As I am sure you have experienced, adding a new degree program to the institution’s offerings is not as easy as one might think. At times, the approval process can be quite cumbersome: pulling together the documentation, building the case, waiting for board or state approval. So why start from scratch? Sometimes it is about taking a look at what you are good at. What you already have. At times it is about thinking outside the box and repurposing what you already have with some simple tweaks. Consider enticing a new audience or revive a dwindling program by adding a new concentration/specialization to an existing degree program.

Just as if you were adding a new program, you need to begin with research. Start with the degree programs, minors or certificates that you are currently offering and match them up against the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) using Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) codes to determine which degrees have the greatest number of degrees conferred. Take a look at the past five years to evaluate if the degrees conferred in that area have grown, remained flat or declined. Do not forget to look at programs by specialization too. Now take a look at your institutional data: What programs are having the greatest success, inquiries, enrollments, retention, alumni outcomes? Marry the data and look for crossovers or outliers.

Next, take a look at your region. Can you identify needs in local business, healthcare or education districts? What types of programs are your regional competitors offering? See if you can identify any underserved markets.

Finally, take your findings and again look for crossovers or sweet spots. For example, your institution offers a master’s degree in both business and engineering. Based on research, the number of degrees conferred in business programs and market demand remain high; STEM program degrees conferred have been on the rise. How about offering either an MBA with an engineering concentration or perhaps an MSE with a management concentration? Would either of these programs, or both depending on admissions requirements, appeal to regional employer(s) and prospective student needs? What is your regional competition offering?

By looking at concentrations as a viable option, you can avoid a cumbersome approval process and open existing programs to new markets. In many cases, courses from existing programs can be used/shared in the development of the new concentration, reducing development costs. All in all, this strategy will allow you to explore new opportunities and go to market quickly.

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