compared to the previous year, and our new-student enrollment in the fall session by nearly eight percent,” said Erika Orris, the university’s chief enrollment and marketing officer. “This increase in new students comes at a time when the demand for higher education nationwide is actually declining.”
At the same time, the university has been able to retain a greater percentage of continuing students as they work toward completion of undergraduate and graduate degrees, she said. Retention rates for both undergraduate and graduate stateside students improved by more than five percent over the past five years.
UMUC is the University System of Maryland’s open-admissions, online university whose unique mission is to serve working adults. Nearly 40 percent of UMUC students are first-generation college students, while 50 percent have children. The university also has a long history of providing higher education opportunities to American military personnel and their families around the world. More than half of UMUC students are military connected (serving on active duty, a family member of an active-duty service member, veteran, reservist or serving in the National Guard).
The enrollment increases follow strategic investments the university has made in technology as well as programs that address issues of access and affordability.
In the last year-and-a-half, UMUC implemented a digital marketing strategy that has enabled the university to more efficiently target prospective students and make them aware of the institution’s programs. In addition to the introduction of a new website last fall, UMUC will be launching new digital tools that will make applying to the university much easier.
UMUC’s partnership with HelioCampus, an analytics company, provides an avenue for extensive data analysis and risk modeling to work effectively with prospective and current students. This puts data in the hands of decision makers, allowing leadership to make informed actions focused on improving operational efficiency and accelerating advisor interventions. These actions can help students stay on track to degree attainment.
“We know which students to call and remind to log onto their classes if they haven’t done that for a few days,” she said. “We are able to remind students when registration is opening to take the administrative burden off them, so they can focus on their studies.”
At the same time, UMUC is expanding its educational partnerships with corporations and government agencies to provide skill-gap education and training.
In 2014, UMUC was the first university to form an alliance with the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management to offer tuition discounts and to work directly with OPM to address skills gaps in the federal workforce.
Along with the federal government, the university is working with such corporations as Booz Allen Hamilton to educate employees in cybersecurity and with GEICO for leadership training.
UMUC also created a scholarship program that allows any graduate of a Maryland community college to seamlessly transfer to UMUC and earn a bachelor’s degree for a total of $20,000 (including the cost of the associate’s degree). To date, UMUC has awarded 4,829 scholarships.
The university also launched a pilot scholarship program this fall with Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) and Prince George’s Community College (PGCC). The PG3D Scholarship Program allows eligible PGCPS students to earn dual credits toward a high school diploma and associate degree from PGCC, and ultimately a bachelor’s degree from UMUC, all for $10,000 or less.