International education offices are typically tasked with supporting faculty-led programs from start to finish, regardless of if they are likely to run. For many teams, this means putting in countless hours of administrative set-up work to propose the program, prepare a budget, support marketing, and coordinate with vendors or onsite staff….all before the program officially has enough students to run.
If your institution frequently cancels programs due to low enrollment, you may want to consider assessing the feasibility of a program prior to approving it to recruit students. In addition, measuring the feasibility of a program can inform conversations with faculty directors to better set expectations and advocate for your office’s best use of time and resources.
We’ve developed a “rating” tool to score five different factors that contribute to the feasibility of a faculty-led program. In this case, “feasibility” is defined as the likelihood a program will meet the minimum number of students required for budgeting. Your campus may have other factors to add, or you may find some of our factors less important. Feel free to read the descriptions below and alter to come up with your own!
The Five Feasibility Factors:
- Director: How motivated are they? How well do they assume the role of marketing and outreach? Do they have a positive reputation on campus? To what degree have they developed the program from a student/market-ability perspective? Are they engaged? Do they have a positive reputation on campus?
- Program: How appealing is the location and length? Are there unique highlights/excursions that will attract many students? Is there a clear added value that makes the cost worthwhile? How does the program compare to other offerings?
- Course: Is the course required for the target population? How many students typically take the course when it’s offered on campus? Is the course attractive to students outside of the home major? Does the course/content have a clear component that is unique/cannot be replicated on campus (professional, internship, specific skill development)
- Recruitment: Is the recruitment window realistic? Will the application open on time? Does the director take ownership of the recruitment process? Do they have departmental and academic advising support to promote the program within curriculum? Do they have marketing materials with program specifics to share with students? Is the program actively promoted at events across campus where the target population is likely to attend?
- Historical Success: Has the program run before? If yes, has it always met minimum enrollment?
From there, assess each of your faculty-led programs. For each, rank the factors on a scale of 1-10 (10 is the best) and divide by the total number of factors to obtain an average.
Look for consistent ranges that match historical success of programs. Below is one example of how you can use average score ranges to predict enrollment and budget appropriately.
|Less than 5||Not running|
|8 and above||Above minimum|
Use this data to inform your recruitment conversations with directors, set attainable enrollment goals for the next year, and start tracking over several years so you can adjust your ranges to be more accurate and predictive.
By: Ellie Koewler, IEP Senior Campus Coordinator