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The Market for Online Degrees in Liberal Arts

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Learning Collaborative for Higher Education Online Higher Education Custom Research Report December 2007 Catalog No. 62OHECRR1207 The Market for Online Degrees in Liberal Arts Data Type Secondary Key Sources
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Learning Collaborative for Higher Education Online Higher Education Custom Research Report December 2007 Catalog No. 62OHECRR1207 The Market for Online Degrees in Liberal Arts Data Type Secondary Key Sources Institutional Web sites In-house Eduventures data National Center for Education Statistics Key Questions How large is the national market for online degrees in liberal arts? Who are the existing players in this market? What are the major points of positioning and differentiation among existing online liberal arts programs? What opportunities exist for expansion into this market? Table of Contents Inquiry Overview 1 Methodology 2 Findings 3 Analysis & Recommendations 18 Future Research Opportunities 19 Appendix 20 Inquiry Overview The inquiring member is interested in expanding their program offerings to include online courses and/or degrees from their College of Arts & Sciences. Planning for the proposed online offerings is still in the exploratory phase. In following, the inquiring member seeks additional insight into existing online program offerings and their differentiation strategies in order to identify opportunities for the penetration into the online liberal arts market. In addition to examining existing liberal arts offerings from selected providers, the inquiring member seeks information about the size of the existing online liberal arts market, in order to inform program development strategies. Custom Research Reports - In-depth analysis of issues of concern to individual members. The OHE program maintains dedicated staff to support members' needs for detailed, quick-turnaround research. Requests may be prompted by issues raised in the OHE program's Collaborative Research investigations, may seek to leverage the collective experience of the OHE membership, or may take the form of small-scale primary research investigations or reviews of secondary literature. Requests are fulfilled on a first-come basis and generally take 10 weeks to complete subsequent to the receipt of an approved proposal. OHE staff work to deliver accurate, reliable data and information in all cases; however, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of data and information from all sources used. Key Investigation Steps: Step 1 Step 2 Step 3 Step 4 Step 5 Define scope and objectives of inquiry, and formulate hypothesis Identify secondary and/or primary sources to be investigated Collect data and test research hypothesis Summarize key findings with reference to supporting evidence Recommend specific actions and areas for further research, if needed Interview OHE member regarding objectives Formulate research hypothesis: Market opportunity exists for viable online programming in liberal arts. Scan of Competitor Institutions Web sites National Center for Education Statistics Existing inhouse Eduventures data Conduct competitive scan of select, major providers of online and on-campus liberal arts programming Conduct secondary analysis of existing inhouse Eduventures data to provide insight into the market Conduct market sizing using degree conferment data from NCES & existing Eduventures inhouse resources The online market for postsecondary programs in liberal arts is emerging The online market for Bachelor s degrees appears larger than for any other credential Interest in online liberal arts programming appears strongest for consumers ages years To date, existing programs are not strongly differentiated Consider combining core liberal arts elements with practical professional skills in order to increase appeal to working professionals If market entry is desired, utilize effective differentiation strategies Future Research: Consumer preferences for curriculum, pedagogy, delivery mode, etc., among the target audience for credentials in the liberal arts Methodology OHE staff conducted an initial environmental scan to identify major providers of online degrees in liberal arts. In collaboration with the inquiring member, OHE staff selected the following fifteen providers to include in the competitive scan: Northeastern University St. John's University SUNY Stony Brook 2/40 Boston University The New School Skidmore College SUNY Empire State College Syracuse University University of Oklahoma University of Toledo Harvard University Duquense University Drexel University Thomas Edison State University University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign OHE scanned selected providers institutional Web sites to uncover information regarding product offerings (B.S., B.A., M.S., M.A., program titles, etc.), pricing, accreditation, pedagogy, curriculum, delivery mode, and other major points of positioning and differentiation. In order to provide additional