Student Retention is the New FTES Builder/Marketing

I feel embarrassed! After five years with the Doing What Matters program as a Sector Navigator I belatedly got around to assessing the Total Addressable Market, TAM, for students (see chart below by Karen Beltramo). The numbers shown are ‘approximately accurate’ and cannot be added together – because students may be in one or more ‘opportunity’ category. However, the revelations to me were a slap in the head!!! Very instructive, for example:

1) The largest single addressable opportunity for FTES and Student Outcomes are existing students. These are the 1.5 million ‘CCC exit’ students annually that represent our non-completing and single course students who already know where to park and how to register. Customer retention is often the most cost effective of all marketing strategies because the customer, or student, is more easily captured than a non-familiar customer. With a FTES to headcount ratio running about 50%, convincing existing students to complete an effective pathway or program is a huge opportunity for the schools and students alike.

Pathways where the first step enables employment in six months or less, addresses the needs of those who exit for economic reasons (rent, diapers and food).

2) Combining the adult unemployed, underemployed and discouraged from looking, we have about 2.2 million addressable up-skiller market. CCCs already do well in serving this growing demographic. These may be more challenging to reach than existing students, but with good pathway design and marketing there is a significant and growing opportunity.

3) High School Graduating, often thought of as the traditional student, is a category projected to decline slightly in the next year or two. Combining their numbers with high school drop outs and CSU exits is still a significant group of young people looking to get started on an effective entry level career path.

We know that all these categories are valuable and may be sitting side by side in any classroom; however, by comparing the numbers we can develop more targeted marketing strategies. For example, retention strategies indicate the value of reinforcing that pathway completions lead to jobs...and success! Whether by faculty reinforcement in the classroom, student newsletters, community engagement or flyers on the car windshields (in the parking lot) – the pathway completion message is the most immediate reward for marketing effort we can get.

The ICT Team recommends that the BIW and ITTP pathways are excellent pathways to support student retention and completion. With complete course descriptions, 3rd Party certification goals and online support students can get started in their careers within six months and build expertise and additional education over the next few years. Statewide out of 110,000 students enrolled in one or more BIW classes, 30,000 persist (retain). Statewide out of 43,000 students taking an IT course only 13,000 persist (retained). We have 100,000 students to talk to!


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Sector Navigator & Director

Steve Wright

[email protected]

Phone: 805-496-8583

Copyright 2013 by California Community Colleges - All rights reserved

An initiative of the California Community College's Economic and Workforce Development (CCCEWD) program, the ICT-Digital Media Sector Team is dedicated to serving California's ICT-Digital media workforce needs. We are an integral part of the California Community Colleges and its Doing What Matters for Business & Industry framework, investing funding and resources in industry sectors that are key to California's economic growth. Our industry-specific workforce services are coordinated through a system of sector specialists that align community college and other workforce development resources with the needs of industry sectors and occupational clusters through a regional focus. Learn more by visiting