Read more about the article Reinvesting in the Right Online Academic Programs
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Reinvesting in the Right Online Academic Programs

Gray recently had the opportunity to work with the Provost of a private, non-profit college with over 36,000 students enrolled in a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs.  The college’s existing portfolio consisted entirely of online programs.  When the college initially conceived the project, it was thinking in terms of identifying new flagship programs, but as they engaged with Gray, they began to think more broadly.  As she explained, “We realized it was more than just looking for a flagship program – we also needed to look at our entire portfolio of programs….  And I thought Gray would allow us to do that.” 


“In Gray, I truly felt like we had a partner we could trust.”

Provost
Online College Serving more than 36,000 Students


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Read more about the article Institutions Must Invest in Excellence to Sustain Enrollment in Face of Weak Student Demand, Gray Associates Reports
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Institutions Must Invest in Excellence to Sustain Enrollment in Face of Weak Student Demand, Gray Associates Reports

Inquiry and Google Search Volume Decline for March 2018, Pointing to Lower Demand 

Colleges and universities must invest in “academic excellence” if they want to withstand declining student demand and sustain – or grow – their enrollment.  “Growth without academic excellence is not only difficult, it may be impossible,” Robert Atkins, CEO of Gray Associates, a higher education consulting firm, told participants in the firm’s most recent monthly webcast on demand trends in higher education, held Thursday, April 20.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), between 2010 and 2016 college enrollment dropped from 21.6 million to 20.2 million, a 6.5 percent decline.  This has led many institutions to cut expenses and, in some cases, lay off faculty and/or staff.  More than 400 colleges and universities, mostly in the for-profit sector, closed last year.  Other schools have attempted to wrest market share from the competition by increasing advertising budgets.

However, cost cutting and advertising are not sufficient to turn around struggling institutions.  “You need to make a sustained investment in the quality of the education you provide, which, in turn, will help you attract students at a lower cost than brute force marketing,” Mr. Atkins said, adding that schools need to make their programs better and differentiate them in an increasingly competitive market.

To a large degree, their success will depend on the quality of data they use to make decisions about programs and markets.  “You will need the best radar to find those spots where growth is possible,” he pointed out.

Both Gray’s inquiry volume data and Google search volume data for March point to continuing declines in demand.  Inquiry volumes were down six percent, year-over-year, while Google search volume was 11 percent lower.

National Google Searches1

Until recently, increased conversions – actions that move a prospective student beyond the inquiry stage – had been offsetting the decline in inquiries.  That is no longer the case.  While conversions for the third quarter of 2017 were 51 percent ahead of Gray’s baseline period, the first quarter of 2014, the conversion rate fell back to 25 percent above the baseline for the fourth quarter of 2017.

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Read more about the article WASC ARC 2018 Conference, April 25 – 27:   Bob Atkins to Speak on Program Assessment Best Practices
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WASC ARC 2018 Conference, April 25 – 27:   Bob Atkins to Speak on Program Assessment Best Practices

Gray Associates Founder and Chief Executive Officer Robert Atkins will be a presenter at the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Academic Resource Conference (ARC), April 25 – 27 at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Burlingame, CA.  He will participate in a session on “Best Practices in the Assessment of Current and New Programs.”  His co-presenter will be Joseph Hoey, Vice Provost, National University.

Session participants will learn how to assess the fit between an institution’s programs and external markets.  Mr. Atkins will identify sources for data on student demand, employment opportunities, competition, and degree fit.  These are the four components of Gray’s Program Evaluation System, which enables institutions to select the best programs to Start, Stop, Sustain and Grow, both online and at each campus.  Gray’s data, systems and processes have been used by colleges and universities that serve over 1.0 million students nationwide.

The session takes place 9:15 – 10:15 a.m. Thursday, April 26th, in Sandpebble Room C.  It is included in the following conference tracks: Track 3 – Student Learning and Achievement; Track 4 – Telling Higher Education’s Story, and Track 5 – Higher Education’s Stakeholders: Families, Employers, Policy Makers, and the Public.  For more information about the conference visit https://2018.wascarc.org/.

