Champlain College Online

Situation / Challenge

Burlington, VT-based Champlain College established Champlain College Online (CCO) to provide career-focused education for adult learners. Today, CCO serves more than 3,400 students in more than 60 online undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certifications. Nearly 70 percent of these students receive discounted tuition rates through Champlain’s truED Alliance Program, a workforce development program between Champlain and national employers.

Despite enrollment growth due to truED, CCO saw declines in its standard undergraduate enrollments, largely due to increased competition. College administrators decided they needed to reduce the institution’s online undergraduate tuition based on market research, student feedback and their longstanding goal to enable more access for adult learners. However, CCO needed to carefully navigate the communication of this change to stakeholders. CCO turned to Sage for help.

Our Strategic Approach

As part of a broader thought leadership campaign positioning CCO as a leader with unique offerings in the adult online education space, Sage developed a two-pronged outreach strategy: educate stakeholders about the barriers that adult students face in returning to school, then announce Champlain’s plan to reduce tuition for those students. The hook for this strategy was a Champlain survey of adult learners that found the single biggest barrier to college re-entry was tuition cost.

Based on these findings, Sage developed a press release and conducted aggressive outreach with higher education, industry, and business press. At the same time, Sage developed umbrella and segmented messaging, as well as a media FAQ about the tuition reduction. Once internal audiences were notified about the tuition change, Sage issued a related news release and again conducted media outreach. After the announcement, Sage pitched stories around the “hope gap” that prevents adults from returning to school, as well as Champlain’s effort to bridge this gap by lowering the price of education.


Thanks to Sage’s approach, Champlain was able to credibly convey its rationale behind the reduction to all its stakeholders – including alumni and traditional on-campus students untouched by the discount.

College administrators were thrilled about the media interest generated, including influential higher-education, consumer, and local / national business outlets like Education Dive, Campus Technology, Training Magazine, EAB’s Daily Briefing, ACE’s Higher Education Today, UPCEA’s Continuing Ed Update, Vermont Business, Forbes, Inside Higher Ed, University Business, eLearning Inside News, WCAX-TV, and Next Avenue. All this coverage has helped open doors for Champlain administrators to be sought out as experts on career-focused education issues.

The most important statistic? In the months after the announcement, CCO saw standard undergraduate enrollment jump by 120 percent year-over-year.