Welcome to the next installment of a new Gateway series seeking to draw attention to critical topics in our profession. This third installment features Trine University and their approach to strategic growth initiatives in international student enrollment.
How does a high impact university strategy evolve into an international student population that in 10 years grew from 63 to 4000 students and maintained an 80% retention rate? Jaw dropping, yes. By coincidence, no. How did they accomplish this? Without a doubt, behind a great success story are the untold chapters of blood, sweat and tears leading up to where they are today. What first led them to change course?
In 2012, with one student in the graduate program, Trine University’s David Colbert, AVP of International Services and Global Partnerships was asked by his administration if there was potential to grow their international programs. Initially, after offering an MBA and MS Engineering Management, they were able to see some initial positive results. Realizing there was a strong potential, the school embarked on a long term strategy focused on building their international student population.
But how did they achieve their goals? David attributes this success to “Hard work along with a supportive administration that sees the value both from an institutional perspective and as revenue potential.” Three main hallmarks contributed to their winning strategy: Trine University leveled up, strategically pivoting to create quality programs focused on student demand, thinking beyond their four walls, and a powerful collaboration.
Focus on Student Demand
Building strong relationships with overseas partners such as universities, global ed tech companies and agents, enabled consistent market intelligence and understanding of market demand. This key information enabled Trine University to adapt to changing markets and build an effective recruiting strategy. A starting point was curated partnerships based on cooperation from both sides providing key information affecting current and future social mobility trends such as economic and political influencers impacting students’ decisions on what to study and global trends requiring consistent monitoring of world situations and flexibility to readjust strategies.
Thinking Beyond the Four Walls
The school’s next focus was to identify key cities to best facilitate growth of international graduate student populations. Trine University analyzed international student demographics in the U.S and projected career demands. Based on what they discovered, and with careful consideration, the university determined specific locations to offer four graduate degree programs to meet student demand and launched their first satellite branches in Detroit and Phoenix.
Creating a unified approach internally consisted of a supportive administration and a strong partnership between their graduate school and international departments enabling the university to quickly adapt to the market demand and needs of students. By aligning institutional goals with international strategy, the university was able to execute a clear plan with positive outcomes. Today their joint efforts have seen strong growth in their MS Business Analytics and MS Information Studies programs and an 80% retention rate, which can be attributed to quality curriculum, an international department focused on understanding and meeting student needs, recruiting for the right fit and strong global partners. Ellis Technology, as an innovative partner, is helping in their success by meeting the needs of their students pre-arrival, setting them up for success from day one of arriving in the USA and getting situated in a new country.
Trine University is a model for what happens when a high impact strategic initiative works in tandem with great leadership, collaboration and adaptability. And, they aren’t sitting on their laurels, instead, expansion continues as they grow bachelor’s and doctoral programs at their satellite branches, pathway and online programs.
Read more about Trine University’s growth here.