While support for professional, continuing, and online programming continues to increase, there is still considerable work that needs to be done to maximize programming potential. 

These are the findings from Modern Campus’ 2023 State of Continuing Education report, which were just released and the results provide the higher education community with data to better inform strategic planning of professional and continuing education programs and to compel leaders in the field to prioritize the role of these programs within the higher education ecosystem.

The research project, supported by The EvoLLLution, the Canadian Association for University Continuing Education (CAUCE) and the University Professional & Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), focuses on identifying professional, continuing, and online (PCO) unit program offerings, institutional support and capabilities, perceptions of the competitive landscape, as well as continuing education collaboration and integration within the larger institution. Member institutions of UPCEA, The EvoLLLution and CAUCE were invited to participate in the survey which took place between January 10th and January 26th, 2023 and a total of 190 institutions provided feedback.

In 2023, 71% of respondents agree that their PCO units have the support and buy-in from senior leadership to scale and expand PCO courses and programs, a 5% increase from 2022 (66%). While additional support is undoubtedly a positive indicator and a critical first step, it is time for institutions to move beyond this initial checkpoint and incorporate PCO programming into the greater strategy and portfolio of the institution.

The study reveals that even though there is agreement that continuing education programming positively influences enrollments in traditional educational programs, it is still not well integrated or easily transferable into traditional institutional programs. In fact, 60% of respondents disagree that continuing education offerings are well integrated into the structure of the institution’s portfolio of traditional offerings. Moreover, over half (55%) of respondents indicate that students in their institution’s non-degree offerings do not have the ability to earn credit for their enrollment in those offerings (see Figure 22 from the report below). This disconnect can cause a significant barrier for learners and hurdles for staff. 


Among those institutions that do not grant credit, 76% of respondents from the 2023 survey report that the biggest hurdle in developing non-credit to credit pathways is institutional barriers or systems, up from 67% in 2022, closely followed by faculty buy-in/support (65% versus 56% in 2023 and 2022, respectively) and developing a non-credit transfer evaluation policy (63% versus 61% in 2023 and 2022, respectively).

On top of systemic issues with program integration and alignment, PCO programs are still struggling with challenges related to staffing, administrative burdens, and real-time data access. In 2022 and 2023, only 57% of PCO units cite having adequate staffing required to implement institutional goals. The study also indicates that over two-thirds of respondents (68%) report administrative burdens as a challenge in course or program expansion, a 15% increase from 2022. Another prevalent issue is real-time data access, as this year’s report indicates a higher percentage of respondents (46%) disagreeing that it is easy for members of their institution to access real-time enrollment data for PCO students compared to 2022 (38%).

As the demand for professional, continuing, and online programming increases, academic leadership must address the areas of concern in their programs that need support and attention. PCO programming is an integral and equal function of an institution’s portfolio and must be prioritized and incorporated into the overall strategy of the institution. 

Access the full report here.