Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

The K-12 education environment has faced a fair share of upheavals over the last several years, and 2016 has proven to be no different. We’re noticing a shift towards student centered learning standards, a focus on personalized teacher professional development, and a realignment of curriculum to address the changing work environment. More details on each trend are included below.

  • Student Centered Learning and Measurement

Many states are redefining the way they define student success upon graduation, and it’s caused a sweltering debate regarding the effectiveness of implemented changes. Regardless of how you feel about the changes (and we won’t debate them here), there has been a shift in focus towards project-based learning and student exhibitions in an attempt to empower students with a choice in how they learn. School systems are trying to design curriculum around “not yet proficient” students while offering appropriate support to nurture those who are meeting or excelling standards. The trend towards student centered learning has grown alongside the growth of personalized learning plans (PLPs) such as Flexible Pathways, which allow the secondary school student to demonstrate his or her knowledge by completing tasks that interest them. Advocates of the approach suggest it enhances the student’s college readiness. Some districts are asking for parental and instructor feedback on the newly implemented and evolving instruction and learning standards.

  • Personalized Teacher Professional Development

For some school districts, the models of teacher professional development have moved away from Administration-dictated approaches to those which allow the instructor to identify their own learning goals and associated training. By playing a larger role in co-designing their own professional development, teachers are often receiving a combination of online learning, workshops with hands-on instruction, and service-based learning.  Micro-credentialing is also gaining in popularity, which provides credits for professional development that count towards licensure and certification during the following decade. It will be important for school districts to monitor the effectiveness of various professional development approaches in order to continually refine and improve the learning process for instructors, based on the changing learning and work environment that students need to be prepared for upon graduation.

  • Curriculum Realignment

We’ve all probably heard about the Common Core debate, and the growing movement against the standards and tests involved with the approach. The “opt-out” rates for common-core tests has been growing over the last couple years, with parents opting to have their children sit the test out, and teachers refusing to administer some or all of the tests. Beyond the individual protests of the approach, one third of the originating states in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) Testing Consortium have decided to opt out of the Common Core aligned testing for various reasons.

School districts are also realigning curriculum to meet the changing workforce needs, with a rising focus on robotics and computer programming. The growing demand for individuals with proper training in technological fields had led educators to believe that learning should begin earlier than post-secondary education. To ensure success, it will be crucial for school districts to ensure that the realignment of curriculum meets the needs of local employers.

RMS is a full-service market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our research capabilities, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at www.RMSresults.com.

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This blog post is a summary of a recent project completed by Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS).

Background: An organization that provides services to K-12 school districts recently partnered with Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) to conduct a customer satisfaction survey. The client wanted to better understand satisfaction and perception of services provided by the organization. The market research objective was to provide decision-making insights needed to determine whether the organization is meeting the needs of clients, and where they may be able to improve service offerings.

Approach:  The RMS Analytics team collected data from stakeholders via an online survey. To hone in on the customer satisfaction with the services provided by the organization, RMS created an online survey script which was reviewed and approved by the client. Questions focused on how the respondent rated the satisfaction with particular services, customer service perceptions, timeliness of project completion, among other items. Fieldwork lasted approximately three weeks, a longer data collection period than normal, in an effort to obtain a very high completion rate. Through an extended fieldwork period, RMS was able to obtain a 91% response rate. Following the data collection and analysis period, a comprehensive report was delivered to the client, which included a visual dashboard of the findings, as well as next steps and recommendations.

Results: Here are some highlights of the study’s findings:

  • The research identified the areas where the organization excels in serving its customers, including the friendliness and helpfulness of staff.
  • Areas of opportunity where the organization could improve the customer experience included the perceived value for the cost of the service, the ease of receiving an answer to a question, and timeliness of the service.
  • For areas of opportunity, RMS researchers probed deeper beyond what needed to be improved to determine how the organization can best improve the customer experience. This led to action items that the organization can address, in an effort to capture more of the market share.
  • Overall, more than 80% of respondents stated a very high level of satisfaction with the organization.
  • The research identified high-level perceptions by asking what comes to mind when thinking about the organization. Services offered and positive attributes were most commonly mentioned.

RMS is a full-service market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our research capabilities, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at www.RMSresults.com.

