Press Release

Smart Degree Empowers Adults to Successfully Complete College and Pursue Career Goals While Limiting Cost Burdens

New Program Includes Student Marketplace, Where Schools Will Compete for Student Enrollment with Financial and Other Incentives

Media Contact:
Laura Wooster

(Lincoln, Neb.) Nelnet Enrollment Services and BU Ventures, Inc., a wholly owned, for-profit subsidiary of the non-profit, regionally accredited Bellevue University, today announced the launch of Smart Degree, a new program designed to help the 60 million adults ages 25 and older in the U.S. with some college credit but no bachelor’s degree[1] return to school to complete their undergraduate education. Smart Degree is a free program delivering support and cost savings to ensure students are academically, personally and financially prepared to return to school and have the ongoing assistance they need to earn their degrees.

Offering the support network critical for success, Smart Degree provides participants with a free, independent college mentor (not affiliated with a college). Mentors help simplify the confusing and complicated process of returning to school by taking prospective students through a step-by-step program to assess their existing credits, academic preparedness and career goals and interests. By working with a Smart Degree mentor, participants will ensure they are academically and financially prepared for college and are taking the right steps to achieve their academic and career goals.

For individuals who have been out of college for a period of time and are concerned about gaps in their education, Smart Degree offers free educational assessments to determine if the participant needs to refresh and remediate basic skills to help prepare them for immediate educational success. If general education or other pre-requisites need to be fulfilled, participants are able to access low-cost, regionally accredited online general education courses from Bellevue University, which help to lower the total cost of the degree program.

Higher Education Institutions Compete for Students

Smart Degree includes access to a Student Marketplace, a revolutionary new approach to help prospective students find the ideal college or university program. The Smart Degree Student Marketplace will put the power of school selection in the hands of the prospective student. No longer will potential applicants need to face the complicated and intimidating process of trying to find the school with the right degree program for them. Instead, colleges and universities that sign up as Smart Degree partner schools will compete for students, presenting competitive tuition offers and other incentives, features and benefits.

Smart Degree participants build online, anonymous profiles in the Student Marketplace that outline their goals, experiences, academic and career history. Student Marketplace partner schools will review this information and compete for the student, offering details including accepted transfer credits, competitive pricing and other student-specific features of the desired degree program. Prospective students can make a selection based on the offer best aligned to their academic, career and financial goals and begin discussing the enrollment process with the selected school.

Comments on the News

  • “There is no question that a college degree is worth it financially. But for adults who have been away from the rigors of academic life for several years, the prospect of returning to school to finish a degree program can be overwhelming. Smart Degree eliminates the burden and uncertainty, helping adults prepare personally, academically and financially to work towards completing a program that will fulfill their career ambitions.” – Michael E. Echols, Ph.D., Bellevue University, Executive Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Bellevue University’s Human Capital Lab, and award-winning author of Your Future is Calling – A Practical Guide to the Education You Need to Have the Future You Desire

  • “The Smart Degree Student Marketplace turns the application and enrollment process on its head, putting the student in the driver’s seat. There is no other program where higher education institutions will have the opportunity to compete for non-traditional student enrollment, presenting customized tuition pricing and other features and benefits. Smart Degree participants can be confident that they are receiving the best value for their education, as well as a great academic and support program that will help them achieve their education and career goals.” – Dale Leatherwood, Managing Director of Business Development, Nelnet Enrollment Services

  • “The ability to enroll Smart Degree program participants is extremely compelling. Students will be truly prepared to complete their degrees and improve their professional development. Quinnipiac University Online is excited to be a part of the Student Marketplace and looks forward to program participants becoming Quinnipiac University students.” – Cynthia Gallatin, Associate Vice President and Chief Operating Office, Quinnipiac University (QU) Online

  • “Being a part of the Smart Degree Student Marketplace will make our recruitment efforts extremely strategic, as the program will introduce us to prospective students who are prepared for academic success. We look forward to welcoming Smart Degree participants into our Tiffin University degree programs.” – Jeremy Marinis, Vice President for Enrollment Management, Tiffin University

Additional Resources

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About Nelnet Enrollment Services

Nelnet Enrollment Solutions (NES), comprised of the Smart Degree, Peterson’s and Sparkroom brands, provides products and services that keep students and their families engaged throughout the pre-college, in-college and post-college experience. For students, Smart Degree and Peterson’s offer information, tools and support to help prepare for and find the school that best matches their needs. For schools, Smart Degree offers an innovative opportunity to reach and attract motivated non-traditional students in a no-risk environment, while Sparkroom provides fully transparent, analytics-based enrollment marketing services and robust performance marketing software. NES is a division of Nelnet (NYSE: NNI), a leading provider of innovative educational services in loan servicing, payment processing, education planning and asset management.

About BU Ventures, Inc.

BU Ventures is a wholly owned, for profit subsidiary of Bellevue University. Bellevue University is a non-profit, regionally accredited American university located outside of Omaha, Nebraska. BU Ventures has an independent Board of Directors and a mission to create and manage innovative solutions to challenges and opportunities in post-secondary education.

[1] Source: Eduventures, Closing the Degree Completion Gap: Challenges and Opportunities Thought Leadership Report, May 2014

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