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Good afternoon everyone, and thank you for joining Gray’s monthly webcast on the most recent student and employer demand trends in higher education. Our monthly webcast is derived from our program evaluation system that supports ongoing academic reviews at all types of institutions across the country.
Before I pass the baton over to our CEO Bob Atkins, a couple of quick housekeeping items: Please feel free to share any questions with us in the chat window on the left hand side of the page. We will be sure to answer all questions at the end of today’s webcast. Lastly, a copy of the presentation as well as a recording of the webcast will be sent to everyone via email after the completion of today’s webcast. Without further ado, Bob.
Thank you very much, Mark, and my welcome as well to the October issue of Gray Reports. Today we’ll share the data for the year to date through September 2017.
Higher Education Consulting
For many of you, this is your first visit to Gray and our webinar, so let me just tell you who Gary is. We’re a strategy consulting firm focused in the higher education space. We work, as Mark mentioned, with schools of all kinds, great and small, public and private and for profit.
We’ve got many community college clients, some major universities, and a scattering of people in between as well. We work both with colleges both online and on-ground. And on all sorts of programs from low-end trade programs on up to data science.
We have assembled data to help our clients answer the strategic questions they face, and that data we’ll run through today. We have demographic data, we have data on competition, employment, wages, placement rates, and much of what we’ll share today is data on student demand in particular; inquiry data and the new data that’s been released from IPEDS. We link all that together so that we can look at the jobs associated with a given program and vice versa, so you can make decisions about what programs to offer, what markets to enter, with the best available data.
Now, with that information, as I mentioned, we help people pick programs, we help people pick locations and marketing areas of focus, pricing work, and general business projects, helping out on strategic issues. So without further ado, let’s take a look at what happened year to date through the end of September.
Agenda - Demand Trends in Higher Education
At a national level.
Overall Student Inquiries (All Sources)
Before I jump into the data, let’s just make sure we all understand how to read the charts. 2015 on these charts is in light blue. 2016 is in a darker blue and 2017’s in green. So the year over year trends we’re going to be talking about, essentially, will compare the dark blue bars with the green bars. Unfortunately, year to date on a national level, inquiries are down about 11%, but we will come back and show you that there is a silver lining to this could… in fact, a couple of them. This month was in keeping with the annual trend and we’re down 11% in September.
Now, really an inquiry isn’t the end game here. We’re all interested in students and really in students who stay and complete. One step on that path is conversion from an inquiry to a later stage in the process that might be an applicant or a starting student. What we’ve found in the last several years is that the time required to get from an inquiry to a conversion has been increasing. And what this chart shows you is that in the month in which the inquiry is received, about 60% of those will convert to a later stage in the process.
A month later, we pick up another 18% of the people who ultimately convert. We get to 78%, and then it starts to tail off and we get to 95% after six months. And as you can see from there on, the growth is obviously very slow, picking up a point or two. So we tend to think of fully mature at the six month mark. But we’re going to keep track of it here on in the presentation at 87% of total maturity, which is at about the three month mark. So, without further ado, let’s have a look at what’s going on with the conversions.
Inquiry to Application: Overall Conversion Rates
We started this index back in 2014. And that’s the line there at 100. And it’s been perking up ever since then, and in the last two quarters, it’s been substantially ahead of that initial benchmark at 100. We peaked at 130. And Q3 is not mature, so it will be a couple more months until that reaches maturity; the three month mark. So I would expect that that will be well above 30% up as that quarter matures.
Overall Student Inquiry Conversions (All Sources)
So, that gives a very different result when we think about conversions as opposed to inquiries. While the inquiries are down 11%, our conversions are up 6% in the month of June, the last mature month. July and August are already ahead of last year, and they will continue to grow over the next couple months. September is in very good shape. We’re at 60% on average in that first month, which would suggest that September will beat last year by at least 5% and maybe more.
Average Price for Pay-per-Inquiry
As you might expect, if we’re getting better quality inquiries, they’re going to cost a little bit more. This was a very pronounced trend last year. It’s diminished a little bit, and now what we’re seeing is basically flat growth in pricing over the last six to eight months. It’s been hovering around $45 without much change. This month it was up 23%, but that’s actually the second-lowest month so far this year, so I don’t think that’s a material trend.