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For this second installment in the higher education trends series, we revisited industry trends to determine client priorities for the remainder of 2016.  We’ve noticed interest among our higher education clients in digital investments, predictive analytics, stackable certificates, and prioritizing student retention. Through our research and interactions with clients, we’ve compiled a list of trends that we believe will be integral to the industry for the rest of the year. The first installment in the higher education trends series can be found here.

  1. Investment in Digital Initiatives

Website: Institution’s are becoming more cognizant of the role that the college website plays in the brand’s image. As a result, we’ve noticed an increasing focus on website personalization and optimization.  Websites that provide the visitor with a personalized experienced are building a visitor profile. Each time that visitor returns to the website, the content becomes more targeted based on their browsing history. Once an action is taken (e.g., downloading an application, making an inquiry, scheduling a campus visit, etc.), all previously anonymous data can be tied to the University’s CRM system and used by various teams (e.g., enrollment, financial aid, alumni affairs, etc.). Through tele-depth interviews to test website usability, institutions are able to determine how to best optimize its website experience and where there are areas of opportunities for personalization.

Mobile: Mobile-friendly marketing strategies are not a new topic for many higher education institutions, but enhanced rigor is being placed around ensuring the college’s website is mobile-friendly, and online courses can be accessed across multiple platforms (e.g., mobile, tablet, laptop, etc.). Essentially, mobile-friendly content boils down to three principles: – it must be easy to navigate, with fast download times, and provide a rewarding experience. Moreover, the information being sought should be available, such as a program brochure. Similar to the section above, tele-depth interviews can test mobile strategies to ensure the user experience is satisfactory across mobile applications.

Social Media: Many higher education institutions have been engaging with their stakeholders through social media for many years, but we’re noticing that more colleges are using social media as a recruitment tool. Admissions departments are using the readily available and seemingly endless number of social media platforms to research prospective students, and influence admissions decisions. To ensure that the institution is utilizing the social media platforms that resonate most with their target audiences, a prospective learner survey can be used to determine social media platform preferences and how they would like the institution to interact with them on each.

  1. Predictive Analytics

Institutions are under growing pressure to prove its value as it pertains to student success during college and after graduation. To do so, administrators are tapping into big data to develop predictive tools, allowing faculty and staff to help students showing signs of poor outcomes. An issue that many institutions grapple with is how to get the multitude of systems utilized within the college to talk to each other (e.g., getting data from Blackboard talk to a CRM program used by a different department). The industry has made strides to overcome this issue by adopting the Caliper Analyltics Interoperability Standard. The standard is a set of common definitions for what constitutes learning activity data, and how it is communicated back to institutions. Essentially that means that institutions who are concerned about having easy access to data across programs  are going to want its in-house data platforms to abide by the standards; in turn ensuring that its institutional data can be accessed  with other internal platforms. By having data accessible across programs, institutions can empower students, teachers, staff, and administrators with data that influences the learning process and identifies learning weaknesses.

  1. Stackable Certificates

As alternative learning methods are becoming more popular, stackable certificates options are more prevalent. Stackable certificates allow students to receive credit for professional experience as it relates to their program of study. In some cases, these credits qualify them for certification or advanced credentials.  The benefit to students is that is saves them time and money when completing a degree or certificate. The benefit to the institution is the ability to entice potentially new demographics (i.e., professionals and employers). Prospective students with professional experience may want to go back to college to obtain a degree or certificate in their field, but have previously been deterred by the need to take courses they could otherwise place out of if given the option. With the availability of stackable certificates, employers have access to an affordable option for keeping staff updated on cutting edge industry changes.

  1. Prioritizing Student Retention

It’s clear that student retention impacts the perceived quality of an institution. To reduce student attrition, institutions are investing more in understanding the reasons students leave the college and developing strategies to keep them engaged and enrolled. Tinto’s Model of Student Retention was developed in 1975 by Vincent Tinto and is still widely accepted. The model suggests that “a student’s likelihood of graduating is directly correlated with the degree to which the student is academically and socially integrated into the institution.” A 2015 retention benchmark poll for higher education institutions supported the model, recommending that student learning and campus integration must be a priority to promote retention. To do so, institutions are implementing retention strategies such as: academic support programs, honors programs, practical work experiences, first-year student programs, and one-on-one advising sessions as part of the mandatory curriculum. For online learners, institutions are making online faculty training and academic advising mandatory. To take a step further, institutions are also conducting satisfaction research with current and former students to determine reasons (and potential reasons) for attrition and identify areas of opportunity.

