Northwest Missouri State University Case Study

March 19, 2024

Case Studies

One of 13 public four-year universities in Missouri, Northwest Missouri State University (Northwest) considers itself “right-sized” – neither the largest nor the smallest in the state but offering the right complement of services students need for a successful, profession-based learning experience. The University is well-known for its education programs and Northwest graduates are employed by school districts throughout the Midwest.

Despite its strong traditions, as a regional university, Northwest was facing challenges of increased competition and population demographics that projected a dwindling number of prospective students over the next decade. The University wanted to expand its impact beyond its traditional geographic boundaries and proactively position itself for sustainable growth by offering students from all backgrounds access to a high-quality, career-relevant degree. 

Northwest had previous experience but limited success in offering online programs using internal university resources. In 2016, after considering several options to help the University launch and grow its online programs, Northwest selected Academic Partnerships (AP) because of AP’s history of success, and because AP’s mission, vision, and approach meshed with its own.  

With a history of preparing educators, innovators and leaders, Northwest places a strong emphasis on community impact. Its online programs provide more students with pathways toward career advancement while meeting the needs of the community and employers. An example is the University’s diverse Education Leadership programs that prepare graduates to have a greater impact in the field of education.

The AP-Northwest partnership launched with a select number of education and MBA programs. AP and the University worked together, applying scalable models to streamline and optimize operational and administrative functions.

Based on the success of the initial online programs, the University has continued to expand its online offerings. Today, Northwest offers a robust portfolio of online programs, including a general MBA available in nine concentrations, more than a dozen MSEd. and Ed.S. programs, a wide range of master’s programs across diverse disciplines, two MSN programs, and undergraduate programs in business, healthcare, technology, and arts and sciences.

The University has seen consistent year-over-year enrollment growth, with a 63% increase in enrollment from 2020 to 2022. Enrollment in AP-supported online programs now comprises more than a quarter of the University’s total enrollment.*  

Equally impressive are the strong persistence rates of students enrolled in AP-supported online programs. Third-term persistence rates, a key metric used to project the likelihood of program completion, averaged 84.2%. *

Persistence rates in 2022 for education programs were even stronger, at 89% for third-term persistence.  

Northwest leveraged AP’s expertise and comprehensive services with strong cross-departmental engagement that helped drive operational success. The partnership’s holistic marketing approach included Field Marketing, where in-person outreach to school districts and teachers’ associations helped grow awareness of the University’s education programs across diverse populations, building strong connections with their communities’ prospective employers to help meet local workforce needs. These relationships benefit not only students and universities, but also help fill critical gaps for some of the community’s most essential employers.     

This highly engaged, collaborative partnership has been productive for Northwest. The University recently renewed the partnership and is actively working with AP on new opportunities to continue building sustainable growth that focuses on expanded access and broader community impact.  

* Academic Partnerships internal data. Third-term persistence rate is defined as the percentage of all students who are enrolled through the census date in their first term who are also enrolled through the census date in two subsequent terms.

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