Higher Ed Inquiry Volume Continues to Fall While Conversion Rates Improve, Gray Associates Reports

Posted by Ellis Simon on Jan 17, 2018 3:37:00 PM

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Overall inquiry volume for all academic programs and institutions, a predictor of future college enrollment, fell seven percent in November, according to Gray Associates, a higher education consulting firm.  While better than the average 10.3 percent drop for the year to date, November’s figure represents a decline from October, when inquiry volume only fell three percent.

However, conversions for August, the most recent mature month, were 15 percent ahead of a year ago, driven largely by growing interest for online programs.  In addition, conversions for the months that have yet to mature – September, October, and November – are poised to top 2016 levels.  Gray presented the data on its December webcast on Demand for Higher Education Programs.

“Conversion rates have gone up substantially,” said Gray Associates Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Robert Atkins.  “Q3 2017 (third quarter) is already up 45 percent versus our baseline (first quarter of 2014) and is up another 10 percent versus Q2, and it will have a little longer to mature, so that number is only going to get better as we go forward.”

Inquiry volume is one of 40 pieces of data that Gray incorporates into its Program Evaluation System, which institutions use to manage their program portfolio and make decisions on which programs to Start, Stop, Sustain or Grow at each of their campuses and online.  Conversions are inquiries where the applicant has moved further in the admission process.  They are counted in the month in which the inquiry was received, rather than the time of the conversion, because it takes three months for the conversion rate to mature.

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Online programs saw improvement in both inquiry and conversion rates.  Inquiries for online programs for October were six percent higher and for November were two percent higher than a year ago.  August conversions for online programs were 17 percent higher. For on-campus programs, inquiries were down 20 percent in November and conversions for August were six percent lower.

Inquiries rose for higher-level degrees in November but fell for lower-level programs. They were up seven percent for doctoral degrees, three percent for master’s, and 24 percent for bachelor’s.  Inquiries were down 17 percent for undergraduate certificates and 30 percent for associate’s degrees.

All five of the largest programs reported lower inquiry volume in November.  Inquiry volume was down two percent for Business Administration, bachelor’s degree or higher, five percent for both Medical Assistant and Criminal Justice, 12 percent for Registered Nursing, and 20 percent, for Business Administration, associate’s degree.  The five programs with the largest gains in November were:  Human Services, up 84 percent; Medical Insurance Coding Specialist, up 41 percent, Counseling Psychology, up 31 percent, Health Science, General, up 26 percent, and Christian Studies, up 20 percent. 

Unless stated otherwise, the data on inquiries for specific academic programs are for all degree levels.

The full report can be viewed here:  https://www.grayassociates.com/archive/2017-november-grayreports-student-and-employer-demand-trends

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.

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Media contact: 
Ellis Simon, 516-524-6804, Ellis.Simon@GrayAssociates.com

Company contact:
Mark Keleher, 617-366-2831, Mark.Keleher@GrayAssociates.com

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Topics: Higher Education