Stay tuned for updated higher education trends throughout the year! Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) is a market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our higher education market research services, please contact the Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy, Sandy Baker at SandyB@RMSresults.com  or by calling 1-866-567-5422.

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Now that we’re settling into the first quarter of 2016, we are setting our sights on identifying industry trends to determine client priorities for the year ahead.  In working with our growing roster of higher education clients, our team has noticed a shift in the education landscape towards revitalization and streamlining strategies to accommodate the changing needs of stakeholders. Through our research and interactions with clients, we’ve compiled a list of trends that we believe will be part of the higher education space going forward in 2016.

  1. Revisiting Recruitment Strategies

Marketing Mix: It’s no secret that today’s students are immersed in a digital lifestyle. That has led many institutions to investigate or implement digital strategies aimed at attracting and retaining top-notch students. Ruffalo Noel Levitz conducted a poll in 2015 to determine the communication preferences of high school students and parents with institutions. Interestingly, they noticed a preferential shift towards direct mail by college students compared to 2011. This finding led them to conclude that institutions should develop and deploy a mix of recruitment strategies – digital and print. Noel Levitz suggests that students may prefer to receive college information via direct mail, but they are unlikely to respond through the same medium. Instead, the goal should be to entice the prospective student to visit the college website for further information. It will be important for institutions to examine their current suite of marketing strategies to ensure they align with the expectations of their target student audience.

Adult Learners: Where we’ve seen the most interest from our higher education clients in 2015 is in identifying how best to reach the adult learner population within their geographical recruitment footprint. High school graduates are no longer the staple for all institutions. Instead, they’re expanding their portfolio to include non-traditional and adult learners to capture those interested in beginning their college career at a later age, or advancing a skill set. Continuing education and personal enrichment courses are of particular interest for community colleges, where prospective learners are already accustomed to a more flexible atmosphere including part-time study and evening course options. Institutions are exploring the preferences of this growing segment of the population, and investing in curriculum that will meet their needs.

International Student Recruitment: There has been a lot of buzz over the last couple years about a spike in international student recruitment. Given that it’s become the norm for most colleges to be operating under financial burdens, it’s no surprise that that they would invest in targeted recruitment of individuals who bring more revenue to the institution. The uptick in international student recruitment has led to more benefits than simple financial gain for many colleges. A 2015 report produced by The Lawlor Group notes that international students also boost cultural campus diversity, while also bringing a more personal “global perspective” into the classroom. In their 2015 report, Hanover Research points out that institutions are now turning to specialized companies such as Pearson, which offers a “Progression+” college informational service, to assist in the targeted recruitment of international students. While the concept is intriguing, it’s certainly not appropriate for all institutions. It is essential to consider whether an increase in international student recruitment is appropriate for your college. To attract top-quality students, institutions now need to offer desirable financial aid packages (which was not the standard even a few years ago), invest in a digital presence, and attend appropriate higher education conferences (some of which require travel abroad).

  1. Competition from Alternative Education Programs

Alternative learning methods such as MOOCs have been in effect for many years, although opinion varies on their effectiveness and impact on traditional bricks-and-mortar higher education institutions. Newer alternative learning entrants to the market include mini bootcamp and nanodegree style learning opportunities. With the technology boom still in full swing, these alternative education methods are becoming increasingly popular and available. Many careers in technology are listed as high-need, high-wage, and high-skill, but there is a lack of qualified individuals in the workforce to fill the needs of employers, making these options attractive to both employers and individuals looking to break into a booming workforce or improve their competitive stance in the marketplace. These programs offer students the benefit of flexibility (often fully online at their own pace), they can be completed in shorter time frames than a traditional college education, and are often much more affordable. A great example is Udacity’s availability of several nanodegree programs which can be completed in about a year and cost $200 per month, with a promise to get half your tuition back if you complete the program in 12 months or less. The emergence of these options is certainly something that higher education administration is already keeping a close eye on. Over the last year, RMS has also seen a growing interest in higher education feasibility studies regarding online program options. Institutions are realizing that to stay competitive, they may need to refresh their current suite of academic offerings to better align with the evolving needs of the education consumer.

