Are Once-Popular Online College Degree Programs Losing Momentum?

By Frank Healy for Career College Central

Since 2002, the availability of online degrees has reshaped the education sector, and today’s students have new expectations of their institutions of higher education. Online degrees combine the diversity of a unique learning experience with the convenience of being able to study anywhere and at any time. Eager to provide students with these benefits, colleges and universities have been continually adding more online programs in different fields every year.

But while online programs saw continual growth for a number of years as more students eschewed the traditional classroom setting for more flexible options, during the past year these programs seem to have lost some of the momentum they had built up during the past decade.

According to the 2013 Survey of Online Learning report, 7.1 million students took at least one online course, which is a significant increase from the approximately 5.5 million reported in the initial survey in 2002. But the report also shows only a 6.1 percent increase in online degree program enrollment between 2012 and 2013, the lowest increase in a decade.

Reading the data

With more than 400 clients in the higher education sector nationwide, Higher Ed Growth is a leader in postsecondary education and a major generator of enrollment inquiries. Higher Ed Growth’s data corresponds with national enrollment trends, and we too found a sizable decline in enrollment in online courses during the past two years, correlating with the findings of the Survey of Online Learning report.

Our data revealed that in 2012, 49 percent of all students were enrolled in on-campus degree programs, while 51 percent were enrolled in online degree programs. Within a year, this distribution shifted to 59 percent of students being enrolled in on-campus degree programs versus 41 percent being enrolled in online degree programs in 2013.

This nearly 10 percent shift in program types suggests a major change in students’ decision-making processes. So, why exactly are students drifting away from the online model to an in-person setting?

Changing to meet market demands

One possible reason for this shift is a change in the types of degrees that students want. For example, Higher Ed Growth’s data shows that health care and medical degree enrollments are on the rise. Enrollments for these programs have grown more than 15 percent since 2011, with medical assisting programs largely driving this trend. Nursing also rebounded in 2013 after a small decrease the year before. The very nature and structure of these programs requires students to partake in a more hands-on learning environment to gain a thorough understanding of the subject.

We are also seeing from our data that students are trending away from business degrees, a popular choice with online learners. These types of programs have seen a sharp decline of 10 percent since 2011.

In addition, there is always a correlation between higher education interests and job market demand. As students consider future career paths when enrolling in a college or university, they tend to pursue the degree type and learning environment that will best prepare them for the job market. Right now, the health care industry is seeing increased growth and momentum, and as a result there is a large interest in health-related degrees and a corresponding increase in traditional enrollments.

Meeting student needs

So, what does the future hold for online degree programs? Colleges and universities are likely to continue adapting their online degree programs to better meet the ever-changing needs of their students and to ensure that they remain competitive with traditional programs. For example, many institutions are augmenting their online programs to include more reputable materials in order to increase credibility and to emphasize that they are comparable in quality to a traditional classroom setting.

Schools may also look for more ways to bridge the gap between online and traditional coursework. Many schools have already adapted to fit this model by having lectures and coursework taking place online, but labs and demonstrations occurring in a classroom setting. This offers all the hands-on experience of the in-person model with the convenience of an online course.

Although the numbers indicate that online degree programs may be on the decline among current students, it is still too early to count online programs out of the running for the foreseeable future. Online degree programs provide the flexibility that busy students need. By continuing to provide courses that are easily adaptable to a changing audience, online degree programs are certain to always have their place in the higher education sector.


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Higher Ed Growth President Appointed to APSCU Committee

Tempe, AZ (PRWEB) October 20, 2014

Frank Healy, president of Higher Ed Growth, a full-service marketing agency specializing in post-secondary education, was named as a committee member to a leading higher education association.

The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU); a membership organization of accredited, private post-secondary schools, institutes, colleges and universities that provides career-specific educational programs across the nation; extended an invitation to Healy to sit on its Allied Member Committee.

“APSCU is known for advancing the higher education industry, and I hope my involvement as a committee member will help the organization continue to provide resources to colleges, universities and post-secondary schools,” Healy said. “HEG’s core focus is on marketing and inquiry generation within the higher education industry, so this is an excellent opportunity to lend my expertise and perspective.”

The APSCU Allied Membership Committee advises the association on membership policies, including the code of conduct that Allied Members must accept as a condition of membership. The committee is charged with the design and delivery of programs related to the recruitment and retention of Allied Members. Overall, APSCU has about 1,400 members that educate and support more than three million students each year for employment in 200 occupational fields.

For more information about Higher Ed Growth’s involvement with APSCU, visit

About Higher Ed Growth
Higher Ed Growth (HEG) is a full-service marketing agency specializing in post-secondary education. HEG uses propriety technology to deliver targeted enrollment inquiries to for-profit and nonprofit education clients. In addition to inquiry generation, HEG offers agency of record services, enrollment analytics and consulting, search engine marketing and white label portals – with the ultimate goal of boosting enrollment and retention numbers for clients. Visit

About The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU)
The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) is a voluntary membership organization of accredited, private postsecondary schools, institutes, colleges and universities that provide career-specific educational programs. APSCU has about 1,400 members that educate and support over 3 million students each year for employment in over 200 occupational fields. APSCU member institutions provide the full range of higher education programs, including master’s and doctorate degrees, two- and four-year associate and baccalaureate degree programs, and short-term certificate and diploma programs.

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TCPA Regulations: One Year Later

One year ago, the lead generation industry experienced a shift when requirement changes in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) became effective. The TCPA update, ruled by the FCC, focused on new standards for contacting inquiries, which included standardizing acceptable call abandonment rates, implementing opt-out mechanisms and requiring prior express written consent for autodialed telemarketing calls. In retrospect, these revisions were a catalyst for an increased focus on compliance as the new regulations shed light on inquiry generation practices.

