Cloud Computing, Big Data Used to Help Colleges Evaluate Their Portfolio of Programs.

New Gray Associates Capabilities Help Institutions Assess Program Viability

The decline in demand for higher education continued in April, with overall student inquiries 15 percent lower than one year ago, according to GrayReports, a monthly review of demand trends in higher education produced by strategy consulting firm Gray Associates, Inc.  However, institutional leaders should view national trends as a departure point and focus, instead, on local and regional market conditions before making strategic decisions about academic programs, according to Robert Atkins, the firm’s chief executive officer.

“National-level data paints a broad picture of student demand and employment growth trends in different fields, but conditions vary from market to market,” Mr. Atkins said.  “Further, each institution defines its market differently.  We have developed new capabilities that draw upon cloud computing and big data to analyze market conditions according to an institution’s parameters, be they by state, defined radii from campus locations, metropolitan area, zip code or DMA.”

As part of its monthly report, Gray analyzes student demand for the 75 highest-volume IPEDS CIPs fields1.  The data comes from multiple sources including providers under exclusive contract to Gray as well as Google search volumes.

To illustrate how conditions vary among markets, Gray ranked states by attractiveness for one of those programs, Computer Support Specialist, using a scoring rubric that combined student demand, employment opportunities and competitive intensity.  Pennsylvania ranked first, with a combined score of 26 (16 for student demand, 12 for employment opportunities and minus two for competitive intensity).  For the seventh consecutive month, Human Services was the fastest-growing program with inquiries jumping 356 percent year-over-year in April.

Rounding out the five fastest-growing were:  Medical Insurance Coding, up 186 percent; Counseling Psychology, up 126 percent; Medical Office Assistant, up 111 percent, and Computer Support Specialist.  An inquiry is a search for information, online or otherwise, about an academic program and/or an institution of higher learning.

The other states in the top 10 and their overall scores were:  New Jersey, 23, Virginia, 21, North Carolina, 18, Colorado, 17, Nebraska, 17, Connecticut, 16, Georgia, 16, Indiana, 16, and Massachusetts, 14.

The five programs with the greatest declines in student inquiries were:  Computer and Information Science, -78 percent; Accounting and Finance, -61 percent; Criminal Justice/Safety Studies, -52 percent; Information Systems Security/Information Assurance, -51 percent, and Marketing/Marketing Management, -49 percent.

The full report can be viewed here:

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.

Media contact:
Ellis Simon, 516-524-6804,

Company contact:
Mark Keleher, 617-366-2831,

1 Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System Classification of Instructional Programs.

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Gray Associates, Inc. is a software and services firm focused on higher education. We help education clients develop fact-based institutional and marketing strategies that maximize outcomes for students, the school, and its constituencies.

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