GrayData:  Overview

GrayData has information on student demand, competition, job opportunities, and other important environmental and market factors.  We use this critical program data to help institutions with a number of strategic initiatives:

  • Program Selection and Assessment - Select the best programs to Start, Stop, Sustain, or Grow by location
  • Campus Location and Market Selection - Identify locations where your institution could be successful
  • Pricing Strategy - Determine the pricing structures and levels that will maximize growth and profits
  • General Management Consulting - Create or assist with the implementation of your strategic plan

In particular, Gray’s Program Evaluation System (PES) integrates critical data on the markets for educational programs to enable customized analysis of an entire program portfolio at a local, regional, or national level.  PES is built on data extracts from GrayDataSM:

  • GrayData was designed specifically to support analysis of higher education programs, campuses, markets, and strategies.  It is not a generic dataset originally designed for other purposes.
  • While GrayData can be used to analyze one academic program or campus at a time, it can also be used to scan through hundreds or thousands of potential programs or locations, rank them, and highlight only the best candidates.
  • Gray uses GrayData intensively in its work for educational institutions.  That ongoing activity drives us to frequently update, enhance, and expand the scope of GrayData to better address client needs and concerns.
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Data is Organized by Academic Program

All of our data is linked to a standard program definition:  the 6-digit CIP code.Screen Shot 2020-09-17 at 11.30.47 AM

  • For data like IPEDS completions that start with an assigned CIP code, Gray corrects common coding inconsistencies.  This improves calculations on market size and share.
  • For data that uses non-CIP program codes or program names, Gray has built and validated crosswalks to match these elements to CIPs.
  • For employment data typically available by SOC (standard occupation code), Gray has built proprietary CIP-SOC crosswalks that avoid common errors like double-counting jobs that fit multiple CIPs, not respecting the importance of educational attainment in matching fields, or failing to match liberal arts graduates to any jobs at all.



GrayData also links all relevant elements to standard geographic definitions:

  • We map all information into 72,000 U.S. census tracts, which is roughly twice as precise as zip-code mapping.
  • We can aggregate the data into custom market definitions:  radii around campus locations, CBSAs (metro areas), zip codes, or DMAs.
  • Institutions sometimes report IPEDS completions for multiple campus locations as if all that activity happened at one location.  GrayData allocates completions back to actual locations; this minimizes distortions in local competition, share, and market size.

Multiple Views of Critical Metrics

Sophisticated users of data about higher education know that all the data has limitations.  In addition to the various enhancements and validations for individual metrics, GrayData addresses these limitations by providing more than one metric per topic.

Multiple views of student demand levels and trends by program and locationScreen Shot 2020-09-17 at 11.27.59 AM

Gray tracks three sources on student demand:

  • Inquiries:  We access 700,000 to 1 million student inquiries per month, obtained through exclusive data sharing agreements.
  • Completions:  We use IPEDS completion and enrollment data (with enhancements) from the most recent release of IPEDS.
  • Google search volumes:  We pull Google search volumes on the top 25 keywords for the 200 largest programs in 3,000 counties (a total of 15 million records per month).

Multiple views of job opportunities

Gray uses four sources of data on employment and wages:

  • Current employment, forecast employment, estimated annual job opportunities, and wage profiles from BLS, matched to programs using Gray’s proprietary crosswalk.
  • Job postings (counts, trends, and required degree levels) from Burning Glass Technologies, matched to programs using Gray’s proprietary crosswalk.
  • Placement rates by program, as reported and summarized from institutional website disclosures.
  • Data on actual earnings of graduates by academic program from the American Community Survey (Bachelor's), and the Department of Education (Associate’s and below).

Multiple views of competition

Gray evaluates five factors to assess competitive saturation in a market:

  • Total completions by program, award level and location
  • Online and on-campus programs and completions
  • Program size:  Average and median
  • Marketing cost:  Cost per inquiry (from our inquiry database) and cost per click from Google
  • Gray’s Distance-Adjusted Competitive Index (DACI) estimates the effects of local competitors for a given location, adjusted for their size and distance to the location.

Other Program Metrics

  • A faculty cost index from the National Higher Education Benchmarking Institute (NHEBI)
  • Educational attainment shares for people currently employed in related occupations

Supplemental Data

To supplement the structured GrayData tables and system, Gray frequently uses additional, more specialized data in its work for colleges and universities:

  • Common skills, certifications, employers, and other data from job postings for specific occupations or job types from Burning Glass Technologies
  • Specialized sources of enrollment and completions information for individual fields, such as nursing program data using a more practitioner-oriented classification than the CIP data in IPEDS
  • Pricing data for individual institutions and programs