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Spotlight on Innovation: Lenoir-Rhyne’s Discount Models Assist in Graduate Enrollment Growth

Monday, May 7, 2018

ACA Spotlight on Innovation

Lenoir-Rhyne University’s Innovative Graduate Discounting Models Assist in Promoting Substantial Enrollment Growth

Beginning in 2008, Lenoir-Rhyne University initiated a concerted and strategic effort to expand its graduate programs for students. As a result, the university has created nearly 20 new graduate programs at the masters level, and it now prepares for its first doctoral program in fall 2018. In total, LR now offers its students about 30 graduate areas of study.

With the new programs, two new graduate centers in Asheville, NC and Columbia, SC, and significant recruiting efforts, graduate enrollments at LR have grown from less than 150 in 2007 to nearly 900 in 2018—a nearly 500% increase in eleven years. In an effort to promote new enrollments, the university developed and implemented three interrelated discounting programs for qualified graduate students.

LR Partners

The LR Partners Program promotes partnerships with local businesses, agencies, school systems, and municipalities to provide their employees with opportunities for graduate and adult undergraduate education at discounted rates. Initial Partner contracts typically stipulate a discount at 10% of tuition cost, but may increase up to 20% based on the total number of credit hours accrued in the previous year (providing a real incentive to current students to share the program with their cohorts). Most of LR’s graduate programs are included in the discount program (all that do not have a fixed enrollment limit in a cohort). In return for these discount opportunities, LR’s partners work with the university’s graduate enrollment team to provide information about the program to their employees through publications, emails, orientation programs, educational sessions, and so forth.

This program encourages workforce development in the region and responds to the training needs of local employers. In addition, this program provides a vehicle for collaboration between local employers and academic programs to ensure that curriculum is relevant and current to today’s job market. “As we developed our new graduate programs, each was considered with significant feedback from our local communities to better ensure we were meeting real needs,” said Dr. Amy Wood, Assistant Provost and Dean of Graduate and Adult Education. “In addition, faculty and students can provide specific research, training, or other consultation to local employers upon request. And, of course, the program strengthens graduate program enrollment in terms of numbers and the academic profile of students,” Wood noted.

LR Partners is proving to be an excellent tool for marketing and recruiting graduate students, while also building stronger relationships for further collaborations with community businesses and agencies. At present, the university has 63 partner agreements in place supporting its Hickory, Asheville, and Columbia programs, and more are being added each month. Last fiscal year, LR Partner students generated nearly $750,000 in additional revenues for the university.

For more information regarding the LR Partners program, contact Ms. Heather Stuart, Associate Director of Graduate Enrollment Management or visit the LR Partners web page.

Alumni Advantage

LR recognized that one of the potentially most fruitful arenas for attracting new graduate enrollments was with its own current undergraduate students. Student responses to the National Survey for Student Engagement (NSSE) found that well over two-thirds of LR First-year and Senior students planned to attend graduate school after completion of their baccalaureate degrees. Moreover, LR has a number of graduate programs that are especially well suited for building upon undergraduate degrees, e.g., Business, Education, Counseling, Public Health. With the significant expansion of graduate-level options, the university seized upon this opportunity to encourage its undergraduate alumni to remain at LR for an additional degree through its Alumni Advantage program. University alumni qualified for admission who complete their bachelor’s degree (or another graduate degree at an earlier time) at Lenoir-Rhyne University and who meet the specified criteria are eligible for tuition discounts on all graduate courses taken toward satisfying degree requirements at Lenoir-Rhyne University in participating graduate programs. The level of discount for which LR alumni are eligible is based upon the number of undergraduate credit hours earned at the university (10% for less than half their degree, 15% for more than half or for previous graduate degrees, and 20% for three-quarters or more of their credit hours).

The Alumni Advantage allows Lenoir-Rhyne University alumni to earn a graduate degree at a discounted rate. It furnishes an incentive for LR graduates to continue their graduate studies at Lenoir-Rhyne University. This program strengthens the university’s graduate program enrollment. It recruits a set of students for whom admissions and graduate programs already have substantial information concerning potential for success at this higher academic level and who have familiarity with and understand the mission of the University—further heightening opportunity for academic success. Since the program was initiated in 2014, approximately 340 LR alumni have taken advantage of this discounting opportunity.

Bridges to Dreams

Through dual enrollment in their senior year, qualified Lenoir-Rhyne University undergraduates may begin graduate courses in most LR graduate programs while still completing their undergraduate degree. Through the university’s Bridges to Dreams program, current LR undergraduate students may enroll in up to 12 credit hours of graduate-level coursework provided they meet the academic criteria for admission and are accepted into the Bridges program. These graduate courses, determined in collaboration with affected undergraduate and graduate programs, may be used to meet both undergraduate and graduate degree requirements. Students may select “articulated” combinations that are carefully connected to the graduate curriculum in a specific graduate program, or they may select appropriate courses available in graduate programs that are not connected to their undergraduate majors.

The Bridges to Dreams program is designed to assist current LR undergraduate students toward completion of a graduate degree. This program has been an especially attractive opportunity for undergraduate students in liberal arts majors who, with proper advising and course selection, may add a graduate degree in a professional area of study, e.g., English or Fine Arts majors to an M.B.A. degree, Psychology or Sociology students completing a Counseling degree, or History of Natural Science students completing their “4+1” program with a graduate degree (and licensure) in Education. And in combination with the Alumni Advantage programs, students are able to shorten the time and cost of their total program of study. For example, a Bridges student can save nearly half of her graduate tuition costs related to completing her M.B.A. degree at Lenoir Rhyne. To date, since the program’s start in 2014, 55 LR students have benefited from the Bridges to Dreams program.

For more information on the Alumni Advantage or Bridges to Dreams programs, contact Ms. Mary Ann Gosnell, Director of Graduate Admission, or visit the LR web pages for Alumni Advantage or for Bridges to Dreams


The Appalachian College Association’s “Spotlight on Innovation” series highlights interesting and creative strategies and programs implemented by its member institutions to improve student learning, business practices, or other components of its operations.