How Small Colleges Can Develop Win-Win Partnerships as an Enrollment Growth Strategy

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Jayson Boyers, President of Rosemont College, explains how partnerships can help small schools increase enrollment and better serve their communities. He also discusses how to find “natural partners” and designing curriculums around them; why smaller schools are better positioned for partnerships than other marketing and growth strategies; and how the right degree programs can transform local communities.

You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect Edu podcast network. I'm Eric Olson with Helix Education and we're here today with Dr Jason Bowyers, President at Rosemont College. President Blawyers, welcome to the show. Thank you for having me. I'm really excited to talk with you today. Likewise, so excited to talk with you about your partnership with the federal academic alignments as an enrollment growth strategy. But before we digin, can you give the listeners a little background on Rosemont College? Sure. So. Rosemont college is a hundred year old institution and actually we are. We're celebrating or hundred year. CONGRATS, birthday this year and it's been exciting you to do that. We started out in one nine hundred and twenty one as a pathway for women to get their college education, and in one thousand nine hundred and twenty one there weren't a lot of pathways for a woman to become a college graduate and the diocese, you know, put out a call for for more Catholic Education and Society of the Holy Child. Jesus answered that call and started Rosemont and in the early s we became coeducational and over the last twenty years we've actually become majority minority in our student population and we a lot of first generation students. So very a very cool population to engage with. Its population I'm familiar with as a first generation graduate, and and we've been expanding our non traditional pathways are...

...serving the adult student and I'm sure we'll talk about some of those partnerships today. But Rosemont has a storied history and in really creating pathways for folks who maybe, maybe, don't always have the easiest pathway to a college graduation. HMM. Yeah, beautiful origin story. Huge congratulations on the hundred year legacy and counting as you help find pathways for more and more students, including the nontraditional ones, which is one of the major things I'm excited to talk with you about today. But before we dig into that, from your story from college dropout to college president, is an amazing it's a Spielbergian success story. How did you get from one chapter to the next? Yes, so I you know, I mentioned I was a first generation college student. Not My family didn't really. I didn't grow up thinking I would go to college and I actually was going to go in the military because in in my hometown of defiance, Ohio, you you know, you kind of went into the military or you got a job at the factory, and so I wanted to see the world. I was going to go in the military and then I caught the bug for college and so that was exciting for me. I thought yeah, I'll go to college and I made my way to college and my first year and a half I was not prepared. I didn't have the understanding on how to navigate the services I would need. I really did not have the study habits that I needed to have and so I withdrew from college, probably in the nick of time before they would throw me out and I but but there was one one factor that brought me back to college and that was my wife, who was also a first generation college Grad. She graduated in four...

...years Kumarde and she was just really smart, beautiful woman and also she told me I was going to complete my college education and and you know, I follow her guidance. It's made for twenty eight years of happy marriage, and so she was the motivating factor to give me back in in my I went to work and I was as an adult. I was pursuing my college education and something strange happened. I fell in love with it and I actually went from from under a two point out grape point every's to graduating with three point five and just again fell in love with this. And so I went to work for this program that helped averas students get into colleges and Indiana and it was funded by a pharmaceutical company and part of their philanthropic vision. And one of the colleges who I worked with said, do you want to come and work and hire at and so I began working at this institution that offered associate degrees and I decided I would go back and get my masters, and I love my master's. It was at a Catholic institution, say Mary the Woods College, and then I decided to go on to Creton and get my doctorate. But it took me three years to find my doctorial program because I wanted a program that I could fall in love with and not just do, and that's been the story of my college career. I just have fallen in love with not just learning, but but finding new insights and and I've been fortunate enough to have that experience. I love that background and I love how relatable your story is to so many students today and that empathy that you uniquely can have as a college president. To dig into the topic at hand, let's...

