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Lisa Lattuca speaks with Inside Higher Ed about the success of new degree programs

March 21, 2023

When it comes to growth, a new study finds that the type of institution launching a new program matters more than the program’s subject.


Inside Higher Ed reports that researchers with the labor market analytics firm, Lightcast, have found four-year public universities and larger institutions (whether public or private) are more likely to see new degree programs prosper. Their finding is based on an analysis of federal data on degree conferrals. 

The report defined a new academic program as growing if it had both a minimum of 10 graduates in at least one year and had grown its number of graduates by at least 50 percent. However, Lisa Lattuca, director of CSHPE and professor of higher education, says that metric might not apply to every situation. 

“There’s a whole bunch of scenarios I can think of where the enrollment target matters, and where growth of 50 percent isn’t actually what you want or what happens,” Lattuca told Inside Higher Ed. For instance, she explained, some undergraduate programs may be approved with an expectation of a slow ramp-up to better recruit new students rather than transfers. Or, a professional program may have capacity limits related to the availability of placements for internships.

“The world changes, and higher education often gets criticized for not changing with it,” Lattuca said. She suggests university leaders think about adding new programs in a way that best serves their particular community of students.

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Director, Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education; Professor, Marsal Family School of Education; Professor, College of Engineering