Inquiries for higher education programs rose 10 percent year-over-year in October, according to Gray Associates, a higher education strategy consulting firm. The gain was the largest since the firm began tracking the data in 2015.
“This could mean the worm has turned and we are headed toward growth in student demand,” said Gray Founder and CEO, Bob Atkins.
An inquiry is a prospective student’s request for information about an academic program or institution prior to submitting an application. Gray tracks inquiry volume as part of its Program Evaluation System (PES), which colleges and universities use to make decisions about which programs to Start, Stop, Sustain or Grow.
For the first time since the tracking began, inquiry volume was higher for both online and on-campus programs, up 10 percent and five percent, respectively. Overall inquiry growth, which was also up 10 percent, incorporates those students who do not express a preference for online or on-campus, Mr. Atkins explained.
“The message is basically the same: The growth is mostly online but it is nice to have this positive shift for on-campus,” he added. “Let’s hope it continues.”
Among the five fastest-growing programs for November, the top two spots were taken by health-related programs. Mental Health Counseling and Health Services rose 127 percent and 122 percent, respectively. Rounding out the “Fast Five” were Elementary Education and Teaching, up 75 percent; Graphic Design, up 71 percent, and Communication and Media Studies, up 60 percent.
Google search volume for programs was up three percent year-over-year for November, marking the fourth consecutive month of increases. However, search volume for brands fell 0.8 percent.
“While Google searches are up, they are not rising as fast as inquiries,” noted Mr. Atkins. “This gives us a note of caution on the 10 percent inquiry growth. On the other hand, it confirms that the market is growing which is a recent and very good phenomenon.”
Gray researches search trends for the 200 largest IPEDS programs and tracks search volume for a sample of 75 higher education brands. The brands with the largest gains in search volume for November were University of Texas, Austin, up 33 percent, Harvard University, up 26%, and College for America, SNHU, also up 26 percent. Four other institutions had increases of 15 percent or more.
New PES Feature
A new feature was added to Gray’s Program Evaluation System in November. For each program being scored, it can now provide data by degree level on inquiries, completions, national completions, Burning Glass job postings and Bureau of Labor Statistics Educational Attainment.
About Gray Associates
Gray Associates, Inc. is a higher education consulting firm. We help clients develop fact-based institutional and programmatic 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, Google searches, 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