Distinctive Excellence: The Key to Effectively Managing Continuing Education Units

By Michael Frasciello, Dean of the College of Professional Studies

Reposted from Evolllution

Not unlike traditional academic units, Continuing Education (CE) units are under increasing pressure to scale enrollments while delivering high-quality experiences to learners. This isn’t a new challenge for us. In notable ways, our students—nontraditional students—are typically more sensitive to aspects of the academic and student experience than traditional learners. What’s different now is how we meet this challenge while responding to the increasing demands placed on our units in the quasi-post-pandemic and modestly disrupted, rapidly evolving world of higher education.

It may sound like a crab walk away from the question, but I think our best response to the enrollment/quality challenge is continuing to do what we’ve always done best: meeting our students where they are. We meet students where they are when our programs are accessible, flexible, affordable, market-sensitive and result in immediately realized benefits. When we do this well, enrollments follow. When we do this in highly targeted and customized ways—that demonstrate our distinctive excellence—enrollments grow.

Distinctive excellence is where the quality question is best addressed. Quality is an experience our students perceive from their first inquiry to their last learning engagement. When the entire student lifecycle experience is perceived as high quality, we see enrollment growth, more consistent persistence and increased retention in our programs. In this context, the most important aspect of quality is doing what we have always done in our CE units: recognizing that our students bring valuable experience and perspectives into our programs and classrooms. We best address the quality question by not viewing our students through a deficit lens but through a distinctiveness lens—through their life experiences, perspectives, discipline, focus, prior learning and potential.

That is simply to say that we can address the enrollment/quality question by continuing to do the things we do best and work to do them better because our students demand and require that we do so. One of those things is our agility in responding to opportunities with market-sensitive solutions. The evolving global market for degree and non-credit programs is one such significant emerging opportunity.

Recent estimates indicate international student enrollments in higher education will be as high as 377.4 million by 2030. CE units should expect a significant portion of these students will be seeking alternative credential opportunities while they remain in-country (during and after they complete secondary education). CE units can lean into the projected unmet international demand by leveraging and marketing stackable credentialing programs, which can then be transformed into lifelong learning engagements. One version of this model has us offering customized programs through targeted pathways for international students to include recognition and credentials for the diversity of learning that develops the skills and competencies required by industry (in-country and in the U.S.).

For some CE units, leaning into the global alternative credential market represents a major shift from their status quo, and a significant risk to enrollment and quality. But shifting domestic demographics in the U.S. and the nontraditional student’s move toward the center of higher education demands CE units not be comfortable with their current foci. By not moving now to improve the way they are currently addressing the enrollment/quality question, CE units will miss the next best opportunity to differentiate themselves from other academic units in their institutions. This failure to move will leave the door open for challenges to the CE unit’s value, role and place within the institution—a “Yeah, maybe we should be doing that” suggestion from the main campus. Ceding the alternative credential and global workforce development opportunities to non-CE units will ultimately result in lower enrollment (and by extension, lower revenues) and compromised quality in programming and support.

Beyond the example of the global alternative credential market noted above, consider the growing demand for skills training among traditional undergraduate students. Typically, “skills” is a four-letter word in the traditional undergraduate curriculum domain. For many universities, it would be difficult (if not impossible) for any academic unit other than the CE unit to design, mount and deploy programs focused on teaching skills that remain relevant in new, changing and unknown contexts—skills that are more nuanced and industry-focused than competencies such as critical thinking, digital literacy, communications, etc.

All this opportunity and action to grow enrollments and improve quality—this necessity to hold and extend the ground we’ve gained through the pandemic—assumes we are properly resourced. I almost always get the resource question as in inquiry into our capacity: “Do you have the capacity to off-ramp OPM-based programs? Do you have the capacity to produce non-credit programs? Do you have the capacity to deliver a pathway program to homebound international students? Do you have the capacity to do everything that isn’t full-time, credit-oriented, on-campus instruction?”

My best response, as the most agile and entrepreneurial unit in my institution, is: “Let us worry about the capacity. You bring the opportunity; we’ll deliver the results.”