  1. Competency-Based Education

The streamlined approach to higher education has taken further shape in recent years through the growth in competency-based education (CBE) programs. CBE programs measure a student’s progress based on how well they learn the material rather than the length of time to complete a degree. In a traditional program, a student typically must complete a minimum number of academic credits, regardless of how well they already know the material. CBE programs allow students to learn at their own pace, and demonstrate via learning mastery.  A research brief published by Public Agenda in late 2015 revealed the results of the largest survey effort on the topic of CBE programs, including baseline CBE adoption data by participating institutions, program design and implementation data, opportunities, and barriers experienced by respondent institutions. The brief disclosed that nearly 600 institutions offer CBE programs, with public institutions leading the way. Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees are the most popular credentials earned by graduates of CBE programs at institutions who have a fully active program(s) or are scaling up CBE efforts. However, the majority (64%) of responding institutions are in the planning phase of CBE adoption while only 14% have implemented a CBE program. It’s clear that administrators view CBE programs as the future and it will be interesting to see if the concept evolves to become the norm in higher education learning.

  1. Automating Marketing Efforts

With the continual expansion of digital channels available, higher education institutions have to balance a multitude of marketing efforts to reach their target audiences. Many institutions have to balance social media marketing, email, a website, and content marketing while finding a way to integrate all of the data that allows them to gain meaningful insights which shed light on how best to connect with current students, prospective students, alumni, and other stakeholders. This has led to an increase in the popularity of marketing automation solutions. Marketing automation tools synthesize an institution’s marketing efforts to allow for in-depth marketing campaign analysis, tracking of campaign analytics and ROI calculations, among a myriad of other efforts. Institutions that use these automation tools have the ability to enact more personalized communication efforts, which is thought to resonate well with both traditional and non-traditional students by making them feel connected to their campus. Since marketing automation is still yet to be standard on college campuses, adoption of these tools would provide an institution with a competitive edge.

This is the first in our series of higher education trends, so stay tuned for updated trends throughout the year! Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our higher education market research services, please contact the Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy, Sandy Baker at SandyB@RMSresults.com  or by calling 1-866-567-5422.


“2015 High School Students’ and Parents’ Perceptions of and Preferences for Communication with Colleges.” Ruffalo Noel Levitz, 2015. https://www.ruffalonl.com/documents/gated/Papers_and_Research/2015/2015_Perceptions_Preferences_Report.pdf?code=3913351183201512

“A Research Brief on the Survey of the Shared Design Elements & Emerging Practices of Competency-Based Education Programs.” Public Agenda, December 2015. http://www.publicagenda.org/files/SurveyOfSharedDesignElementsAndEmergingPracticesOfCBEPrograms_PublicAgenda_2015.pdf

“2016 Trends in Higher Education Marketing, Enrollment, and Technology.” Hanover Research, November 2015.

Buege, V. “International Recruitment: Today’s Issues and Opportunities.” The Lawlor Group, April 2015. http://www.thelawlorgroup.com/international-recruitment-todays-issues-and-opportunities/

Duncan, Scott. “Marketing Technology Adoption in Higher Ed: From CRM to Marketing Automation.” Higher Education Marketing, November 5, 2014. http://www.higher-education-marketing.com/blog/education-marketing-blog/marketing-technology-higher-ed-crm-marketing-automation

Mathewson, Tara G. “5 Higher Ed Trends to Watch in 2016.” Education Dive, December 30, 2015. http://www.educationdive.com/news/5-higher-ed-trends-to-watch-in-2016/411362/

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This blog post is a summary of a recent project completed by Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS).

Background: In Spring 2015, Baldwinsville Central School District (BCSD) partnered with Research and Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) to conduct a stakeholder community perception study to explore learning concepts and identify the district’s strengths and areas of opportunity.

Approach:  RMS conducted a telephone survey with a random sample of households located in the BCSD, and three focus groups (one group with Board of Education, another with instructors, and the last with parents). To determine perception of the district and identify strengths and areas of opportunity, RMS staff completed 410 telephone surveys with a margin of error of +/-4.8%. Survey and focus group participants were asked questions to determine what the BCSD does best, what makes it unique, how the district compares to other local districts, what influenced the participant’s decision to move to the district, and perception of curriculum concepts.

