Marketing online programs… An interview with Nancy Prater, Part II

Marketing online programs: areas of interest, “gainful employment,” careers in marketing

Today we wrap up our interview with Nancy Prater, director of marketing and communications at the School of Extended Education at Ball State University.

We’ll have a second interview in this new series sometime in April.

The first part of the interview, including social media in recruitment, mobile marketing and more, was posted last week. 

To follow-up directly with Nancy on anything here, contact her by email


Do you see a significant difference between interest in bachelor’s and master’s level programs? Do you expect the current interest level to change in the next few years.

  • At Ball State, we have had a much larger percentage of graduate students than undergraduates in our online classes.
  • However, due to many factors coming together at the same time–most especially the Great Recession and the increased acceptance of online education as a quality option–our undergraduate population is starting to rise. We are starting to see a significant increase of adult learners in our bachelor’s degree completion program. Plus, we have added some new undergraduate certificates—such as in emerging media journalism and apartment management–that seem to be attracting working or unemployed adults who are seeking to improve their professional skills and marketability.
  • Our adult learners are very practical in their approaches to their education. They want to see how this will benefit them today, as well as tomorrow.

The “for-profit” sector is under scrutiny from the federal government right now. Would the “gainful employment” rule have an impact on schools like Ball State if it is adopted?

  • I think the intense scrutiny that the for-profit education sector is undergoing is going to be a challenge to all of us for awhile. There are a lot of knee-jerk reactions going on right now as government officials are realizing that some high-profile, for-profit universities have benefitted from students’ financial aid, while some students are strapped with an unmarketable degree and, often, a large student debt.
  • It’s probably too early to say how the gainful employment rule might impact public institutions like Ball State until the final version has been released. However, I think it is part of an overall trend of the federal government getting more involved in higher education. And I think that trend will continue no matter which party is in power, because higher education is such a key factor in the United States’ ability to influence and compete in a global marketplace.

Any special advice for people thinking about a career in higher education marketing?

  • “Run. Run like the wind!” 
  • Seriously, anyone who knows me will tell you how much I love this work. I have always said–and still believe–that promoting higher learning to improve people’s lives is a noble profession. And, for the other marketing professionals I work with at Ball State or am acquainted with from other institutions, I know there is a lot of personal satisfaction in what we do. While it is true that you may not make as much money and the politics can be maddening, higher education marketing is a terrific field to enter. It’s especially good if you like constant change and constant challenge.

Nancy, thanks for sharing your time and insights.


That’s all for now

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