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Strategic Enrollment Management for Accounting Programs

In order to attract new students to accounting associate programs, community colleges need to set clear expectations.

For decades, accounting has been one of the most reliable white collar jobs available to those who want steady work and have a head for numbers. After all, businesses of all stripes need reliable professionals to help with bookkeeping, and many individuals need assistance with their taxes as well. Accountants are also responsible for conducting audits, and can help businesses prepare their information systems in order to maintain crucial financial records.

Community colleges have long offered programs for accounting, but as many advanced jobs in accounting require a bachelor’s or even a master’s degree, a two-year program can sometimes be a hard sell.

However, when it comes to two-year programs, community colleges should remember that many of their prospective students aren’t considering four-year programs at all. Many are mature students who have already spent time in the workforce and are now looking for a career change, while others are trying to decide between some college or no college at all.

For these students, demonstrating the benefits of a two-year accounting degree can make a significant long-term impact on their earning potential. However, to adequately attract the right students, community colleges should be proactive in providing accurate information about how their programs will equip them for the job market to prospective students.

Key information for students considering community college accounting programs.

When marketing community college accounting programs, the most important thing to keep in mind is that two- and four-year accounting programs prepare students for very different career paths. A bachelor’s degree in accounting is essential for anyone planning to become a CPA, but not all accounting students are interested in that career path—especially those entering a two-year program.

While students currently enrolled in two-year accounting programs may have a clear purpose in mind for their degree, many prospective students never enroll at all because they don’t see themselves as the right fit for the program. These students would benefit from marketing materials that could show them the career opportunities that become available to them with a two-year degree, even if they have no intention of becoming a CPA.

To attract students who are the right fit for a two-year accounting degree, community colleges should focus on the following points:

1. An associate’s degree can be completed faster and more cheaply than a bachelor’s degree, and allows for greater flexibility with work and school schedules.

It may be stating the obvious to point out that a two-year associate’s degree at a community college can be completed in half the time of a four-year degree at a university, but for many students this isn’t just a convenient benefit—it’s a practical necessity. According to recent community college statistics:

  • The average age of a community college student is 27.
  • 64.2% of community college students attend part-time.
  • Over 25% of students have dependent children.

In other words, the typical community college student isn’t enrolling full-time directly out of high school. Instead, they’re coming to community college after several years outside of any educational institution. Most have a day job, and a significant number are supporting families. Taking four years to study at a college full-time may not be a realistic option for them, but completing an associate’s degree while continuing their day job is.

Moreover, once a student graduates, the jobs available to them can also offer flexible working conditions, such as working part-time or from home. This can be very valuable for someone interested in developing a secondary stream of income, or someone who only has limited availability during the day.

2. A two-year degree will prepare students for jobs in bookkeeping or as an accounting or auditing clerk, and is a useful cross-over skill.

While many high-level accounting jobs require a four-year degree and CPA certification (which requires a bachelor’s degree to pass), an associate’s degree is enough to qualify a graduate for many entry-level jobs as an assistant auditor or junior accountant. As of 2021, the median pay for a bookkeeper or accounting clerk was $21.90/hr., or $45,560/yr.

It’s also important to remember that many students enroll in an associate’s program in accounting for purposes other than to become a professional accountant. Bookkeeping skills are also valuable for small businesses, as well as for business administration jobs at larger companies. Many older students enroll in accounting programs when they are considering a career change, as a way to improve their job prospects, or as a means toward advancing within their current place of work.

3. Credits earned through a two-year degree can be applied toward a bachelor’s program.

Finally, for students who are interested in advancing through a four-year program and earning their bachelor’s degree and CPA certification, a two-year degree can start them on that path more affordably than enrolling in a four-year degree. It can also let them gain some working experience with their associate’s degree before enrolling in a university course, or even help them work part-time in their chosen profession while finishing their degree.

Community colleges that want to advertise this strategy should work to establish transfer programs with universities in their area to ensure that any credit hours earned through their institution carry over. They should also work proactively with students to help them understand their degree path and make sure they are taking the appropriate courses in order to transfer successfully.

Aperture Content Marketing can help your community college with strategic enrollment management through information-based marketing materials.

At Aperture Content Marketing, our focus is on well-researched marketing materials for community colleges. Our experience has shown that long-form, career-focused informational pieces have been successful in raising enrollment at community colleges year after year. This is because students who can make decisions about their education with practical information are more highly motivated when they enter a career program, more likely to complete their degree, and more likely to recommend their program to other interested students.

Our multichannel marketing materials include a content library of program-specific articles, print magazines for direct delivery, online micro-sites, and social media support. Contact us today to learn more.

Community colleges benefit from a career-oriented marketing strategy. Read more from this series to learn how.