St. Davids, PA: It's no secret that enrollment in higher education has dropped across the country. Initiated by changes in the economy and accelerated by a disruptive pandemic, colleges nationwide have been experiencing disappointing declines. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported a 7.4% decline in college enrollment over the last two years, or nearly 1.3 million students since Spring 2020.
This makes it all the more shocking that Eastern University has experienced a 52% increase in total enrollment over the last two years. From Spring 2020 to Spring 2022, the university grew from 3,174 to 4,815 students.
So, what’s the secret? While many programs at Eastern have experienced growth over the last several years, the biggest increase has come from Eastern’s innovative new LifeFlex graduate programs, which feature fully online, flexibly-paced modalities with radically inexpensive price tags.
For example, Eastern’s new MBA in Organizational Management and MS in Data Science cost only $9,900 and can be completed in as little as 10 months. The Master of Social Work (MSW) costs only $14,400 for students with advanced standing and can be completed in as little as 2 years. Over 2,500 students have enrolled in Eastern’s LifeFlex programs so far.
Provost Kent Sparks, who led the launch of the LifeFlex programs, explained that the vision for this new model began with personal experience:
“I’m one of those life-long learners, and I was personally interested in a new graduate program. I started looking around, and it really got me thinking about how someone already launched in life just isn’t looking to spend $40K on another degree. I started wondering, What if we could design a program that people could conceive of paying for out of pocket? I was trying to find the true win-win by focusing on what students need.”
Thus the vision for the LifeFlex model was born, and quickly took off. The programs feature an innovative self-paced design within a fully online platform, allowing Eastern to provide a high-quality education at a fraction of the price of most other programs. Students rapidly jumped on board.
Sparks reflects, “I always felt confident that the LifeFlex™ model would be popular, but I had no idea how fast it would grow. In the first term we offered the MS in Data Science, we had 92 students enroll, quickly followed by 100 more students at our next start term seven weeks later. Since then, the numbers have continued to climb.”
Eastern University is a faith-based institution, with a long-standing desire to make a positive impact in the world by serving students well. Sparks elaborated on how the new programs align with Eastern’s faith-based mission and values:
“Eastern has always been intentional about incorporating our Christian faith into the content of our courses. But we really started thinking about what it would look like to also incorporate our faith-based values into the delivery and the price. We wanted to be as smart as possible with our students’ money, so we started dreaming about what it would take to offer people a graduate program that they wouldn’t have to go into debt for. The LifeFlex model allows adult students to work at their own pace, around their busy schedules. It allows them to achieve their dreams in an affordable, manageable way.”
Students have expressed that the programs allow them to do just that. Data Science student Marie Valadez shared, “I love how the Data Science program allows you to work at your own pace. With three kids and a full-time job, this has helped me balance my already busy schedule with school. The professors have been very responsive to questions and helpful in understanding exam questions.”
Looking to the future, Eastern hopes to launch a new series of adult undergraduate LifeFlex programs in order to reach students who want an associate or bachelor’s degree in a flexible, online format for an affordable price.
“It’s an exciting time to be at Eastern,” shares Provost Sparks, “and I can’t say thank you enough to all of the faculty and staff members who have worked together to make this exciting growth possible.”
About Eastern University
Eastern University is a Christian university enrolling approximately 4,800 students in its undergraduate, graduate, and seminary programs. The university’s main campus is located in St. Davids, PA, with additional locations in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and online. Eastern’s core values of faith, reason, and justice are woven into all of its educational programs. For more information visit eastern.edu or contact Kelly Goddard, Associate Vice President for Marketing, Enrollment & Communications: firstname.lastname@example.org.