Alyssa Sutton

LA GRANDE — Eastern Oregon University has begun to look into Online Program

Management partnerships, with a goal of increasing its online enrollment and retention rate.

At the Feb. 1 EOU Board of Trustees meeting, David Vande Pol, the school’s executive director of regional outreach and innovation, presented the idea of partnering with one of those OPMs, Pearson.

“No decisions have been made. “We haven’t partnered with anybody (or) signed any papers,” Tim Seydel, Eastern’s vice president for university advancement, said last week. “We’re exploring partnership options.”

Vande Pol, who was the former vice president of business development at Pearson, said that an OPM is an organization that specializes in the operational side of online learning programs.

“There’s a (line) between academics and the operational side of efficiently running online programs,” he said, emphasizing that an OPM would assist with marketing.

“They bring terrific marketing skills and a budget that, quite frankly, we don’t have,” Vande Pol said.

Through this assistance in marketing, if Eastern decided to form such a partnership, Vande Pol and Seydel believe the university could reach its goal of recruiting 5,000 full-time equivalent online students by 2029.

“We’ve seen six straight years of declining enrollment (and we’re) looking how we can turn the tide,” Vande Pol said. “There’s a sense of urgency.”

While it isn’t yet known how much a partnership would affect tuition, an OPM would receive a percentage of tuition revenue.

“That percentage would be based on the level of service (the OPM provides),” Vande Pol said. “That (percentage) is ultimately up to the (university) president and board.”

The target audience for such a partnership is online students.

“It would only impact online students,” Vande Pol said. “It would impact new students who we currently don’t have online, out in the marketplace. Working with (an OPM) would allow us to expand and recruit and help us with market outreach, application processes and enrollment.”

Vande Pol explained that even though an OPM would be helpful in marketing and retention of students, the OPM would be invisible to students.

“They’re completely in the background,” he said. “We’re the captain of the ship. They’re a service here to help.”

See complete story in Monday's Observer