That response doesn’t mean we never say no. It rather suggests that, like many other CE units, my unit is best equipped to assess business opportunities. We have greater tolerances to run programs at break-even, as our labor and infrastructure costs are much lower than our traditional academic unit counterparts on campus. And we can stand programs up and down more quickly than traditional academic units without disrupting primary lines of business (such as undergraduate and graduate education and research).

Higher education has experienced more disruption since 2010 than in the previous 75 years. To capitalize on market contractions and current and future disruptions, CE units must break from the status quo by taking bold strategic and operational steps to produce and align differentiated and high-quality academic offerings within the changing marketplace. CE units can serve as their institution’s strategic response to create access and postsecondary educational opportunities for populations who fall outside the traditional residential undergraduate and graduate learner anywhere in the world.

When done boldly and intentionally, CE units will be the vehicle for their institution’s complex and sustainable transformational strategy to identify and prioritize opportunities for significant operational, financial and instructional changes over the next 20 years.

Staff Spotlight: Rosemary Kelly, Student Administrative Services Office

The College of Professional Studies’ mission is to deliver exceptional support and services to a diverse part-time student population seeking a Syracuse University education. The Student Administrative Services Office stays true to this mission by assisting students from the time of inquiry to graduation. 

“We are a one-stop shop that includes admissions, academic advising, financial aid, bursar, and registration offices dedicated to our student populations,” says Rosemary Kelly, assistant dean. 

In this Q & A, get to know Rosemary and her role in the Student Administrative Services Office.

  1. What is your position at the College of Professional Studies?

I am the assistant dean of the Student Administrative Services (SAS) office.

  1. How long have you worked at the College of Professional Studies?

I have worked in higher education for over 40 years, 35 at the College of Professional Studies. I’ve held positions as an academic advisor, assistant director, director, program administrator, and now as an assistant dean. Across my career, the constant has been the students. What I have witnessed and what makes the job exciting and energizing is understanding changing student expectations and the supportive services, tools and resources required for students’ success.

  1. In one sentence, how would you describe your role and/or department?

To provide access, opportunity, and support that creates a positive student experience for individuals seeking a Syracuse University degree part-time.

  1. What aspects of your profession bring you joy?

First and foremost, the students, but also their families, my colleagues, and the critical thinking that is required by a student services department. Students have individual circumstances that sometimes require creativity on our part to provide the support and resources they need to succeed. I have the good fortune to follow students from the beginning to the end of their Syracuse University academic journey. I value my campus, community and professional association colleagues for their collective wisdom, guidance and collaboration.

  1. What is your proudest moment at the College of Professional Studies?

Celebrating the successes of our students. Some successes include registering for that first class, finishing a difficult semester, and, of course, celebrating their graduation. We are witnesses to the ripple effects their successes have on their families, friends and the community in which they live. An advantage of being here for so long? We see graduates’ children as students!

  1. How does your department support students during their time here?

The SAS offices work with students from the time of inquiry to graduation. We are their first point of contact and remain their contact through their educational career here at Syracuse University. We assist students with navigating the University and its processes; advising in person, online, email, or phone; connecting students to relevant opportunities and resources, and liaison with campus departments.

  1. Our goal as a college is to provide high-quality service to our students. How does your department go above and beyond to support Syracuse University students?

We are a one-stop shop that includes admissions, academic advising, financial aid, bursar, and registration offices dedicated to our student populations. The offices operate as a team that strives to regard students as individuals, meet them where they are, offer options to meet their goals, and support them throughout their educational journey.

  1. If students would like to get connected with your department, how can they do so?

Phone: 315.443.3261


Address: 700 University Ave Suite 126 | Syracuse, NY 13244

Virtual appointments: Available through Zoom or phone during academic year hours. Contact us by phone, email, or Orange SUccess to schedule an appointment.

Syracuse University’s College of Professional Studies Celebrates 30 Years of Meaningful Partnership with Tokai University

by Cheryl Abrams

Arigato gozaimasu!

