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Loyola SCPS: Learning from Growth - Guest Blog by Dr. Walter Pearson

January 19, 2018 11:34 AM | ACHE Home Office (Administrator)

We’ve had good success at Loyola University Chicago in the School for Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS). A healthy upswing in the number of students (despite our limited marketing budget), rising persistence rates, increasing affordability through scholarship funds, growing student satisfaction, and a highly rated online program are markers of our success.


Our growth in SCPS has been substantial. The number of credits generated has risen 230% over the past 5 years. This success in admissions has come on a limited ad budget. We spend $300,000 each year, plus some resources from the broader university. This advertising campaign produces about 2900 inquiries per year. We’ve experienced a big jump in enrollment after admission. In the past we enrolled about 60% after admission, and we are now better than 80%. We’ve added resources in our admission office, and we are making progress toward the benchmark of 29% of inquiries starting an application and 80% of those matriculating.

Rising persistence rates

Our students used to have a persistence rate of around 50%, not uncommon among adult learning programs. Adults struggle with many distractions in their lives, not the least of which are work and family. This leads to lower persistence rates. However, with the changes we’ve made to support persistence, we now have 80% of our students persisting. How have we accomplished this? 

Orientation, provided both online and in person, is required in advance of the fall and spring semesters and is taught by our Assistant Dean with support from the entire faculty and staff. Requiring completion of our Mastering Learning Tools mini-course has led to greater tech familiarity and better performance in the first course.  The good on-boarding processes followed by our Admissions Advisor have resulted in nearly 80% enrollment by admitted students and also led to good persistence. We provide the required entry course (3-credit Introduction to Degree Completion) for free. In this course we require a plan for graduation and a financial plan for completion, and we refresh students’ writing skills, all of which enables greater persistence.

Systematic follow-up with non-enrolled students helps us prevent and recover from stop-outs. We email them, write to them, and call them. Our structured school requirements (an entry course, a career course early in the program, and a capstone at the end) provide a clear structure to the student experience, enhancing persistence.

SCPS distributes nearly $500,000 each year from funded scholarships contributed by our many donors. We’ve improved scholarship processes by making the awards annual and providing a web-based tool to help students gather their applications in one spot. Helping students use prior learning assessment and being transfer-friendly are other ways in which we bring down the cost of the degree.

The SCPS Ambassadors program has played a key role in our success. Ambassadors are current students and alumni who volunteer at information and orientation sessions and assist with Mastering Learning Tools. They testify to the value of the SCPS experience.

Satisfied students persist, and our scores in the Ruffalo Noel Levitz Adult Student Priorities Survey are outstanding. In this survey, this question predicts overall satisfaction: There is a commitment to academic excellence. SCPS scores very highly on this question.

Online program rated #14 in the nation: Why?

Our engagement with students was significant in this ranking of #14 in the country, but we are also pleased with the way in which the survey rates our work with faculty. Good faculty development, including new faculty orientation, regular development sessions, and twice-yearly interactive faculty meetings, is essential. We provide instructional design support for every faculty member. We mentor new faculty, engaging peers in the work of inducting new faculty. We meet at least twice a year with the Faculty Advisory board (composed of both part-time and full-time faculty), take serious questions to them, and follow their advice.

Student Demonstrates Benefits of Online Learning

"Once they introduced the online component to our program no one was more excited than I was," SCPS student Robin May-McMorris says. "It provides comfort, convenience, and flexibility."

Since 1914, Loyola University Chicago has fulfilled its mission of educational outreach and inclusiveness by offering a wide range of educational options to a diverse community of students and professionals. Our goal is for our students to lead, succeed, and create meaning in their lives. We continue in our mission of providing unwavering support for working adults who wish to advance their education.

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