"How do you continue to have a viable organization and provide programming to meet the community's educational needs with decreasing resources?" Moeller says.
Her answers are fund-raising and careful allocation of the college's resources.
"We have to make sure we don't have unnecessary programming," she says. "We have to be very cautious and creative."
Offering off-campus learning centers, online classes and diverse programming are other tactics Moeller employs to ensure Columbus State is more than just a blip on the radar screens of prospective students.
"So how do we get nimble enough?" Moeller says. "By staying in touch with these rapidly changing needs."
Columbus State's advisory board is a valuable resource Moeller taps into to learn what's going on in the outside work force. She also watches which industries are developing in the region and the college undertakes a lot of trend analyses. And the college partners with local businesses to provide trained employees.
The off-site learning centers in Delaware, Union, Madison and Franklin counties meet community-specific needs; Moeller says it's the individualized programming that can make a center successful.
Finally, online classes play an important role in Columbus State's success. Says Moeller, "In the fall of 1998, we started offering online classes. We started with 600 students. That number has increased to more than 4,000. And what we've seen is there is no difference in quality or what the students learn."
Smart Business spoke with Moeller about the challenges of meeting the region's educational needs.
There is a growing demand for adult education. What are your strategies for capturing a good share of this market?
We need to be conveniently located, geographically, to students. We put a number of courses online, and close to 300 of them lead to degrees to meet the needs of the community and adults.
We are also working with business and industry to provide training, which is another way to address the population of students in the work force, and offer those classes at different locations. Students can take classes on our campus and at the off-campus locations.
We also have special programs that provide a fast track into the work force that provide noncredit certificates. These classes can last three weeks or 10 months, depending on the class. Some are specific to the IT area, some in the health industry. We work in partnership with OhioHealth to address a shortage of nurses in the community.
Our online enrollment has grown exponentially over the last few years. More than 4,000 students take classes online. In some programs, students could get all classes online but most combine online with classroom experience.
Seventeen percent of the students that take classes online take all of their classes online through a degree such as e-commerce.
What are your student demographics?
The average age of our students is 26.9. A lot of our students are adults, and we have a growing population of 20- to 25-year-olds. The high school graduate group is growing, too, but not as quickly. The majority of our students are in the 35- to 45- (year-old) age range. Some students are older -- we have a few as old as 80.
Which industry has the biggest demand for adult education, and how do meet it?
Health care, because of the shortage of nurses. The industry is trying to get in and train people to respond to that shortage. Other areas that are growing are technical ones. Business programs are becoming much more specialized.
Our biggest issue to address is how to take people that are underemployed or unemployed and partner with business and industry to train and develop people to fill skilled jobs.
For example, some automotive dealerships need technicians. There is a shortage of automotive technicians in the area. Dealerships support the students and have offered them internships in addition to the work they do on campus. The dealerships are creating a pool of available employees.
There are other, similar programs. We've worked with banks and hospitals, too. Human resources employees must tell the students what the expectations are. Students have gotten jobs from these programs, and some have been promoted twice since they were hired.
One good thing is that a lot of our students have developed an enjoyment for learning and continue their education, which takes them beyond the entry-level job.
What are your biggest challenges in preparing the college to meet the needs of future students and businesses?
Once we get over increased demand and diminishing resources, the challenge for any CEO is, how do we stay nimble and be able to pivot quickly when our students' needs change? How do we prepare our people? Distance education wasn't there 10 years ago. How do we prepare and offer online classes and still have the quality?
We have to do a lot of training. We have to watch trends and do a lot of trend analysis. I spend a lot of time reading national publications from professional organizations. We have an advisory committee that is an invaluable resource. What we have learned is that our students have to receive a quality, cutting-edge education or training, or no one will hire them.
We have shifted our resources to respond to new needs and removed them from others that aren't needed. We do that as regularly and seamlessly as possible. It could mean an increase in degree programming or a decrease. For example, we were providing dental lab technicians with an associate degree.
Our advisory panel let us know that the workplace was not hiring people with associate degrees, that a one-year certificate was enough. We weren't seeing students in that program. We made the change to a certificate program, and now the program is full.
How are you differentiating the college in the marketplace?
Columbus State is the only comprehensive college in Columbus that offers affordability, quality and convenience. Community colleges respond to local needs. We look at what industries are developing in the area and accordingly develop programs to respond to those needs. We are constructing a new academic building on Cleveland Avenue designed to meet work force needs.
We try to meet these demands quickly and get trained people into the work force. We have regular meetings to look at our programming to see how we're doing. Another big distinguishing factor is the Small Business Development Center moves from the chamber's offices to our campus to do more training.
You've opened 10 off-campus learning centers. How have they been received, and what has been their impact on overall attendance?
We have 10 centers located in growing areas. They have never impacted enrollment greatly; that is more dependent on what kind of programming is offered at the centers. We are refining what to offer each community.
We are an urban college and have to serve the city, but we are also in Delaware, Union, Madison and Franklin counties, and you have to think of programming in these areas differently.
How to reach: Columbus State Community College, (614) 287-5353 or www.cscc.edu