Satoki Awano, Tokai University student at Syracuse University

This Japanese expression of gratitude reflects how the students and leadership of Tokai University have felt about the English Language Institute (ELI) at Syracuse University’s College of Professional Studies for the past three decades.

“Syracuse University has always been very welcoming to the many students we have sent to Syracuse over the years,” says the Chancellor of Tokai University, Kiyoshi Yamada. “We have had the pleasure of hearing from students that they have learned a great deal and had a wonderful experience in a beautiful environment.”

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5 Questions You Should Ask a College Recruiter

The process of selecting the best college for you doesn’t have to be a difficult one. Now that you’ve gathered the informative brochures, it’s time to reduce your options. A conversation with a college recruiter can both simplify and expedite that process.

Speaking with college recruiters gives you the chance to discover more about the specifics of what the college has to offer, such as financial aid options, student resources, and part-time versus full-time learning opportunities.

If you’ve already selected the college you want to apply to, speaking with a college recruiter can also assist you in answering any questions you might have regarding the application process.

At the College of Professional Studies at Syracuse University, you can ask a college recruiter questions online, by phone, or in-person by appointment.

Not sure what to ask? The College of Professional Studies Admissions and Recruitment Office selected five questions to ask a college recruiter.

  1. What are the requirements for admission?

While the admission requirements for all colleges and universities differ, it is typical to provide all official transcripts from your educational journey and military experience, if applicable. Request an application checklist from your college recruiter or create your own to secure all of the information you need.

The application requirements for the College of Professional Studies can be found here.

  1. How long is the admission process?

The start date differs from program to program at each college and university. While some colleges may offer rolling admission and accept applications year-round, other colleges have strict deadline applications at the start of the fall, spring or summer semester. If you’re interested in applying to a program, it’s best to begin the research right away by connecting with a college recruiter.

  1. Are letters of recommendation valued?

Letters of recommendation are valuable and add strength to your college application. By providing a letter of recommendation, you’re allowing the admissions counselors to see your application from another viewpoint. Ask your college recruiter how many letters of recommendation you should provide, and start requesting these letters from your mentors, employers, or previous educators.

  1. How does the staff and faculty support students?

While it’s important to learn about the application process, don’t forget to ask college recruiters about student support resources. Utilizing the collection of resources available to you can improve your college experience in a myriad of ways. Resources may look different for students who are full-time versus students who are part-time. Additional resources may be available for online only students or military-connected students.

  1. What differentiates the College of Professional Studies online programs from other online programs?

The College of Professional Studies is the home for part-time Syracuse University students. Whether you’re attending part-time, pursuing a microcredentials program, or experiencing Syracuse University as an international student or high school student, it is our mission to deliver exceptional support and services to a diverse part-time student population seeking a Syracuse University education. For the past century, we have helped thousands of post-traditional students earn a Syracuse University degree and look forward to the next 100 years of providing access, opportunity, and support to generations of students who study part-time.

Did we miss a question? Click here for more questions you may want to ask a college recruiter!

Book an appointment with a College of Professional Studies recruiter today.

Syracuse University’s College of Professional Studies to Present at 2022 UPCEA MEMS

Syracuse University’s College of Professional Studies will present at the 2022 UPCEA MEMS: University Professional and Continuing Education Association Marketing and Enrollment Management Seminar in New Orleans, Louisiana, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2.

Presented by Jim Gaffey, executive director of administration and strategy, and Liz Green, executive director of Online Student Success at the College of Professional Studies, “Partnering to Increase Conversion” will discuss the vitality of partnerships in higher education to increase enrollments.

“We are incredibly excited for this opportunity to present our findings at the 2022 UPCEA MEMS poster gallery,” says Gaffey. “Our partnership with Anthology (Blackboard) is a key component of our marketing strategy and aims to offer an alternative perspective on the value of partnerships.”

To learn more about the 2022 UPCEA MEMS conference, visit

About the College of Professional Studies

The College of Professional Studies is a global, inclusive and future-facing college, providing access to diverse students and learners seeking a Syracuse University degree, credential, certificate, or education experience.