Student Inquiries: 10 Largest Inquiry Budgets
In terms of what people are looking for, and how much schools are paying to get inquiries, let’s take a look at budgets. So we’re multiplying that price times the number of inquiries by program. And the program that comes to the top is Medical/Clinical Assistant. For those of you not familiar with this, this is a very large program run primarily at trade schools and two-year colleges, teaching people to get you from the front desk to an examination room at your doctor’s office. They’ll often take your blood pressure, weigh you and take your height. Very large program, good one-year program for people to get into the workforce and one of the largest programs in terms of acquisitions budgets as you can see here.
The next thing we see are two business programs: Bachelor’s plus and Associate and below. Those also very large indexed to the medical assistant program. Bachelor’s is about the same size; the Associate’s program is about half that size. Then if you look a bit further down, we’ve got a couple of other things that are more trade-like. We’ve got HVAC, and graphic design second from the bottom.
And then we’ve got one I think is pretty interesting, which is psychology general. I bring this one up because it’s close to the liberal arts. It’s a very large program across the board in higher ed and is showing up here as one that people are paying money to attract students for. And then we have health. Healthcare Administration, Medical Insurance, and Medical Office Assistant and Registered Nursing all amongst the top ten in terms of spending.
Student Inquiries: Budget Spending for 10 Largest Programs
The trend in terms of spending, however, is very different. Graphic design, which was second from the bottom on our list, actually got the most stable spending. The rest of the ones we just looked at are all dropping, typically double digits or more. Medical Clinical Assisting, the largest program, the spending was down 29%. So, pretty sharp drop for such a large program.
Agenda - Demand Trends in Higher Education
Now let’s shift over and take a look at online and on-campus, and see what’s going on—whether there’s a difference in demand for online and on-campus programs.
Inquiries for Online Programs
We hear all the hype about online, but is that backed up? Overall, inquires for online programs are down 4%. Now that is better than the 11% decline overall, but still not a very inspiring number. The story on conversions, however, is very different.
Student Inquiry Conversions for Online Programs
In June, our last mature month, conversions were up 89%. So we see enormous growth there. If you look at July, August & September: July is up, August has already passed last year as well, and September is on track to meet or beat last year’s numbers. So, online, while there’s a little bit of a slowdown in the inquiry volume, there’s no slowdown in conversions.
Inquiries for On-Campus Programs
On ground is a very different story. Here the inquiry volumes are down 21%.
Student Inquiry Conversions for On-Campus Programs
And the inquiry conversions are also down 17%. So the change in conversions is closer to being consistent with the inquiry volume. It looks as though this is going to get a little bit better going forward. I think it’s a bit too late for July to reach last year’s levels, but August looks as though it will meet or beat last year.
September will get close, although it’s running a little bit below what one might like for an immature month. It’s a little bit early to really be sure. So, I think going forward, this won’t be quite so consistently negative a pattern. It will be more hit or miss.
Agenda - Demand Trends in Higher Education
Now let’s take a look at trends by degree level.
Inquiry Volumes by Degree – Year-Over-Year Change
This is September 2017 year over year. Total number of inquiries and this is true, over a year ago, and then the story changed, now it’s changing back. The higher level degrees are now out-performing lower level degrees.
So doctoral degrees are up 14%. While they declined 1% or 2% Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees did out-perform Associate’s substantially, and actually did out-perform undergraduate certificates as well. And both these certificates and the Associate’s degrees were down over 10%. So the higher degrees significantly out-performed the low ones. Now let’s tear this apart by city and program.
Agenda - Demand Trends in Higher Education
Let’s see what we’ve got.
Student Inquiries: The Big 5 Cities
We first will look at the five cities with the most inquiries. One would hope these would be going up, but that is not the case. L.A. is up 8%. The rest of the cities in our largest group are all down, albeit down a little bit less than they were last year. In general, New York was down only 8%. Houston down 11%; that was 20% last year. Philadelphia did do worse than last year, it’s down 12%. Chicago’s down 22%, but again, a little bit better than the year before in terms of decline.
