Can Flexibility Help Maintain Enrollments?

Many institutions are looking to HyFlex delivery as a way to increase or maintain declining enrollments. During the spring of 2022, Edge Research and HCM Strategists (2022) and the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation partnered to conduct focus groups and an online survey of 1675 high school graduates who never attended or who dropped out of college. The purpose of the research was to better understand what impacts the decision to attend and complete college and what it might take to recruit and retain students. The study is summarized in reports by Edge Research and HCM Strategists (2022, September) and the Chronicle of Higher Education (June, 2022) and the full report is also available online (Edge Research, 2022). Figure 1 outlines the research process.

Research Process

Figure 1. Edge Research and HCM Strategists (2022)

Findings Related to Flexibility

While this research does not specifically address HyFlex teaching and learning, it does provide insights around exploring the value of HyFlex delivery. Findings suggest that program flexibility is a highly ranked potential support for helping students complete a college degree and this “audience remains open to hybrid and flexible education options that meet them where they are and may not have been as available before the need for online learning as a result of the pandemic” (Edge Research and HCM Strategists, 2022). The support ranked highest overall with 76% extremely + very helpful was “having more flexibility in programs to fit your life”. Being able to get more education without additional debt was another top-rated solution for completing a degree. Young adults were less concerned about knowing their classes would be in person, which as a support had the lowest ranking (44%) and only 14% indicated that not wanting to take virtual classes (due to COVID) was a barrier to college.

Supports that Would Help Young Adults Earn or Complete a Degree

SupportsShare who view type of support as “extremely” or “very” helpful
Having more flexibility in programs to fit your life76%
Being able to get more education without additional debt75%
Financial-aid adviser who can help with financial aid, scholarships, and questions about managing money75%
Job counselor to help make connections, prepare for interviews, and find jobs73%
Having opportunities to get real-world, hands-on experience while in school72%
Having a free class for all new students on managing personal finances71%
Counselor to help figure out what to study and what classes to take71%
Free laptop and internet access when enrolled70%
Assistance with costs of living, such as child care and free transportation70%
Knowing that all your classes will be in person44%
Table: June (2022, September 28) Data Source: Edge Research, HCM Strategists, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Join the Conversation!

We would love your input, what is happening at your institution? Do your students want more flexibility in their programs? Post your comments.


Edge Research and HCM Strategists. (2022, September 28). Where are the Students?

June, A.W. (2022, September 28). Some High-School Grads Say No to College. Here’s Why — and What Might Change Their Minds. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Read the full report here:

Edge Research and HCM Strategists. 2022. Exploring the exodus from higher education. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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