...talk about non traditional pathways. Can you give us a high level overview on the federal academic alliance and their tuition discount programs for federal workers? Yeah, I would love to and if you wouldn't mind, I'd like to. I'd like to talk a minute about non traditional pathways, please. So I as an adult. You know, it's funny, my wife and I would joke with folks that I was on the ten year plan to get my college education, not the four year plan. And a lot of adults run into issues when they first go to college or they may get their degree but they think going back to get a graduate degree to move up in their company. It seems out of reach because they have families, they have responsibilities, they have children of their own, and so I really fall in love with this opportunity because the adult students are there because they really care about what they're doing. They want to improve their life, they want to change the economic destinies of their family, and when you're dealing with a student population like that, it's energizing. It's energizing for me because I know what a difference it can make. I've gotten a chance to stand on a Great Wall of China's travel the world and none of it would have been possible without me continuing to advance my degree, and so so I just fell in love with this population adults who say I'm my journey is not over, and so I began to look at opportunities in my career in higher education to really enhance these pathways. And I would always say the same thing that institutions and causes and missions always followed the same rule, partner or perish, which means nothing good happens outside of relationship. And so we have to do we have to create relationships were human beings. Relationships are where we grow, and so I begin to to ask companies,...

...and I remember doing this. I started this process in Burlington Vermont and I was a VP over the adult school and I begin saying we're going to talk to major employers and we're going to ask them what they need and they're going to tell us and we're going to help them help their employees. That the reason I bring up my time as a VP and Vermont. The Federal Academic Alliance was just beginning and I was able to get this little school in Vermont to be one of the first six schools and this federal academic alliance. And from there we established partnerships not just with the federal government but with a TNT and was Cisco Systems and with all these major companies, not because we were some well known college, but because we did what no one was doing. Instead of going in there and telling companies and organizations what they need, we asked what they needed and we aligned our programs where we could help. And so we when I got here at Rosemont, we reached out to our contacts from other academic alliance and they were they were looking for a couple of additional members and we became the twenty six college in the United States to be a part of this. We serve that two million plus federal workforce as one of these twenty six colleges and we offer a fifty percent t which in grant to them. So they get a fifty percent tuition discount and they're able to pursue fields that allow them to work up, to gain more responsibility, to create excellence in their area and really achieve driving force, to help them improve their families economic fiability, to help them raise their how sohold income and to advance in their career. All of this matters and all of it stems around...

...change, changing lives. You mentioned that there are twenty six academic partners in total for the alliance, serving two million federal employees in their families. I know some listeners are like Jason Lucky, but you already mentioned you you had a relationship. You reached out. How did you make that happen? How did you get Rosemont over that line? And and what does a what is being a good partner mean in terms of resourcing? Were there to their continue to be any above and beyond asks required for membership to make you a beneficial partner to the alliance? Yes, so. So that's a really good question. There is a vetting period that goes on and so we went through several months of vetting to make to have them look at our programs to make sure they were fit for what their agencies would need, to look at the quality of our programs, to look at the institution it's reputation, kind of, you know, understand if there was a conturro fit. So we went through all that betting process. But the most interesting part of your question is really what makes a good partner, because I am passionate about this and a good partner is someone who really seeks to serve first. I really believe that. So one of the things we look at is how can we help, how we're where can we offer the most value? And we have some programs that we believe are good fit and they eventually believed were a good fit. But we just today, in fact, our provost, MVP of of academics and in Student Affairs, did a whole presentation at one of their virtual events that it really outlined what employee engagement means. So she was talking to the training officers and helping them understand how to better engage their employees. Not Come to Rosemond specifically the how to better engage their employees and in what kind of educational...

...offerings work best and and that's the amazing thing about I think what makes a good partner is understanding where you can add value. And I will say something else to when I began thinking about a partnership model in this again goes back to Burleyton. I remember there was a major corporation I turned down three times to partner with, not that they in the reason I turn them down wasn't because I didn't want to partner with them, it was because the way they wanted to partner I didn't feel like we could offer the value. And I even try to refer them to other folks in in you know, in some cases I've referred companies, corporations, to community colleges, to other institutions, because for me it's not, it's not a zerosome game. It really is. What I want to do is I want to be the type of partner that when they have a problem, they're going to pick up the phone and call me, not because they think I'll have every answer, but because they know how earnestly try to help them. That's what makes a good partner and it's why you keep relationships. It's why we could reach out in the people in charge of the Federal Academic Alliance said, Oh, we've worked with you before, we had a good experience. It's the same people coming to us. We're excited. Yes, let's let's work together. It's how you keep relationships over the long term, over a lifetime of of wherever you end up. Let's double down there. I love those thoughts. But but let's think through and talk tough fer a minute. Why Partnerships? I'm assuming you have to offer a tuition discount to be a partner. You have to go in boff beyond. You have to work really closely, maybe personalize or customize your programs to some extent. Jason, why can't you just bid on Google searches for brand names and academic programs to grow like everyone else? Why do you have to be creative and try these new pathways of new partnerships? Yes,...

