Zenith Education Group: The First Six Months
Zenith Education Group (Zenith) was launched in February 2015 with ECMC Group’s acquisition of more than 50 Everest and WyoTech career colleges from the now defunct for-profit Corinthian Colleges chain. The schools were immediately transitioned to nonprofit status, creating one of the largest nonprofit career college systems in the country. In keeping with Zenith’s nonprofit mission, we are measuring success not by how many students we enroll, but by how many students complete their programs and get jobs in their fields when they graduate. Upon Zenith’s launch, we immediately began to implement a series of initiatives designed to improve student outcomes and the affordability of our programs. On August 11, we published a report outlining a number of actions we have taken in our first six months to put students first and improve our schools. A summary of those initiatives follows.
Improved Affordability and Financial Counseling Support
In Zenith’s first week of operation, we launched two main initiatives designed to help minimize student debt and improve the affordability of our programs: a 20 percent tuition reduction and the Zenith Student Grant, which has already resulted in more than $7 million in awards to students. Since then, we have developed more robust financial literacy counseling for students and shifted more financial aid services to our campuses. We are already beginning to see the benefit of these efforts reflected in our trend data, which show a decline in the debt burden of our students.
Ensuring a Clear Path to Good Jobs
We measure success primarily by whether our students complete their programs and find gainful employment in their fields of study. Since Zenith’s launch we have implemented several initiatives to improve the alignment between our programs and employer needs, including: Student Choice, program phase-outs and enrollment caps for underperforming programs, upgrades of existing curricula and the identification of new programs and certifications with strong placement prospects. In addition, we have been fostering an open dialogue with employers in our local communities with the goal of expanding existing partnerships or establishing new ones that can expand available job opportunities for our graduates.
Creating Student-Centered Marketing and Admissions
In keeping with our non-profit mission, we have made it a priority to create a new approach to marketing and admissions – one that provides useful, timely and accurate information to help each prospective student make a quality decision about where to attend school and what program to pursue. Our primary focus is on enrolling students who are likely to complete their programs and become employed in their fields, not on higher enrollments. We are in the process of developing a new, student-centered, locally-based marketing and advertising program to help build positive awareness of our Everest and WyoTech schools and reflect the new direction of our institutions. In addition, we believe the improvements we have made in program affordability, and those we are making in program quality and student outcomes, will help us improve the reputation of our schools, attract new students and employer partners and maintain healthy enrollment numbers over time.
Building a Mission-Driven Leadership Team
Over the past few months we have made substantial progress in hiring new senior leaders with a passion for building a more effective model of career education. We have made several high-level hires to date, including a senior vice president for student success, chief information officer, chief human resources officer, president for Everest University Online — and most recently — a Zenith provost and chief academic officer. Our search for additional members of our leadership team is ongoing. In particular, we have made considerable progress in our search for a permanent Zenith president and expect to have this position filled by early fall.
Regulatory and Compliance Safeguards
In keeping with our commitment to create a career college system rooted in accountability to students, we are operating Zenith with the utmost integrity and transparency, including compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Among several initiatives to strengthen regulatory compliance, we have centralized compliance leadership, retained an Independent Monitor, and rolled out a new mission, values and code of conduct for all Zenith employees.
Creating a New Model of Career Education through Innovation
Since Zenith’s launch, we have kept students at the forefront of our decision-making and launched multiple initiatives in service of building a more effective model of career education. In addition, we have started to gather innovative ideas – internally and externally – that will help our institution become best-in-class, through our Campaign for Innovation and the IDEO Project.
We are proud of the progress we have made to date, but recognize that our work is far from done. Our future plans include the continued implementation of several initiatives already launched, such as improving student outcomes; strengthening our placement services and employer relationships; improving the prospective student experience; expanding program and certificate offerings; hiring additional leadership; and tapping into internal and external ideas to help create a more effective career school model. We look forward to staying in communication with our students, employers, regulators and the public at large about our continued progress.
For a complete copy of the progress report, read the full report here: http://www.zenith.org/zenith-six-month-report.