The Big 5 Programs: September Growth
Now, let’s take a look at the big ones, and here’s more negative news. We’ve got very large declines in inquiry volumes over the largest programs in our system. Medical Assistant down 30%. Two business programs down 32% and 46% respectively. Criminal Justice down 43%, and inquiries for Registered Nursing down 53%, which is troublesome for all these. And especially for the industry to grow, it’s worrisome that we’ve got such sharp declines here. It’s very difficult to get growth in the industry without growth in these individual programs.
The Slow 5 Programs: The Higher Education Programs with the Slowest Inquiry Growth
Of course the slow five; that is the programs growing most slowly are turning down even more sharply. We’ve got Liberal Arts here at -80% year over year, Curriculum and Instruction down 80%, Computer and Information Science is down 73%, Health Information Management, down 72%, Construction Management down 72%. So some very sharp drops here.
I would be careful when you see these really significant swings. It bears inspection to look underneath these numbers and see if there’s a major school that came or left the market. In particular, if you’re looking at your own local market, you can get big swings if somebody closes a program which may or may not reflect the underlying demand in the marketplace.
The Fast 5 Programs: The Higher Education Programs with the Fastest Inquiry Growth
And finally, the fast five. This is the most uninspiring performance by the fast five since we started reporting. Typically the fastest growing programs are going to be up 30% or more. We do have one still kicking here: Accounting and Business Management, up 51%. But the rest are only up—the second best: Health Services 26%, Graphic Design-- we’ll talk more about-- up 15%. Hospitality, 10%. And then in the fast five, and that is fastest growing, we still have one that’s down 5%, which you would guess the rest are down 5% or more as you would expect, given that the average is down 11%. A disappointing performance this month by our fast growers.
Agenda - Demand Trends in Higher Education
Now let’s take a look at some new information IPEDS has released its preliminary data. We are all holding our breath waiting for the government to decide to release the provisional data, which cleans us up a bit. My estimation is that will not happen any time soon. God knows what’s going in the Department of Ed, which assembles this data, but this is the latest it’s ever been in the six or eight years we’ve been tracking it. I’ve expected—it’s not a government that loves data, so perhaps they’re going to suppress this data as well.
IPEDS Completions: 10 Largest Programs
Let’s have a look at what’s going on inside that. I was surprised here to see liberal arts and related programs doing as well as they are. The ten largest programs here, we have Liberal Arts and Sciences, Liberal Studies. A little bit further down the list you see Psychology and General Studies and then again a little bit further down, the last two we get more into the health areas: Biology and Medical Clinical Assistant.
So as you expect, health is a pretty big chunk of this. Registered Nursing is down there in two places on the chart: third from the top and third from the bottom. We’ve got a good dose of liberal arts, and a good dose of healthcare. In between, we have business making the chart twice with Masters level-- the MBA, and Associate’s level Business Administration degrees making the chart. I was just again a little bit surprised to see how often we see those general and liberal arts programs occurring in the largest.
IPEDS Completions: 10 Fastest-growing Program Groups
So in terms of changing completions here, again we’ve got an interesting story around what I would consider liberal arts related programs: our number one program up 56% was Liberal Arts and Sciences. Communication, Journalism up 51%. Liberal Arts & Sciences undergraduate certificate up 27%, History up 25%, Associate’s level. In English Language and Literature, and this is for an undergrad cert, up 24%. And those first two are interesting in that the Liberal Arts & Sciences and Communications; those are both for post-Bachelor’s certificates. So there’s an interesting growth in certificates in these more liberal arts related areas.
Then we have things hat are more closely related to sciences: Biological and Medical Sciences, Psychology and Social Sciences also making this top of the list. We have Computer Science coming in 4th, and Business Marketing related, you’ll see down there, third from the bottom with 23% growth. So an interesting collection of programs; that Business Management is also post-masters’ certificate.
So one thing I think we’re seeing rapid growth here in the certificates that we track. You’ve got Liberal Arts with a few-- that PBC is post-bachelor’s certificate. Communication is a post-bachelor’s certificate. We’ve got two undergraduate certificates in Biological Sciences and English, and then we have a post-master’s certificate in Business and Social Science as well for post-master’s. So interesting collection of certificates being the fastest growing areas in the IPEDS data.