Results: The RMS team analyzed data from surveys and focus groups to provide the client with a mixed methods picture of community and stakeholder perception of the district. Findings revealed an overall belief that the BCSD is doing well, with 73% of survey respondents stating that the district is better than other area districts. Participants noted the great instructors, quality education, and high performance metrics set BCSD apart from other local districts. There is a perception that the district excels at offering strong special needs and extracurricular programs, encouraging community involvement, keeping parents involved, and providing individual attention to students.

When participants were asked about the perceived value of internships, they suggested that students should be required to complete an internship, but expressed concerns over requiring internships for all students. There was a favorable response to the concept of Pathways and educational program career specialization, but participants also suggested the concept should be optional for students who are not yet ready to make a career decision. Similarly, participants felt students should have more opportunities to earn college credit, but there were mixed reviews of the benefits and drawbacks. Parents were excited about the opportunity for their children to earn college credit in order to reduce college costs, while instructors expressed concern that students would struggle being placed in higher level courses when entering college.

When participants were asked what the BCSD could do to improve, they noted changes to the budget and associated school taxes, eliminating or improving upon the common core, and improving communication. Findings from the market research study provided the BCSD with qualitative and quantitative insight regarding community and stakeholder perception which will be valuable in guiding future strategic decisions.

RMS is a full-service market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our services, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at www.RMSresults.com.

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This blog post is a summary of a recent higher education project completed by Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS).

Background: In Spring 2015, a New York State higher education institution partnered with Research and Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) to conduct a feasibility study to determine whether enrollment demand supports the development of (a) satellite education site(s) in a neighboring County to the college, and if so, what programs and training opportunities are in demand. The client wanted to better understand the current and potential market viability of the programs researched, allowing the college to make informed decisions regarding whether the programs have the capabilities to support the need for (a) satellite location(s).

Approach:  RMS conducted eight phases of research to gather the data necessary to provide the college with insights needed to make an insightful decision regarding satellite site viability. RMS staff conducted in-depth telephone interviews with local employers, economic leaders, and school district superintendents to determine workforce needs, interest in a potential partnership with the college, and potential satellite site locations for further investigation. To determine the college’s brand awareness and barriers to enrollment, RMS staff interviewed prospective students who had recently inquired with the college, but ultimately never enrolled. Prospective students were asked about their inquiry experience with the college, attendance at other higher education institutions, and the program in which they enrolled. To hone in on market demand for the current suite of academic programs, RMS completed a comparative analysis of demand in the region and the United States, using available labor supply and demand databases. The report included workforce data by industry for the applicable metropolitan statistical areas, the region, and the United States comparatively. Using data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), US Census, New York State Department of Labor (US DOL), and known competitive enrollment information, the RMS team estimated the additional enrollment potential that the college might reasonably expect to garner from a satellite extension expansion into the proposed County of interest.RMS staff also performed in-person site visits for several potential satellite locations to determine the most viable option for the college to further pursue, and drafted a high-level operational budget associated with establishing that satellite site.

Results: The RMS team analyzed data from all interviews to provide the client with a qualitative picture of brand perception, workforce need, and partnership potential. Findings revealed areas of opportunity for the college to capitalize on internal improvements, and guided other research components, such as site locations investigated and satellite site budget creation. The enrollment projection supported the establishment of a satellite location in the County of interest, and RMS was able to provide the college with an estimated enrollment figure that could reasonably be expected. RMS provided the college with a proposed plan to make the satellite site a viable option by finding ways to utilize established relationships with other educational institutions and local employers.

RMS is a full-service market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in conducting a higher education market research project, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at www.RMSresults.com.

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student satisfaction research

Attrition is a growing concern among higher education institutions. Students are no longer starting and completing their college education at one institution, and competition is on the rise to keep them engaged.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 33% of first-time college freshmen will not return to the same institution for the following academic year.1  Even fewer complete a program after six years at private for-profit schools, where 68% drop out. The outlook is not as grim at nonprofit private schools and public colleges, where 33% and 43% fail to graduate after six years, respectively. Interestingly, institutions that are more selective in their admissions process (those with the lowest admissions rates) experience higher graduation rates (33%), on average, than those who have open admissions policies (86%).2 So what influences these high attrition rates? Many factors, including customer service, finances, scheduling options, personal reasons, and perceived value of education may be playing a role. The cost to retain a student is much lower than the cost to recruit a replacement, so it’s important for an institution to pinpoint the issues affecting their campus, and create strategies to increase retention rates.