insight into the online market for liberal arts, OHE staff collected degree conferment data pertaining to liberal arts from the National Center for Education Statistics. OHE staff triangulated potential online liberal arts market size utilizing the NCES data and existing in-house Eduventures data. OHE staff also conducted a review of in-house survey data to provide insight into the preferences of consumers interested in pursuing liberal arts degrees. Findings are outlined below. Findings Key Findings: Overall, the U.S. online market for liberal arts degrees in emerging at best. Two separate arenas appear to exist, the market for online liberal arts courses, and the market for online liberal arts degrees. In theory, separate target audiences exist for each market. The market for online degrees at the Bachelor s level appears much more sizeable than does the market for online degrees at the Master s level. Existing in-house Eduventures survey data indicates that there exists some interest among consumers for online liberal arts and humanities programming. Interest for the totally online delivery mode is strongest among consumers ages Existing programs do not appear to be differentiated strongly. Most programs position themselves as providers of degrees for working adults, relying heavily on the convenience & flexibility premise that oftentimes accompanies online education. Most degrees currently offered, at least among this set of providers, are positioned as degrees unique to each student with individualized sets of curricula, with core courses focusing on traditional liberal arts themes, including critical thinking, math, analytical skills, writing skills, and the sciences. 3/40 Part I. Online Liberal Arts Market Sizing In the academic year (the most recent year for which data is available from the National Center for Education Statistics), 43,751 Bachelor s degrees in liberal arts were conferred in the U.S., a growth rate of about 4 percent over the previous year. Over the past ten years, on average, U.S. degree conferment at the Bachelor s level for liberal arts has grown about 3.12 percent per year. Although this growth rate isn t as explosive as for other disciplines, such as technology, the growth has been steady, and OHE staff predicts that this trend will most likely continue.. Over the past ten years, on average, U.S. degree conferment at the Bachelor s level for liberal arts has grown about 3.12 percent per year. The online market for degrees in liberal arts is emerging; OHE staff has observed heightened levels of interest in online liberal arts degree programs or courses among institutions in recent years, though most interest has most commonly been at the exploratory level. Increased interest among postsecondary providers appears to fall into one of two realms: core online liberal arts courses online, and online liberal arts degrees. Theoretically, each one of these realms targets a different audience, and so presents a separate market. Presumably, students interested in online liberal arts courses are most commonly traditional college-age students, studying in on-campus setting, who for reasons of scheduling convenience prefer to take one or two liberal arts courses online rather than on-campus. This market is explored more in-depth in the recent OHE Custom Research Report entitled Consumers Preferences for Online General Education Courses and the Ohio Regional Market (Eduventures catalog number 38OHECRR0607). Conversely, online degrees in liberal arts may appeal to a different type of learner. Interestingly, there are little to no providers of online liberal arts degrees among for-profit schools, indicating that this market is dominated almost entirely by non-profit providers. The nature of the online liberal arts degree is inherently different than the nature of historically popular online degrees in fields such as business, technology, and education, that are targeted for a specific set of working adults looking for practical degrees to enhance their careers in a particular field. However, as the markets for such career-oriented postsecondary education near saturation, nonprofit providers looking to enter the online market may seek alternate online programming targeted toward a learner looking to develop the types of analytical thinking skills that are common in liberal arts programs. Little is known about the target audience for this type of programming to date; it may be that online liberal arts programs may appeal to a younger audience than has been historically attracted to online education (the age group comprised of working professionals). More research is necessary to uncover the demographics, preferences, and motivations of students interested in pursuing online postsecondary degrees in liberal arts. Figure 1 below illustrates the trends among U.S. conferment in Bachelor s degrees in liberal arts over the past ten years. As cited above, liberal arts conferment at the Bachelor s level has experienced slow but steady growth. Informed by data from the recent OHE collaborative 2006 Online Higher Education Market Update study, OHE staff