...so, hopefully Google's not a sponsor, because right now I'm going to put things there. But so, first of all, it's a it's a losing game for small college is to try to to bit out the searcher results and and do search engine optimization. I mean it's not that you you don't have to try to do SEO, but that's not where you're going to gain enrollment. Where you're going to gain enrollment is creating channels of enrollment. So typically you will find colleges spending a chunk of money on just trying to get students to apply with. A problem with that is I could take that that expense and if I have a partner like the feder academic alliance, I can say, you know what I'm going to do, I'm going to actually reduce tuition for your employees because I'm not having to spend that money on Google search, and so all of a sudden now I'm I am transferring that savings to the students so they can graduate with less dead or little debt. And it's a very appealing thing for the company to be able to offer this because they're seeing this large discount for their employees. By the their employees qualified for it because they're an employee of that employer. So the employer can focus on retention, we can save the money on the front end of the advertising society. And by the way, now we're very connected with that company, with that industry, and by being connected with I we create what I call virtuous circle and a virtuous circle is for us. We're getting Intel about what's happening in real time in the industry and we're taking that back and saying, how can we continue to improve our curriculum because of what we're learning, because we have this close relationship with the company? So there's so many benefits. So I I am I am thrilled to if I've got a company that fits and it's an industry that we serve and we have a great program on, I'm thrilled to...

...make that partnership because there's so many ways values coming back to us and I'm happy to give value to their employees and to the employer, because now this is a benefit. And I would say one more thing about this that I think is is critical to this whole strategy, which is I think too often small colleges can get lost in the shuffle of search engine optimization, in some of the the bid on the Google searches. Because really, if you're if you're a named large university, your great basketball, Tamer football team, everybody knows your name, you can win at that game. But if you're a small college, which you're selling is your culture, you're selling your selling for them that we caught the power of small area, Rosma. So the power of small is that you're you're not just going to get lost in the shuffle, that you're going to your journey is going to be central to what we do, and that goes way back to our founder, Cornelia Kindley, the founder of the society that started this couch, who believed education was an individual journey as well as a collective one. And so I would say we're living out our mission, living out our value, by approaching our non traditional pathways this way. Such wonderful and wise advice. Chasing not only for small schools but midsize and less selective institutions as well. Leave us with some next steps. Advice for insitutions. Listening, who buy in? They think competing in the same trough as everyone else for the same students, they are out Christ or out leveraged or out marketed. They want to find Blue Ocean. They want to find unique channel and partnership pathways to find enrollment growth success. How...

...they think about that challenge? WHORCH should they start? So I think that my best advice for institutions is to figure out where they can. What are the degree programs that they think they can add the most value and what are the industries that match those degree programs? Know who your natural partners are. There's a there is a Alan Watts ta talked a lot about this. He said when you try to swim and you try to grab the water, you're going to sink and around, and I think a lot of institutions trying to grab the water force things. Don't force things. Find where you're really good at something and then look for industry partners who need that in those are your first natural partnerships, and then say coming together, okay, let's let's see how we can benefit each other and really grow something of value here. And I think of all these small communities. We started out this conversation me telling you about being a first Ghiit narration student. You either you went to work at a factory or you went to a you went to the military. In my hometown we were basically we should have been in a music Bruce springsteen music video. But look at all these small communities and many of them have industries that are driving regions, have industries that are driving them forward. How can colleges, especially small colleges, how can we help with that economic development, because if we're able to help the industry and we're able to help employees, we're going to build better communities, we're going to create activity that that strengthens school systems and tax bases and and housing. All of these things are living our mission as a small college. I think for for some we get so lost in the chase for students that we forget we are a mission driven industry. They should get lost in our pursuit of building better communities and so that...

...really follow your natural strength. You will find your partners, you will find your students. Look where you can add value first and I promise you I enrollment growth will happen. Beautiful, Jason. Thank you so much for your time today. What's the best place for listeners to reach out if they have any follow up questions for you or your team? So definitely visit our website at Rosemont Edu and they could always reach out to me if they have questions at president at Rosemont Edu. Awesome, Jason, thanks so much for joining us today. Thank you so much. Have a great one. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. He looks educations data driven, enterprize wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Felix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges, downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Slash playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show on Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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