Are universities "selling" online programs through agenda setting?
Higher education in America is at a tipping point?the traditional, common college student is no longer that traditional or common. While much of America maintains a preconceived notion of the ?traditional? college student?18-22 years old, attending full-time, and living on campus?the numbers show a different picture: Traditional students compose only 14% of undergraduates (Betts, 2017). Meanwhile, online programs are becoming mainstream for universities, as more are offering them and many are expanding majors and levels of degrees (Poulin & Strout, 2016). Something has shifted in the academic marketplace, and universities must react to remain relevant. With this new academic landscape comes a number of challenges. Overall enrollment rates at universities have slowed considerably in recent years. For example, between 1997 and 2011, undergraduate enrollments increased by 45% and post baccalaureate degree enrollment rates increased by 45% (Hussar & Bailey, 2014). But between 2011 and 2022, undergraduate enrollment rates are projected to increase by only13%, while post-baccalaureate degree enrollments are projected to see just a 9% increase(Hussar & Bailey, 2014). More telling is the rate of enrollments for traditional students?those between the ages of 18 and 24?that is projected to decline by 4% through 2022(Lederman, 2014). Fewer students are taking courses on ground campuses?the decline is approximately 1.2 million over the last four years (House, 2018b)?while online course enrollments continue to grow (House, 0218a). With enrollments of traditional students declining, universities are wrestling with new ways to increase enrollments.