Austin Community College District's (ACC) Fast Track Career Program, aimed at getting Central Texans back to work, continues to grow. More and more students are seeing the need to earn a short-term credential that leads to an in-demand career in one year or less.
As of February 11, 2021, preliminary enrollment numbers for the spring 2021 Continuing Education courses show a more than 38 percent increase compared to the entirety of spring 2020. The college is also seeing a slight increase in Hispanic student enrollment in these programs, from 36 percent last spring to 38 percent so far this year. These numbers are expected to continue to climb.
The college grouped its rapid credentialing programs, which can be completed in less than a year, into "fast tracks" in summer 2020 in response to growing unemployment rates as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In fall, the college began offering a 50 percent tuition discount on 12 programs in the highest-demand sectors in the region and set a goal to increase enrollment in these programs. The tuition discount program expanded in December, bringing the total number of programs eligible for the discount to 29. New goals were set to double enrollment for spring 2021 over the prior year.
A cross-section of the college including the Continuing Education Division (CE), Office of Communications & Marketing (OCM), Office of Institutional Research & Analytics (OIRA), Business & Industry Partnerships, Workforce Education, and Enrollment Management Office began closely collaborating to build capacity and awareness.
A webpage for the fast track programs launched and steps were taken to boost CE's presence on Google search, in social media, and on digital advertising. In addition, two direct mailings, as well as bus ads and a handout, were distributed.
These efforts generated more than 39,000 new leads — meaning prospective students heard about the programs and reached out to ACC to learn more by visiting the website, emailing, or calling for more information. Outreach will expand throughout the spring.
Other efforts to increase enrollments include adding recruiters and increasing outreach to community-based organizations. The CE Division is currently receiving about 100 calls and 80 emails a day from prospective students seeking more information.
In addition, CE is working with the Enrollment Management Office and the marketing team on the implementation of a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. This new CRM system will merge all new students into one system and then funnel them to the correct office for follow up. This single door is expected to create a smoother experience for students and assure students receive the correct information regarding the program they are interested in.
To take students beyond the initial fast track programs, Workforce Education is working to develop seamless pathways or stackable credentials from CE to credit certificates, associate degrees, and in some cases, bachelor's degrees and is developing career progression maps for some of these areas.
For more information on the Fast Track Program, visit austincc.edu/fast.