has estimated total U.S. enrollments in Bachelor s degree programs in liberal arts, as well as online enrollments (and the growth of the online market) at the Bachelor s degree level in liberal arts. 4/40 Figure 1. U.S. Conferment, Estimated U.S. Enrollments, and Estimated U.S. Online Enrollments for Bachelor s Degrees in Liberal Arts, U.S. Conferment Estimated U.S. Enrollments Estimated U.S. Online Enrollments , Figure 2 below illustrates trend data for U.S. conferment for Master s degrees in liberal arts over the past ten years. Similarly, OHE staff has projected both U.S. enrollment and U.S. online enrollment in liberal arts Master s degree programs from (the most recent year for which conferment data was available from the National Center for Education Statistics). The market for Master s degrees in liberal arts is considerably smaller than the market for Bachelor s degrees. During the academic year, only 3,680 Master s degrees in liberal arts were awarded in the U.S. a small fraction of those awarded for Bachelor s degrees. Similar to the market for Bachelor s degrees, the market for Master s degrees has experienced steady growth (though slow). On average, conferment for U.S. Master s degrees in liberal arts has increased by 5 percent over the previous year, a rate somewhat higher than for Bachelor s degrees. The online market for Master s degrees in liberal arts is estimated by OHE staff to be highly niche, with only a small number of enrollments during the academic year around 500 (based on existing Eduventures data and NCES conferment data). Figure 2 below illustrates these findings. Over the past ten years, on average, U.S. degree conferment at the Master s level for liberal arts has grown about 5 percent per year. 5/40 Figure 2. U.S. Conferment, Estimated U.S. Enrollments, and Estimated U.S. Online Enrollments for Master s Degrees in Liberal Arts, U.S. Conferment Estimated U.S. Enrollments Estimated U.S. Online Enrollments , Key Takeaways: Overall, the U.S. online market for liberal arts degrees in emerging at best. Two separate arenas exist, the market for online liberal arts courses, and the market for online liberal arts degrees. In theory, separate target audiences exist for each market. The market for online degrees at the Bachelor s level appears much more sizeable than does the market for online degrees at the Master s level. Part II. Consumer Preferences for Online Liberal Arts Programming In 2007, Eduventures completed a national survey of consumers interested in pursuing postsecondary education in the next three years. In total, over 2,100 consumers participated in the survey. Of those consumers, 167 indicated that they were interested in pursuing a degree in liberal arts or humanities. The largest group of consumers interested in liberal arts or humanities preferred to study on-campus, though over 14 percent of these consumers indicated that the online delivery mode was their first preference. This data is illustrated below, in Figure 3. When delivery mode preference was cross tabulated by aged, it is evident that the age group most receptive to online liberal arts programming appears to be between the ages of 25-34, with preference for the totally online modality declining as age increases past 34 years. These findings are illustrated below, in Figure 4. 6/40 Figure 3. Preference of Consumers Indicating an Interest in Liberal Arts or Humanities Postsecondary Education 1.8% 0.6% A totally on-campus program 13.8% 26.3% A totally online program 29.3% 15.0% 13.2% A program that is primarily online but includes some campus-based courses or other activities A program that is primarily oncampus but includes some online courses or other activites A program that is balanced equally between online and on-campus Another form of distance learning (not online- such as correspondence, CD-ROM or video) Other (Not sure) Figure 3. Preference of Consumers Indicating an Interest in Liberal Arts or Humanities Postsecondary Education, by Age 45.00% A totally on-campus program 40.00% 35.00% A totally online program 30.00% 25.00% 20.00% 15.00% 10.00% A program that is primarily online but includes some campus-based courses or other activities A program that is primarily oncampus but includes some online courses or other activites A program that is balanced equally between online and on-campus 5.00% 0.00% years old years old years old years old years old years old 65 years old and older Another form of distance learning (not online- such as correspondence, CD-ROM or video) Other [Please specify] 7/40 Among this sample of consumers, preference for a particular credential was not striking. However, the largest number of the consumers who had indicated an interest in studying liberal arts were interested in pursuing a Master s degree. This data is illustrated below in Figure 4. These findings are interesting, given that the market for Master s degrees in liberal arts remains small in comparison to the market for Bachelor s degrees in liberal arts. The reason for the conflict in findings is somewhat unclear, though it is possible that, as this survey did not