Companies who successfully navigated the TCPA waters saw it as a chance to increase transparency in the industry. Those who did not prepare and adapt to the ruling, however, have since faced the consequences from the government and/or clients. Within the past month alone, dozens of large corporations have been in the news for TCPA-related lawsuits, including Bank of America, AT&T, GEICO and Twitter. While these companies are usually able to sustain the effects of a lawsuit, smaller companies may not be so lucky and find themselves unable to recover from the burden on their finances and reputation. Small businesses, especially in lead generation, also faced a greater risk in losing clients if they were not TCPA compliant.

When companies realized that they could face legal action for contacting non-TCPA consenting inquiries (even unknowingly), the need for transparency between clients and lead providers increased. Organizations began to gain a sharper understanding of compliance and implement procedures for ensuring adherence to regulations. Inquiry providers saw an unprecedented demand from clients for a behind-the-scenes look at their lead generation process from start to finish, and deceptive and non-compliant lead providers folded under the scrutiny. This left room for quality inquiry companies to grow and improve the industry with a new perspective on lead generation best practices.

While many viewed the TCPA revisions as restrictive, some saw the ruling as a chance to reach out to leads in new ways. Companies began including language in TCPA disclosures to not only permit auto-dialed calls to consenting inquiries, but also to allow for emails and text message communications. As a result, marketers have been able to expand their marketing efforts with relevant, compliant email and SMS campaigns and reap the benefits of increased prospects. As the lead generation industry continues to face new legislations, it is important to remember that each ruling is an opportunity to improve upon current marketing practices to fit high-intent inquiries with high-quality companies.

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Strengthening Lead Generation through a Stronger Landing Page

Online lead generation has changed drastically over the past decade as marketers attempt to utilize a variety of digital marketing methods to generate inquiries. Organic search, pay-per-click, social media, display advertising and email offers are some of the many ways that advertisers get visitors to their site, and more importantly, their landing page. The landing page is a critical step in the lead generation process – the visitor must not only be interested in your product or service, but also must trust that you can provide what they need. Here are some tips on how to get your inquiry to hit “submit”.

1. Ensure Cohesive Content

From start to finish, visitors to your landing page should feel a sense of cohesiveness. The headline and copy should match the advertising used to get visitors to your page – if your ads say “Get Auto Insurance in California”, the landing page should be specific to California residents looking for car insurance. Images should directly relate to your landing page purpose, and provide directional cues for the user. Content needs to be relevant, useful and engaging.

2. Provide Clear Message and Purpose

Get to the point right away. The user should know the purpose of your landing page within seconds of looking at it. The page should have a single purpose and focus: one message, one form and one call-to-action. The call-to-action (CTA) should be compelling, large, easily found and above the fold. Use bullet points to break down information in an easily digestible format.

3. Reduce Friction

The form should be on the first page the user comes to. Forms should be as short as possible, collecting only necessary information. If you do need to collect a great deal of information, move additional fields to a secondary page. Eliminate or reduce navigation links; if you do direct users to another landing page for additional information about your offer, make sure that page also has a form to collect user data.

4. Establish Trust

Every aspect of your landing page should establish trust with the user – from the copy to the form to disclosures. Disclosures should follow industry standards, and make it clear to the user what will happen after they submit their information. Privacy statements and third party assurances, such as TRUSTe or VeriSign, help promote this trust and give the visitor confidence in your site.

5. Test Everything

Testing is vital to ensuring that you are getting the maximum return on your advertising investment. A/B and multivariate test copy, images, forms – anything that could affect the user experience and change their perception of what you are offering. Calibrate your landing page based on conversions and ROI. Through testing, you can discover insights about your customers that aid in the success of current and future landing pages.

Higher Ed Growth is a full-service marketing agency specializing in post-secondary education. Higher Ed Growth has a long history of understanding and evolving to provide compliant solutions. Visit to learn more about our services and how quality prospects lead to successful students.

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Transparency: How to Impress Your Clients with Accurate Information

In the ever-changing world of lead generation, few topics have remained as constant in recent years as compliance and transparency. For many, transparency seems like a vague concept, another buzzword. However, it can be improved upon in a real, tangible way by providing accurate information to clients.

Companies should expect and be willing to give clients a full-access pass to the lead generation process – as intimidating as it may be. This is where compliance goes hand-in-hand with transparency: if you have put the effort into ensuring your marketing methods are compliant, there should be no issue in being transparent. Your process should be visible to not only the client, but the prospect, from clear website disclosures to contact center representatives. Clients need to know that any generated inquiries have intent and are fully aware that the company will contact them. If your client feels it necessary to audit your website or call center procedures, demonstrate full cooperation as a sign of your assurance of compliance.

Understand the client’s goals and be honest about the ability to achieve those objectives. When you work together to set realistic expectations, the client will value both the honesty and trust your ability to provide results. Whether or not you are meeting goals, ask for lead-level conversion data available to optimize campaigns. In return, you should be able to provide information about the origin of a lead if requested. For each prospect, track (at a minimum) the marketing method, landing page URL, data fields entered, disclosures and opt-ins. This level of reporting will not only impress clients, but also establish invaluable confidence in your company.

Trust is founded on transparency. Just as you would be more than willing to share positive news with your client, you should be willing to explain negative news or trends in order to develop a solution. Frequently discuss conversion plans and process changes; you will find clients are more understanding and appreciative when you are direct about your strategy. If you treat your client as a partner and provide honest and insightful information, they will reciprocate that trust.

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