Pathway programmes, offering articulation agreements for entry into local university partners, are a growth industry in the USA. Providers in this sector report that student numbers are increasing and demand for university places via this route can be seen in the recent increase in partnerships between pathway providers and US universities.
Jean-Marc Alberola, President of Bridge Education Group says, “Bridge recently partnered with three universities here in the USA: Western New England University in Springfield, MA, Husson University in Bangor, ME, and Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY. Our goal is to reach 15-to-20 new campus-based centres in the next three to five years. We have also partnered with two Chilean universities, the Universidad Autonoma de Chile and the Pontifica Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso, to co-host and sponsor student fairs promoting higher education in the USA.”
Hayley Sullivan from ILSC San Francisco says that the company has been working hard to expand the geographical and academic range of their partners recently, particularly since the launch of their new school in New York this year. “Our list of partner institutions has more than doubled in the past year,” she says. “In the East Coast, where we’re making new pushes to add partners, we’re looking at schools that offer a variety of programme expertise and hoping to find more technical and creative programmes.”
ILSC is also offering partnerships with a range of education providers in order to appeal to a larger sector of the market. “We are currently targeting community colleges, as well as universities, who will offer conditional letters of acceptance into their graduate programmes,” says Hayley. “We’ve seen that undergraduate-level students are much more likely to choose a community college partner than one of our four-year university partners, who typically have higher articulation levels and tuition fees. Those who already have a bachelor’s degree are obviously looking for postgraduate programmes. Agreements with these programmes are obviously harder to obtain, which is why we have been focusing on developing the services in our programme like admission counselling for non-partner universities and test preparation courses.”
As well as providing pathways to a wider range of institutions, providers in this sector are also widening the scope of their courses in order to respond to student needs. Andrea Grassby at ONCAMPUS, part of Cambridge Education Group, says that they have developed two new partnerships with US universities in the last year Morrisville State College, part of the State University of New York (SUNY) and the University of North Texas. She adds, “We have expanded our offer to include guaranteed progression routes, options for students with lower levels of English and subject-specific pathways. These all sit alongside our original programmes that offer fantastic transfer advising and our ‘University Success’ course that is focused on supporting students to get places at top US colleges and universities.”
With the definition of a ‘pathway programme’ broadening to cater for all student demands, Jean-Marc relates that the model now encompasses a wide range of courses that vary significantly in length and content. “Several years ago, pathway programmes described almost exclusively a ‘one-plus-three model’ whereby the programme was a combination of intensive English preparation plus academic courses comprising the first full year of instruction with university credit earned towards the degree,” he explains. “Today, pathways is being used to describe a broader range of models, including academic English and academic skills preparation plus cultural orientation, often accompanied by a letter of conditional admission and a Toefl waiver.”
New courses introduced at Bridge include certificate courses at undergraduate level that combine intensive English preparation with academic subjects such as Accounting, Sales and Business Administration. Jean-Marc says, “These are particularly attractive to markets in Latin America and Europe that are looking for a short-term US university experience at an undergraduate level. This is also a great way for US universities to build their brand overseas in markets such as Latin America that are only beginning to look at the USA as a destination for higher education.”
It is likely that demand for pathway programmes in the USA will continue to grow, particularly as universities start to recruit more proactively from overseas. Andrea says, “Colleges and universities in the USA are recognising the benefits international students bring, both in terms of the diversity on campus and the overall global outlook of their student cohorts.” firstname.lastname@example.org
How do you develop and maintain a good relationship with your agent partners?
“Developing and maintaining good relationships with agents is an ongoing process. When we first connect with a new agent, we need to start the relationship by establishing our reputation with them, showcasing our track record, our awards, our years of experience, explaining how we can support their sales efforts, etc. After that, it’s about building trust by proving that we live up to our reputation offering great service, quick response times, a variety of useful marketing tools and materials, ongoing training, as well as periodic in-person visits to keep the connection strong. In fact, we sometimes do agent visits in collaboration with our university partner school representatives to co-brand and help strengthen both brands and answer questions about the programme more thoroughly. In addition, we are constantly updating our materials, including our searchable, interactive university pathway website, to ensure our agents have the tools they need to sell these programmes and can quickly find up-to-date information about our partner schools and their programmes. There are really a lot of things involved in establishing and maintaining our agent relationships, but what it boils down to is really delivering on our promises to our agent partners.”
Hayley Sullivan, University Pathway Program Coordinator at ILSC San Francisco