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Read more about the article 2018 Webcast Series:  Best Practices in Program Portfolio Assessment – Competition
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2018 Webcast Series: Best Practices in Program Portfolio Assessment – Competition

Part 3 of Gray's webcast series on Best Practices in Program Portfolio Assessment concentrated on Competition and Strategic Fit.  During this webcast, our team shared insights on how to evaluate the competition for new and…

Continue Reading2018 Webcast Series: Best Practices in Program Portfolio Assessment – Competition
Read more about the article Market Scorecard: A Summary of Critical Data on Market Attractiveness.
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Market Scorecard: A Summary of Critical Data on Market Attractiveness.

Related Posts: Largest Academic Programs Generate Nearly Half of Completions, Gray Associates Analysis ShowsA Concerning Trend? Colleges Are Graduating 50% More Women Than Men. {{cta('e57d5413-8079-469d-82a6-48009286468c','justifycenter')}}

Continue ReadingMarket Scorecard: A Summary of Critical Data on Market Attractiveness.
Read more about the article In 2018, the Demand for On-Campus Majors Has Fallen 14%.
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In 2018, the Demand for On-Campus Majors Has Fallen 14%.

Related Posts: In the Last Two Years, August Demand for On-Campus Programs Slipped 37%.January Inquiry Volumes Fell 11% YoY for On-Campus Programs. {{cta('e57d5413-8079-469d-82a6-48009286468c','justifycenter')}}

Continue ReadingIn 2018, the Demand for On-Campus Majors Has Fallen 14%.
Read more about the article Improve Marketing Results:  Identify the Best Markets for Your Online Programs.
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Improve Marketing Results:  Identify the Best Markets for Your Online Programs.

Related Posts: Gray Associates’ Market Analysis Program Identifies ‘Pockets of Opportunity’ for Enrollment MarketingA Growth Story:  Western Governors University {{cta('e57d5413-8079-469d-82a6-48009286468c','justifycenter')}}

Continue ReadingImprove Marketing Results:  Identify the Best Markets for Your Online Programs.
Read more about the article Gray Associates’ Market Analysis Program Identifies ‘Pockets of Opportunity’ for Enrollment Marketing
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Gray Associates’ Market Analysis Program Identifies ‘Pockets of Opportunity’ for Enrollment Marketing

As enrollment declines nationally, many colleges are struggling to keep their classes full.  After decades focused on their local markets, these colleges are marketing to students who live hundreds or thousands of miles away from their campuses.  As colleges extend their reach, they compete with colleges in these new markets and hundreds of other online schools, which can be a very expensive proposition.

By using data-driven geo-targeting strategies, colleges can identify pockets of opportunity throughout the United States where demand is strong – but competition is limited – for the programs they offer.

At Gray Associates’ most recent monthly webinar on March 29, guest presenter Jennifer Goode of Enrollment Builders, described how her agency uses Gray’s Market Analysis Program (MAP) to identify attractive cities for enrollment marketing.  The program ranks the attractiveness of all US markets for over 1,400 academic programs.  It then generates a Market Scorecard for each location and program.  The Scorecard is a one-page summary of data on student demand, competition, and employment.  With this information, Jennifer identified markets where she could generate cost-effective applicants for her clients.

“Many institutions are looking to get outside of the regional area where they are strongest to find pockets of opportunity across the U.S. that make sense for their programs,” Ms. Goode said.  She described a three-step process to identify where these pockets are located and how to market to them.

  • Identify national norms for individual programs on critical metrics.  Compare the norms to data on each city and program to identify the ones that beat the averages.
  • Focus on locations where there is a gap between competitive completions, student demand, and employer needs.
  • Launch a national marketing strategy alongside a regional strategy to incrementally grow programs in the target locations.
Market Analysis Program (MAP)-1

To illustrate, Ms. Goode compared Gray’s Market Scorecard for Computer Programming at the National level with the Market Scorecard for San Francisco.  Nationally, 72 percent of job postings for computer programmers require a bachelor’s degree, according to the Gray Scorecard.  However, only 47 percent of the workforce has a bachelor’s degree and only 18 percent of program completions are at the bachelor’s level, while 81 percent are for associate’s degrees and certificate programs.

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