target a particular age group, and the majority of respondents were above age 25 (Figure 5 below), most participants may already have completed their Bachelor s degree, assuming that the market for Bachelor s degrees in liberal arts is mostly comprised of consumers ages Figure 4. Preference for Liberal Arts Credentials Among Consumers Other [Continued enrichment] 0.6% Not sure 12.6% A non-credit course or certificate 19.8% Individual for-credit graduate courses 9.0% Graduate certificate 1.2% Doctoral degree 13.2% Professional degree (e.g. MD, JD) 2.4% Master s degree (including an MBA) 20.4% Individual for-credit undergraduate courses 1.2% Bachelor s degree 12.6% Associate degree Undergraduate certificate 2.4% 4.8% 0.0% 5.0% 10.0% 15.0% 20.0% 25.0% Key Takeaways: Existing in-house Eduventures survey data indicates that there does exist some interest among consumers for online liberal arts and humanities programming. Interest for the totally online delivery mode is strongest among consumers ages 25-34, and interest in the online modality appears to decline as age increases over 34 years. Interest in online liberal arts programming, however, is not negligible for the year age group. 8/40 Figure 5. Age of Respondents Indicating an Interest in Pursuing Liberal Arts 65 years old and older 13.20% years old 17.40% years old years old 13.80% 16.20% years old 24.60% years old 14.40% years old 0.60% 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% Part III. Competitive Scan of Existing Institutional Providers of Liberal Arts Programs In order to uncover existing trends in the market among providers of online liberal arts programs, OHE staff conducted a comprehensive scan of the institutional Web sites of fifteen schools, including Northeastern University, St. John's University, SUNY Stony Brook, Boston University, The New School, Skidmore College, SUNY Empire State College, Syracuse University, University of Oklahoma, University of Toledo, Harvard University, Duquense University, Drexel University, Thomas Edison State University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Data was collecting on various points of positioning and differentiation, and findings are presented below. Among the fifteen selected providers, a total of 25 degree programs in liberal arts were offered. Of those programs, four were at the Associate s degree level (about 16 percent), fourteen were at the Bachelor s degree level (about 56 percent), and seven were at the Master s degree level (about 28 percent). Title of programs offered by each providers are listed below in Figure 6. 9/40 Figure 6. of Selected Providers of Liberal Arts Programs Institution Credentials Offered Northeastern University St. John's University SUNY Stony Brook Boston University The New School Skidmore College SUNY Empire State College Syracuse University University of Oklahoma University of Toledo Harvard University Duquesne University Drexel University Thomas Edison State College University of Illinois - Urbana Champagne Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts In Liberal Studies MA concentration in Global Development and Social Justice (Liberal Studies) BA in Liberal Studies AA in Liberal Studies Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MA/LS) Undergraduate Degree Completion Program Online The Bachelor s Program at The New School for General Studies (Completion Program) University Without Walls (UWW), the Skidmore College bachelor's degree completion program and individualized degree programs Individualized Undergraduate Degrees: Associate in Arts (A.A.), Associate in Science (A.S.), Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Bachelor of Professional Studies (B.P.S.) Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Associate in Arts in Liberal Arts Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies (Concentrations in Administrative Leadership, Humanities, Social Sciences, or Natural Sciences) Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies Master of Liberal Studies Degree Program B.A. or B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies CSCC Partnership - Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies Master of Liberal Arts (Artium Liberalium Magister, or ALM) Master of Arts in Leadership and Liberal Studies BS in General Studies - Individualized Studies Associate in Arts BA in Liberal Studies Bachelor's in Liberal Studies 10/40 Pricing Pricing was calculated by OHE staff by multiplying the listed cost per credit hour by the number of credit hours required to graduate. Therefore, for Bachelor s degree completion programs, the price reflects the cost per credit hour of the provider multiplied by the total amount of credits required to graduate, rather than the total amount of credits that may be taken at that actual institution (prices are calculated in this way to provide a basis for comparison). In addition, it should be noted that the prices presented in this report reflect the prices that are listed on each provider s institutional Web site. Oftentimes, tuition, or in some cases tot
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