Concordia University, St. Paul restructures with eye toward online growth

Concordia University, St. Paul has created separate divisions for its on-campus and online programs in hopes of doubling total enrollment over the next 10 years.

The private university now has nearly 4,000 fully online students and 1,600 who primarily take classes in-person. In order to reach 10,000, school leaders hope to take a greater share of the online market in Minnesota and across the nation and world.

“We want every student who is thinking of an online opportunity to think about CSP Global,” Kim Craig, vice president for enrollment management, said of the new online brand.

Eric LaMott, provost and chief operating officer, said the new structure was necessary because each type of student has different needs. Concordia now can hone the experience for traditional students, who take classes on campus with summers off, while better serving online students who often start mid-semester and earn credits year-round.

LaMott said the creation of CSP Global also makes the statement that Concordia wants to be an even big player in online education, taking market share from the likes of Southern New Hampshire and Grand Canyon universities.

Officials expect to see overall growth in demand for online instruction, both from recent high school graduates and those who want to boost their credentials after starting their careers.

Although total U.S. college enrollment is down significantly in the last few years — in Minnesota, only 61 percent of 2021 high school graduates enrolled in the fall, down from 69 percent in 2016 — surveys suggest high schoolers today are more interested in online colleges.

In 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic, about 1 in 360 high school juniors and seniors planned to attend college fully online; two years later, that figure was 1 in 140, according to Eduventures Prospective Student Research.

LaMott said the pandemic forced colleges to get better at instructional design, and it legitimized online learning and remote work.

“The pandemic has shown that more remote workers are very comfortable in that environment,” he said.

Under the new structure, Concordia will continue to add around five academic programs each year by identifying fields where workers are in high demand, such as business and health sciences.

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