Agenda - Demand Trends in Higher Education
Let’s take a look now at one particular program: Graphic Designers. As you recall, this is one of our better programs.
Graphic Designers: Job Postings
And, let’s take a look through it in a little more depth, starting with employment. Been up and down for the last few years, ranging from 27,000 jobs up to 46,000. This year I would guess since we’re looking at this at the end of September, we’ve only got a quarter left, so one would expect that number to go up by four or five thousand. So we’ll have another down year, a little bit better than 2014, but considerably short of the volumes in 2016.
Graphic Designers: Salary
These folks are not paid terribly well, typically less than $75,000 a year. I do have to caution you this is taken from burningglass. And those are job postings, and most job postings don’t include salary information. So there may be some sort of bias in here—we’re not sure what that would be, but I just caution before you take this to the bank, so to speak. Most of the pay here is between $35,000 and $75,000, about a quarter in each of those brackets. So the vast majority here is hanging out in that space.
Graphic Designers: Education (Minimum Advertised)
Now, let’s take a look at what education is required. Very little graduate education. The predominantly cited form of education level is Bachelor’s degrees: 78% of graphic design jobs require a Bachelor’s degree. Which is very different than the workforce, actually, most of the people working in this field only have an Associate’s or below.
Graphic Designers: Job Titles
Job titles: Graphic Designer is number one. And this may seem obvious, but actually, when you look at many programs, the titles people get hired into often are not very correlated with the title of the program. So, a good example would be history. The most common job title for a history graduate, actually has nothing to do with history. It turns out over time, they get to be lawyers. So, again, this very tight relationship between a program and specific job title is somewhat unusual.
Graphic Designers: Skill Clusters
Similarly, most of the skills required for this are also tightly related to design. And again, this may be obvious. When you look at most programs, the top skills are often not actually specific to that program, they’re more general skills. You see here, color coded other.
So for example, Microsoft Office and productivity tools is one of the most commonly cited skills, often is number one. Here it’s only number three in skills required for specialized disciplines. We’ve got three others here that are not specific to graphic designers: project management, marketing, and marketing and public relations, social media. So even in a very focused program like this, there are some important general skills that are required to be successful.
More specific skills: obviously graphic and visual design, the software associated with that is important that people get trained in graphic design software in particular. Visual design production, IT web design, so these folks are not just expected to be able to draw pictures, but actually be able to do website design and implement those. And user interface, UIUX design is important as well.
Graphic Designers: Employers
Who hires these folks? Well the largest employers here hire literally hundreds of graphic designers a year. Here we see Accenture, Deloitte, and Anthem, each hiring well over 100 people per year. Accenture by itself hiring 241. So that you might think that these account for a significant percentage of people employed in the field, that’s not really true. Accenture for example, though it hires 241 people, only accounted for 1.5% of job postings in this field.
So, hiring is very fragmented across a large number of employers. Now I’d like to walk you through a scorecard that we would suggest as a good way to decide if this program may be appropriate for you as a new program; or if you’re thinking about whether to continue it, the data that you might collect in order to help inform that decision.
Program Scorecard: Student Demand
I’m going to be focused entirely on market data. There is, of course, additional information you want from inside your institution in order to make this decision; information that’s both academic in nature: What should we be teaching? As well as in terms of the number of enrollments that you may have in that particular program.
But turning to the market, one question is: Are people looking for the program? And in this case, we can see there were 89,000 inquiries, and we often say, is that a lot or a little? Very difficult to tell from a raw number. But the color coding is a big help. What we’ve done is rate programs down in percentiles. So, this one is in the top 2% of all programs. And there are about 1,400 programs in our data set, so that makes it one of the top 30 programs out of that 1,400 program universe. So that would suggest it is pretty big. Now let’s see if the other numbers confirm that. Google search: not quite that big, it’s in the 95th percentile. Still very good.
