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The University of West Alabama Case Study

Overcoming Declining Enrollments: How a Unified Partnership Facilitated University Growth

Background

Located in the heart of Livingston, the University of West Alabama was chartered as a church-affiliated female academy in 1835. Over time, the school developed into a leading regional university. UWA viewed online programs as critical to their future success and understood that distance learning was integral to their growth as a university.

UWA saw online learning as an opportunity to expand the geographic reach of their recruiting efforts and diversify their portfolio of programs. The institution felt online options would better serve a variety of students, including adult learners who were already part of the job market.

Challenge: Declining Enrollments in Online Programs

UWA understood the tremendous growth potential of online learning but struggled to overcome declining student enrollments in that modality.

Recognizing the opportunity to attract adult learners outside of the traditional campus classroom, the university aimed to reverse this downward trend by diversifying its online degrees and expanding its enrollment team. However, university leaders lacked the expertise and capital to launch these initiatives on their own.

“We were known primarily as a school that educated educators,” said Dr. Jan Miller, dean of the UWA College of Education. “We wanted to diversify our programmatic footprint while accelerating the growth of our education programs, but we needed help in that arena.”

UWA’s struggles stemmed from limited expertise in online learning and a lack of internal capacity. They needed an external partner with knowledge in the best practices to support online bachelor’s and master’s programs and enrollment growth.

Strategy: An Enterprise Approach to Enrollment and New Areas of Study

UWA sought a partner that had financial resources and personnel to expand its enrollment team and invest in innovative marketing initiatives. Wiley Education Services proposed an enterprise approach to enroll more students in existing online programs and spark additional growth by launching new areas of study.

To make an immediate impact on UWA’s outcomes, Wiley dedicated a team of enrollment counselors to work with prospective students on the university’s behalf. Student engagement ran smoothly as Wiley leveraged its extensive online learning expertise and infrastructure to support UWA’s existing and prospective students. Within two weeks, Wiley was working to enroll nearly 2,000 prospective online students and was also managing the retention process for more than 1,500 online students.

“Personal contact is key to the team’s success,” said Julie Delich, vice president of retention and student support services at Wiley. “Many universities simply send automated enrollment emails to leads, but students need much more support than that.”

A high-touch approach allows Wiley enrollment counselors to collaborate directly with prospective students and find the programs that align with their goals. This relationship continues after students enroll at UWA Online. Wiley's dedicated online advisors assist UWA Online students throughout their degree programs and provide resources to promote their success. Wiley’s contributions include monitoring student behavior and performance to offer support to students who fall behind.

Results: Sustained Growth and an Enhanced Student Experience

Together, UWA Online and Wiley have launched 19 new online programs since the partnership began. In the fall of 2019, online programs at UWA Online had 3,944 students actively enrolled, almost double the enrollments from when the partnership began three years earlier. These figures represent substantial gains in a variety of education, business, and psychology/counseling programs at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Miller explained that Wiley’s flexibility and wealth of experience have exceeded her expectations. As a result, UWA Online is exceeding their students' expectations.

“Collaboration is the driving force of our relationship. It’s laying the groundwork for growth that we didn’t know was possible before we began working with Wiley,” Miller said. “With Wiley as our partner, we have the capacity and insights to not only grow, but to provide a better experience to our students. We can’t wait to see where the partnership leads us next.”

For additional insights into higher education, visit our resources page.

Wiley Education Services Offerings

Wiley is responsible for these services in the UWA Online partnership:

Market Assessment
Select Program Design and Development
Marketing and Brand Management
Recruitment
Enrollment Management
Student Retention Services

Institution's Roles and Responsibilities

UWA operates the following areas:

Curriculum and Content
Program Design and Development
Enrollment Management
Faculty and Instruction
Graduation

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