Calhoun Community College’s Adult Education Program serves 800 to 1,000 GED students annually.
The program offers GED classes at 29 locations including their campuses in Decatur and Huntsville, Alabama, and Corrections facilities and community partner locations throughout a defined service area.
In a recent interview with Janet Kincherlow-Martin, Dean of Institutional Advancement, and Dana Wolfe, Director of Adult Education, we learn more about how the program is using creative marketing campaigns to recruit and enroll GED students.
Could you tell me more about Calhoun Community College’s Adult Education program?
Dana: We have a large diverse program that covers four counties. We offer GED classes, bridge classes, ESL, pathway programs (Ready to Work), WorkKeys assessment, ACT prep and partner with the Manufacturers Skills Standards Council to offer marketable entry level manufacturing skills certifications.
How do you work with the adult education program?
Dana: I am the Director of Adult Education for Calhoun Community College. I administer the program and also aid with student development through curriculum and teacher management.
Janet: As Dean of Institutional Advancement, my office is responsible for marketing all programs through various vehicles. We do press releases and create other collateral that’s shared with career centers. We also build our visibility through social media, our own internal media, the website and advertise through the marquee on campus.
Could you explain how the “GED 4 Me” promotion works?
Dana: It will launch after spring break (late March) and students can come to any campus and take a GED Ready test for free and if they pass all four subjects they can take the operational GED test for free.
Janet: We are thinking that if we get students in the door that is the first step—they are often intimidated about coming on campus. We try to reach them where they are through classes with our community partners. You are less likely to be intimidated going to your church to take GED classes if a college campus intimidates you.
How did this come about? What was the inspiration?
Janet: We did a similar promotion a year ago called “SEE 4 Free.” We have a creative team and we typically like to sit down with everyone on campus because we see ourselves as an in-house ad agency. The emphasis for the campaign was meeting people where they are right now and helping them take the steps they need to earn their GED credential.
Have you seen success with students using similar promotions?
Dana: Within two weeks of advertising our phones were ringing off the hook, we still get calls and inquiries related to the “SEE 4 Free” promotion. I noticed that our enrollment jumped almost 100 students over a month, we had 200 GED graduates come out of our program. It definitely helped with our enrollment and testing numbers.
What are your tips for other programs looking to start similar promotions to support potential GED testers?
Janet: We try to incorporate a lot of different avenues. We rely very heavily on social media for all marketing. The biggest thing is to look at all the options you have— often people say they don’t have the money for advertising. Advertising is the wrong word, they should be thinking more along the lines of marketing because it includes everything and that’s a better way to go about promoting a program.
How is your program connecting your students to workforce development opportunities?
Dana: We offer them the opportunity to become a Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) Certified Production Technician (CPT) which is offered for free through a Department of Commerce grant. Through a partnership with the college we also offer other programs that help them gain career skills including a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Program and Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) classes.
What do you enjoy most about working with adult learners?
Janet: I’ve worked with the community college and in education for a long time. The passion for what we do is contagious. You know you’ve made a difference in someone’s life if you’ve ever gone to an adult education/GED graduation and seen the excitement of all the graduates.
Dana: I got into adult education 20 years ago working with the homeless. It has given me the opportunity to see the positive transition—you get to know someone and you help chart out a career pathway for them. You connect them with community resources and people who can help change the dynamics in their life. It’s a blessing and I’ve never cried as much as I do at graduation.