And then finally we have completions at the 90th percentile, so that’s not quite as exciting. Now you’ll notice below completions we have unit change. And here, the year over year, we’re down almost 10%, which is obviously concerning. But very inconsistent with the more current data coming from Google search, where it was up 81%. And from inquiries which were only down 2%. So, in terms of what’s happening here from a growth perspective, I’d say the answer is a bit unclear.
And what may be going on, this tends to be a program that’s frequently offered by for profits, and as many of you know, lots of those institutions have gone out of business, so that may be driving the downward trend in completions. So the people are still in it may be fine, but the overall market may be shrinking.
Program Scorecard: Competition
Now let’s have a look and see what’s going on with competitors. And indeed, here we can see there are a number leaving the market. That orange color suggests this is very competitive.
There are 572 institutions overall offering this program. The next number down, year over year change is -38. So we’ve got about 6% of all programs that have closed down in the last year. The average cost per inquiry here is fine. It’s a little bit above that average we saw earlier, it’s $51 versus $45, but still very much in the healthy range. So from the competitive standpoint, it is highly competitive, but the competition is actually going away.
Now let’s have a look at market saturation. We see .14 completions per capita in this particular market. That’s not bad, it’s still green. Cost per click: $21. That’s above the average, about the 70th percentile. The competitive index here, as you might expect, with over 400 schools, is .68. That’s on a 0-1 scale, so that’s above average competition according to Google.
Now let’s take a look at program size. I personally like to keep track of this one. The average here is 18, which is decent. The median, however is quite a lot smaller at 5. Let’s do a quick set of mental arithmetic to figure out how many students that is who might be in this program. This is a 2-year or less program in most cases.
So, I would look at that 5 and say given attrition in those programs, there are probably 15-20 students in this in a typical community college. If its’s a four year college, that number would be more like 30. But still pretty small. That’s worrisome that if you offered this program, you wouldn’t end up with a lot of students in it. Even though there’s strong demand, it’s very fragmented.
Last but not least, it’s worth checking to see if you’re planning to offer it on-ground, whether this program has already moved to the online modality. In this case, it hasn’t really: we’ve still got 30 schools offering this online. That accounts for 6% of all institutions offering this program. It is 13% of completions. Those schools are disproportionately large, but still, that’s a very low penetration rate for online. It’s common to see programs that are 50% at this point.
Competitors: Graphic Design
Who is winning in this space? The answer is the for-profits. For better, for worse, the top 3 programs here are all for profit. The top 2 have an online component. The third one does not, it’s all on-ground. Please be aware when you look at that distance education completions in the far right, that does not mean that all the completions are taking place online.
The way this number works, it’s impossible to tell what percentage of completions are taking place online. All we know is that there’s an online aspect to that program, or an online program offered by this school, potentially as well as an on-ground program. So, if anything, that distance education completions is a bit overstated.
Program Scorecard: Employment and Fit
Now, let’s take a look at the employment opportunity for this particular one. Again, we can see a dark green at the top for job postings, so it’s in the top 2% for job postings. This is where it gets interesting, though, in terms of what level of education is needed. We’ve got 64% of the job postings that require just high school. Looking further down, the workforce is very different than that, though: 46% of all the people in the workforce doing graphic design have a Bachelor’s degree, and 13% have a graduate degree.
We look at completions, we’ve got 57% at the Bachelor’s level, 29% at the Associate level. So we’ve got a bit of mixed signals here. It turns out that to really work in this field, you probably need a Bachelor’s degree, but a lot of the people completing, 30%, don’t have that. And many of the job postings appear to suggest that it’s not necessary, which may be misleading. On the BLS side, also says it’s large with 333,000 completions. 13,000 estimated job openings due to growths and placement for that. So they’re estimating 3.1% growth.
The actual job postings, however, are down and down materially. They’re down 7% year over year, so we’ve got conflicting signals between the current data coming out of the market, and BLS, which is done off of survey, and it’s going to be about 18-24 months old. Saying that this is going to grow-- I should also forewarn you that that BLS growth rate is derived from its estimate of what this market will be ten years out, and those estimates are, let’s just say, not great; 50% of them are off by 85% or more. So, not quite a dart on the board, but it’s getting close.