Here are some options for gauging student satisfaction with an institution.

  • Quick Pulse Telephone Surveying

A quick pulse telephone survey is a short (10-15 question) survey that offers the fastest turnaround time from start to finish. This type of study is often completed in about a week, and results in a report that can include: results that are representative of the student population, overall student satisfaction with your institution to create a benchmark for ongoing research, opportunities for your institution to effectively meet the needs of students, an estimated return rate of students (overall, and by class), and an assessment of the effectiveness of seminar and acclimation programs. More information on the quick pulse telephone survey process can be found here.

  • Student Satisfaction Online Survey

Conducting an online survey is a cost-effective option for examining student satisfaction. This method is frequently used to ascertain the factors affecting the retention rate among current students. Prospective students (including those who made an inquiry but failed to enroll) and alumni can be included in the research to provide a holistic review of the student experience. Online surveys often include approximate 20 questions and last less than 10 minutes. This methodology provides administration with a detailed report of the findings which can be disseminated to faculty and staff as the institution sees fit.

  • Mystery Shopping

Through mystery shopping, researchers can gain a full-circle look at the student’s experience at an institution. From the initial campus inquiry to the application and enrollment process and beyond, researchers can utilize in-person visits, phone, and online touch points to evaluate all aspects of a student’s academic experience. This “boots on the ground” approach can provide an institution with an inside view that would be hard to obtain through other methods. Research can be customized to include an evaluation of as many, or as few, touch points that the institution would like to investigate.

Are your students happy? RMS has all the tools and resources to conduct your student satisfaction research. Studies conducted by a third-party yield more honest and accurate responses from students when compared with those administered by the institution. If you’re interested in learning more about student satisfaction research, please contact our Sr. Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy, Sandy Baker at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422.

  1. http://www.higheredinfo.org/dbrowser/index.php?measure=92
  2. https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=40

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boom in online education

Post-secondary online academic offerings are certainly not a new concept. The topic has, however, crossed our radar more frequently over the last year than in the past. With college enrollment numbers on the decline, administrators are angling for ways to combat rising costs and garner renewed interest among prospective populations. It’s no secret that the higher education space is shifting. Millennials are staying in college longer to increase their competitiveness in the marketplace, and they’ve been leaders in the shift towards online learning. As Generation Z moves through the post-secondary pipeline, digital learning is expected to be the norm. The mix of recent high school graduates and mid-career professionals that have a thorough understanding of technology, but varied academic needs occupying the same institutional space will stack the deck in favor of online program offerings. As colleges and universities begin to explore this opportunity, we’re seeing heightened interest in investigating the long-term viability of online programs.

Recently, our clients have expressed an interest in the following with relation to online programs:

  • The feasibility of offering current academic programs in a fully online or hybrid format
  • Satellite location feasibility for hybrid offerings
  • New program feasibility of an online-only program
  • Enrollment projection
  • Research with individuals who inquired, but failed to enroll in the institution

The assist our clients with this research, we’ve taken several approaches.

  • We’re conducting more program feasibility studies than ever before. RMS is talking to local employers, prospective students, and workforce development personnel about academic preferences and current labor market needs, and we’re reviewing labor data to uncover projections about future need.
  • Our clients are eager to locate affordable satellite locations for hybrid programs, and identify potential partnership opportunities with local businesses to reduce operating costs. Our team of experienced researchers is identifying potential locations, considering factors such as cost, occupancy rate, and availability (among others).
  • Interest in enrollment projections is also on the rise. Institutions want to know more than a level of interest among the target audience. They want to see a projection of future enrollment to provide a deeper understand of long-term viability.
  • More institutions are investing in research to understand the motivations behind the individuals who made an inquiry with the college but ultimately did not enroll in a course or program. Leveraging this pocket of the market allows institutions to convert those who have not yet enrolled elsewhere, or are dissatisfied with their experience at a competitor institution.

Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our higher education market research services, please contact the Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy, Sandy Baker at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422.

