A Case Study:  Using Data to Guide Program Decisions

Posted by Mark Keleher on Aug 3, 2018 2:00:00 PM

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Gray Associates had the opportunity to help evaluate the academic program portfolio at a major public university.  The university needed to assess their current program portfolio and evaluate potential new programs.  Explained the Assistant Provost, “the way things are right now nationally, everybody’s rethinking and trying to adapt to the 21st century.” 

The markets, academic programs, and scoring system in Gray's Program Evaluation System (PES) was customized to align with the mission of this individual university and system in which they operated.  Our team also facilitated an on-site two-day workshop with the institutional leaders to help guide and inform the program selection and assessment process. 


"The way things are right now nationally, everybody’s rethinking and trying to adapt to the 21st century."

Assistant Provost
A University in One of the Largest Systems of Public Higher Education


Data is the Linchpin

When initially considering the project, this university intended to use mostly internal program data, such as credit hours produced and costs, with the addition of a few statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  A colleague at the university, however, had recently seen a presentation by Gray Associates at an industry conference, and after discussions with Gray’s sales team, the university decided to enlist Gray’s help.  According to the Assistant Provost, “Gray offers the perfect opportunity to take our focus beyond just the internal data and really look at the marketability of our programs, which was not part of the initial charge, but I think became the most important focus of the work that we did… and actually, made it a much stronger process than just an internal focus would have done.”

Gray worked with the university to create a customized instance of our Program Evaluation System (PES) based on their programs, markets, and scoring criteria.  PES offered our client access to multiple data sources on student demand, employment, competition and degree-level.  These sources included over 40 critical program metrics, all in one place.  According to our client, “Our Director of Institutional Research was especially impressed with the number of data sources you have in the Program Evaluation System, so that really got us excited.”


"It was a lot of hard work, but I really loved every moment of it."

Assistant Provost
A University in One of the Largest Systems of Public Higher Education


A Collaborative Approach

With Gray’s Program Evaluation System customized for the university, the school gathered a team of faculty and administrators for a two-day workshop to evaluate current and potential new programs.  With Gray's support, the client took an active role in preparing for the workshop, thoughtfully selecting session leaders and training participants on Gray’s PES system.  Gray’s team brought industry expertise, the best data in higher education, and led the facilitation of a transparent and inclusive decision-making process. 

After the workshop, our client noted, “I think that people are really excited about the idea of having worked together on identifying eight possible new programs and four modifications of current programs.”  He added, “I would even use that word, ‘fun’.  It was a lot of hard work, but I really loved every moment of it.”

Building a Brighter Future Together

The value Gray brought to the university extended beyond the workshop as well.  During the workshop, our client used PES to identify potential new programs.  But that was only the beginning.  After the workshop, other faculty and administrators throughout the university expressed interest in using Gray’s PES tool.  Our client explained, “Immediately when we got done, we had people contacting us about, ‘I would like to have a look at the tool.’  So that was a good sign that people had done the workshop and shared information about it with others, and they were eager to get on there and give it a try.  So, the overall response was very positive.”

Additionally, as a follow-up to the workshop, the university tasked faculty teams with conducting in-depth research on the candidate programs identified in the workshop, and PES played an important role in enabling the teams to do just that.  “A number of the questions that they are supposed to answer in developing their proposals, requires them to use the PES, and dig deep, you know, market, competition and all those things, so yeah, PES is key to them putting their proposals together.”

Gray’s data combined with our industry expertise was the perfect complement to our client’s dedication to bringing the best resources to bear to support the needs of the communities they serve.  The Assistant Provost described Gray’s contribution as two-fold, “The value is first of all, really robust data.  Secondly, the Gray team that worked with us was extremely supportive, professional, knowledgeable and able to adapt to our project, and that’s of great value.”


"The value is first of all, really robust data.  Secondly, the Gray team that worked with us was extremely supportive, professional, knowledgeable and able to adapt to our project."

Assistant Provost
A University in One of the Largest Systems of Public Higher Education


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Topics: Higher Education