As we look at the wages here, they’re all pink because they’re in the lowest 40% of wages among the programs we track. So, as I mentioned, the wages for graphic designers are not inspiring. And if we look at gainful employment wages, they’re even worse. Dangerous program for a for-profit to offer. The average wage is $21,000 which is very likely to create problem with gainful employment, and tying to repay loans that students may incur going through school. Less of an issue for a community college where the cost of the program is much, much less. So it’s less likely to trigger an issue with gainful employment; but still a worrisome wage.
And then we also track placement rates for two year programs. And here, they’re not great either: 77% placement rate for certificates, but only 61% of the folks who get an Associate’s degree actually get a job, according to the disclosure statements that schools post on their website. And that’s going to get a lot of those associate programs in trouble. That doesn’t meet your accreditation minimum, so this is a worrisome program on two fronts: one is that there’s going to be trouble meeting gainful, the second is there’s trouble actually hitting your placement requirements at the associate’s level.
So looking at it overall, you could say this program is good, but it has some issues. Student demand is good, employer demand is good; but wages are not, and that Associate degree level is troublesome in terms of placement. So I think it would very much depend on the school whether this is a good idea or not, as it always does. But there’s some bright spots in here: If you have good ability to place your students in your local market and get them decent wages, this could be a very successful program.
Agenda - Demand Trends in Higher Education
So let’s come back and summarize what we learned today.
Key Demand Trends and Observations
While inquiries are falling, conversion rates are going up in the online universe, that’s more than off-setting the decline in inquiries. And online conversions are increasing at double digit rates. That in turn, is driving up overall conversions 6%, but you’ll recall that on-ground conversions are far short of last year. It does take six months for many inquiries to convert. I think this has an important implication for marketers: that you’ve got to do a very good job in lead nurturing, so those folks come back to you when they’re ready to convert. This means structured email campaigns, so that there’s an inexpensive way to be in touch with people who have touched you but have not been convinced yet.
As it has been true for a while, interest in on-ground programs has continued a steep decline. Our inquiries are down 12%, conversions fell 10%. Another interesting note is higher level degrees are outpacing Associate’s degrees and below. So we have returned to dominance, if you will, by your Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral degrees. And, we looked at graphic design. It looks like a good program at the national level.
And I say good meaning not great. It would really depend on the school’s ability to place students in that market. We’ve got good student and employer demand. We’ve got a lot of competition, though, and as I’ve mentioned, wages are a concern, and placement actually for Associate’s degrees was a concern. So an interesting program to consider, but not a no-brainer in terms of being attractive.
I will stop now. I would welcome your questions and that both now in real time, and after the call, if you would like to send me an email or give me a call, I would be happy to take it.
Questions and Contacts
You can see my contact information here and I hope you will feel free to get in touch. And, last but not least: Please come join us again when we’ll share October results.
Upcoming Gray Associates’ Webcast
That call will take place just before turkey day: Thursday November 16th at 2pm. Let me open the floor to questions.
Yes, absolutely, thank you Bob. We did have a couple of questions.
Questions and Contacts
The first one was about the source of the inquiry and conversion data that was presented towards the beginning of this afternoon’s webcast.
We gather inquiry and conversion data from aggregators and agencies in the industry. So, for those of you not familiar with those guys, if you went online right now and searched for one of the programs we talked about: Medical Assisting. In the advertised searches, and some of the organic searches as well, you’d find folks who were schools and they’re recruiting you. You would also find ads there that wouldn’t actually be for a school, and if you click through, because you’re interested in Medical Assisting, what you’d find is not a school, but some information about Medical Assisting, and a request for your name, address, phone number, program of interest and degree level. And then that site is really a marketer. They turn around and sell that lead to a school. So that’s what our inquiries come from: it’s that marketing effort on the web to attract student and then remarket them to institutions. A little bit of background on that too, we get about 700,000 of those inquiries a month. So while it is skewed a bit toward for profit, and there are programs, as a result, that really aren’t represented, it is a wonderfully large and very current data set that has to be handled with a little bit of care so that you don’t misinterpret results. For example, very low volume for liberal arts programs. And that’s really just an outcome of it coming from areas like for-profits that are focused more on trades and less on liberal arts.
