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.
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.
“We’re establishing that nationally there is a gap between the job market and student demand,” she said. In addition, computer programming and its related terms generate high Google search volume and a cost per click is just $8. “The data is telling us it is an affordable cost per click and, comparatively, the competition is moderate, so this suggests computer programming could be an affordable program to target online.”
The Market Scorecard for San Francisco indicates 67 percent of computer programming job postings call for bachelor’s degree but only four percent of program completions are at that level. “This suggests the market should be included in our national marketing,” she noted. In addition, the $9 Google AdWords cost per click and .53 competitive index makes San Francisco a “great market for us to try.”
Nationally, computer programming ranks in the top five percent of all programs for inquiry and Google search volume as well as program completions, which indicates strong student demand. But, there are 387 institutions competing for students, so picking the right markets is a vital part of a national marketing campaign.
The full presentation can be viewed here: https://info.grayassociates.com/march-2018-student-and-employer-demand-trends-webcast-download
About Gray Associates
Gray Associates, Inc. is a higher education consulting firm. We help clients develop fact-based institutional and marketing strategies to maximize outcomes for students, the school, and its constituencies. Gray uses proprietary analytical techniques and an industry-leading database combining information on inquiry volumes, demographics, competition, and employment, to help faculty and school leadership develop institutional strategies, select programs, pick locations, and prepare curricula.
Ellis Simon, 516-524-6804, Ellis.Simon@GrayAssociates.com
Mark Keleher, 617-366-2831, Mark.Keleher@GrayAssociates.com