James Cowie
Chairman & CEO

The OPM market is facing challenges on multiple fronts with impending regulatory decisions, big players exiting the space, and colleges reconsidering the long-term benefits of the OPM relationship. James Cowie, Collegis Chairman and CEO, provides insights on the OPM model and what’s next for online programming in higher education.

Do you think federal oversight has influenced the rapid evolution of the OPM industry?

Certainly, the federal government’s scrutiny and uncertainty surrounding the OPM revenue-sharing model have had an impact. Some institutions may shy away from long-term models that attract controversy, while others may continue. The shadow of uncertainty affects decision-making and makes it difficult for institutions to enter into long-term revenue share relationships.

Are there other reasons why companies like Wiley and Pearson are getting out of the OPM business?

The return on investment for the OPM has been challenged in certain areas. As the business has gotten tougher and more competitive, OPMs have not realized the expected returns, especially in the commodity-like nature of some courses and programs.

OPMs enabled institutions to quickly and cost-effectively launch online programs. What has changed?

First, institutions have learned there are benefits to owning skills and infrastructure in-house and to relying less on an outsourced service provider. Also, I think the OPM experience opened leaders’ eyes to the potential of doing things differently and whet the appetite for additional avenues of growth and innovation within their own institutions.

Speaking of innovation, how will data and AI-enabled technology impact enrollment marketing and the growth of online programs?

It will open up opportunities for new practices in attracting and retaining students. Traditional marketing and retention tools have seen little innovation, but the challenges in the market will drive institutions to leverage data and AI to gain insights and implement actionable recommendations.

How have recent events like the pandemic and student debt crisis changed what students are looking for and how institutions should reach out to them?

There has been a change in people’s perception of the value of education. Students are seeking shorter programs, more affordable options, and tangible employment outcomes. Institutions need to offer a broader menu of educational offerings and develop new channels to respond to these changing needs.

What do you predict the next phase or evolution will be for higher education online programs?

The OPM market will continue to exist, but as institutions look for ways to be more self-sustaining and innovative, some will develop online programs themselves, partner with other schools, or explore cost-sharing or shared-services agreements. Either way, evolution will require data to enable online program growth.

What makes Collegis Education’s partnership model of capacity building the right business model for this moment?

We believe in the transformative power of education and helping institutions be successful. By partnering with institutions and building their internal capacity, Collegis Education earns their appreciation and deepens long-term relationships. We are a combination thought partner and tactical pro. More consultative than an OPM. More executional than a consultant. When it comes to innovation, leveraging data is everything. To truly leverage data, you need an innovation enabler. That’s us.


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Author: Collegis Education staff

Collegis is passionate about education and driven by the technology that keeps institutions moving forward.