Perfect, thanks for that Bob. We have another question about the Associate’s in Liberal Arts program that was listed on the chart about the list of completions for 2016. One of our participants said, “I imagine these students are transferring to four year schools after completing general ed credits at two year institutions. Is there any indication what they are majoring in, assuming they are going to four year schools?”
Interesting question. I think there are a couple of data points on Liberal Arts here. One was the Associate’s degree. So, I don’t know where they’re going. I would guess that the best way to estimate that if you wanted to, is actually to look at completion volumes coming out of those schools and without any better knowledge, I would assume that these folks are coming out proportional to the volumes of people graduating in those programs. So, for example, if history comprises 12% of all graduates of four year colleges, I would guesstimate—and I mean that—roughly estimate that you’re going to see 12% of these folks going in to history. It’s an interesting question, though. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that data on what programs two year students matriculate into.
Maybe something we could follow up on.
Yes. Any other questions?
Absolutely. We had another question. Have we considered doing an analysis on careers and aging? With the growing population of 65 plus, those sources are in high demand.
So the question was: are we looking at jobs and careers and aging? You know, aside from my own personal interest in this topic of aging, the answer is many of the jobs we’ve talked about, as growth and where there’s interest, are related to aging. Although, some more than others. For example, nursing. The demand for nurses is a direct function of the aging population. It’s one of the reasons we think that demand will continue to grow assuming we continue to fund our healthcare system. So that’s one. Medical Assistants are involved to a degree with the aging population, especially in the doctor’s office. So that’s a second. And there are other jobs and programs that we could bring up here, that are very directly related to aging. One of them would be, for example, Licensed Practical Nursing, or it’s also called Licensed Vocational Nursing. Those are the folks that typically end up in nursing homes. So that’s one that’s directly related. So whenever you look at healthcare jobs and programs, you’re really picking up a significant degree, that aging population and those issues. What I haven’t seen anybody offer that I think would be really interesting is a program-- actually probably a certificate-- directed toward the aging population itself. For those of you who are less than 58, getting into your 60s, you start to face a set of issues that you really have no knowledge of. For example: exactly how do you collect your social security check? When should you start collecting it to maximize your potential benefits? What the devil is Medicare and how does it affect the other insurance you have? How should you set up your estate so that if something happens to you, your spouse can actually access your money? I’m sure that’d be surprisingly tricky. What are you going to do about those kids, and potentially helping your kids and grandkids get through school? Etc. Etc. There’s just a whole series of issues that people walk into as they age, about which they actually know very, very little. So I think there’s an opportunity out there to be educating the soon-to-be elderly about what they’re facing.
Perfect. Thanks for that, Bob. We have a couple more questions. And if anybody has any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to enter them into the chat window on the left hand side of the page.
One of our participants did notice on the program scorecard for Graphic Design, that we have a zero for Google search. I’m actually looking at the scorecard now, and it doesn’t appear that that is the case. But, if that was something that happened, why would that be?
It’s a very good question. And when looking at the scorecard now-- one second, let me just make sure I’m looking at the right page—I actually see quite a high volume here in terms of Google searches. We had 160,000 searches. So a couple things about that: first is what data do we actually collect? We collect data on the top 200 programs, and we pick those based on a volume of IPEDS completions. That being the most complete comprehensive database out there. So that also means that if you’re smaller than the top 200, we’re not collecting Google searches at all. So you will see zeroes, or more specifically, if we aren’t collecting it on our sheets, you’ll see an N/A, so you know that it’s not low demand, it’s simply not something we track. We are going to extend that in the coming year to a larger number of programs. We’re also going to begin to break down the Google search volumes by degree level, and for online and on-ground, to the extent that’s possible.
I did want to go back to this aging question, because I thought it was very intriguing. I’m also starting to hear about programs out there that are geared toward, again, the senior population itself. And many of these are actually not Title IV programs, they’re a cash pay. And they’re geared toward what I would call self-actualization or areas of interest that people may have put off while they were pursuing their careers. So this could be something like writing poetry or painting, where there’s interest in that population in rekindling the skill that they may have lost track of during their life. I think it’s an interesting set of opportunities to reach a very different population that I think has got an interest themselves in getting back and getting educated on new topics. Keeping our minds sharp.
All right. Perfect. A couple other questions did come in here. Bob, do we have scorecards for other programs and markets?
What you see here is the outcome of what we call our program evaluation system. And we can create custom markets around any set of geographies you’d like. So many of you may be familiar with creating markets from zip codes; we actually use a slightly more precise version of data which is a census track. It’s about twice as precise as a zip code and we can create markets with that that might be for example 30 miles around your campus. Once that market is developed, we can build scorecards for each and every program in IPEDS. So that would be 1,400 scorecards for that market that would be accessible more or less instantaneously for you. As importantly, we can work with you to set up custom scoring systems so that the programs are ranked according to your priorities. You might be emphasizing, for example, student demand in one year, if enrollment’s down. In a different year, you might want to be sure that you’re placing students and have more of an emphasis on volume. So, yes, we can create scorecards by programs and market for all programs in IPEDS and essentially every market in the United States.
All right. Questions are flowing! Another question for you, Bob: What are the trends in use of the aggregator site to buy leads within the higher education market? I thought that practice was declining. Can you explain lead volume decline?
Yes, I believe the practice is declining, and that’s part of what’s driving the lead volume. But I think there’s a second trend underway which is: there are any number of schools who said: We’re not going to do that anymore; we’re not going to buy any of these leads from these satanic aggregators. Most of those schools change their minds because they couldn’t replace the volumes of the legitimate applications that came through that channel. However, almost everyone is being far more discriminating in the leads that they choose to acquire. So they are picking the vendors of these inquiries more carefully. The inquiry vendors themselves are being more disciplined, using some data signs to screen these themselves, the better inquiries to their clients. So we are seeing, if you will, a flight to quality, as well as some decline in the overall demand. And that demand trend has been going on now for two or three years. So that is correct, but not complete in terms of the story. And as you can see, despite the decline in gross inquiries that flight in quality is driving up conversions to the point where they’re actually offsetting the decline in inquiries.
Perfect. Thanks for that, Bob. All right. Final question, and just a quick note with all the questions: thank you for providing your thoughts on today’s webcast, and we just want to reiterate we do appreciate questions. One final question. And I know that it was kind of a follow up to the older generation that you were speaking of previously. If you were to take that back to the 50+, how would you think about attracting that generation of students?
That audience? I think there are probably a number of ways. Typically what you’ll find here is that the channels people use would be B2B potentially. So if there were large employers that wanted to offer a service—and many of them do in fact offer tuition reimbursement—getting it done this type of program on that list of things people could buy would be important. Catch them before they retire, if you will. I think mostly folks at this point are probably online as well, and so the traditional online recruitment could work, perhaps geared toward a different set of keywords than you might normally be doing. And then to the extent you’re doing online advertising, I think you can target these folks very precisely in various online venues. I think Facebook might be one. I think that group is very much on Facebook, if for no other reason than to keep track of their kids, who, by the way, fled Facebook trying to get away from their parents. So they’re all on other sites at this point. At least mine are. These also are people unlike the younger people, who might answer the telephone. While I’m not recommending outbound calling, I think they’ll be more responsive to a phone call if they do touch you than a 20-something would be, where it’s probably easier to reach them by text.
Great. Perfect. Thanks for that Bob. I think the one buzzword I left out of that was “re-careering”. So if there’s any additional thoughts.
I think then you are probably into a different set of venues. That’s not going to be something somebody finds casually on Facebook; although that’s been a very productive channel for many of our clients. I think they turn up probably looking a whole lot like other people looking for new careers. So now you’re a little bit outside of my area of expertise. While we do a lot of work on markets, we’re not involved in the day-to-day tactics of marketing. So I’m not certain what the answer to that question is.
Perfect. Again, wonderful questions. And that’s all we have for this afternoon.
Thanks Mark. And thanks to all of you. I really appreciate your attending. And as Mark said, love the questions. It’s the most we’ve ever gotten. They’re very much appreciated, and hope you’ll be joining us again next month with some good questions as well.
Thanks everyone. I’m going to sign off. Bye.