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empty classroom

This blog post provides an updated look on a previous blog post stating how market research can help address higher education enrollment challenges. Institutions are still trudging through slower growth in enrollment than they have experienced in the past. As projected in the previous blog post, the National Center for Education Statistics has again reported the number of high school graduates to be on the decline, with 24 states and the District of Columbia expected to produce five percent or more fewer graduates in 2022-23 than in 2009-10. The Northeast can again expect the sharpest decline, where high schools are projected to produce 10% fewer graduates by 2023.

Fewer high school graduates directly influences the dip in projected enrollment in postsecondary institutions. While overall enrollment is projected to increase by 2022, the percent increase is projected to drop dramatically, from a 45% increase between 1997-2011 to a 14% increase between 2011-2022. Through conversations with clients and colleagues, it’s clear that institutions are aware that actionable insights will be needed to tread the waters. While the approach will vary across institutions, we’ve included some recommendations below for consideration in tackling enrollment challenges.

  1. Tap into Uncharted Territory

Through the projects that we’ve completed for higher education clients, RMS has seen online learning continue to gain in popularity among students and institutions alike. As mentioned in a recent blog post, online learning platforms are expected to become more customizable, providing immediate feedback on performance and tutoring, and ultimately leading to faster degree completion and enhanced academic relationships with professors. This has led to a surge in institutions demonstrating an interest in finding ways to upgrade or offer online educational options.  A survey, in-depth interviews, or focus groups with current and prospective students are valuable tools to find out if online academic offerings is an uncharted territory worth pursuing.

  1. Understand and Recruit from the Changing Demographic Pool

The traditional college student is a shrinking demographic. Institutions saw a 49% increase in enrolled students between 18 and 24 years old from 1997-2011, but that increase is projected to decline to 9% from 2011-2022. In fact, post-secondary students 35 years or older are expected to command the largest enrollment increase during the same time frame (23%), while a 20% increase in enrollment of those between 25 and 34 years old is anticipated. This continual shift in demographics among college students is a trend that will force institutions to re-tool their marketing and recruiting efforts. Adult learners will require different student services and financial needs than their younger counterparts. Commitments outside of the classroom will also vary. There are many paths that institutions may take to determine the appropriate strategy for reaching these populations. It will be important to gauge interest in the college’s current suite of academic offerings, figure out if there are programs you should be offering to capitalize on untapped adult student populations, and match that with the labor market demand for those occupations to drive marketing efforts.  Program feasibility studies  will become vital components of an institution’s effort to answer these questions. Student services and financial needs can be measured through focus groups, surveys, or through a competitive analysis of the institution’s top competitors.

  1. Revitalize Retention Efforts

Retention is critical to higher education institutions, and for good reason. Retention is influenced by initial college impressions such as admissions procedures and policies, but includes many post-admission factors such as academic advising, financial aid, student activities, and residence services. There are several ways to determine which factors are weighing most heavily on retention.  An institution can pinpoint their areas of opportunity by measuring current student satisfaction and comparing it to data gathered from individuals who inquired about the institution but did not apply or enroll. This will reveal where current students feel the college may be falling short and allow the institution to make improvements in an effort to reduce the likelihood of the student body seeking other academic options. It will allow the college to identify gaps in current processes or services that is leading to missed opportunity at the initial admissions phase. Focus groups, satisfaction surveys, and student services assessments are great options to answer these questions.

Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our higher education market research services, please contact the Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy, Sandy Baker at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422.

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The education industry has faced its fair share of hurtles since the economic downturn. It’s clear that a prosperous economy requires an improved educational system (among other things), but the kinks in the rope have yet to be worked out to figure out exactly how to achieve improvement. Thoughts differ on how to achieve a more efficient education pipeline, but several themes remain consistent front-runners for trends to monitor across the educational space this year as we begin the second quarter of 2015. Some of these trends were not a surprise to our team, but some were certainly eye opening.

A bit dramatic, but you get the point.

A bit dramatic, but you get the point.

  • Tuition and financial aid are expected to increase, and more institutions are projected to fall short of revenue and enrollment targets.1 As institutions continue to see their typical funding sources dwindle, many are relying more on grant awards and alternative revenue. This will lead sponsoring organizations to require information not only on the impact of the award, but also an implementation plan for continuous measurement and analysis of data to optimize the education industry and positively influence the economy.2 The funding gap in education has been well publicized, but solutions have been more scarce. We anticipate that institutions will dedicate more resources to alumni relations and grant writing to bridge the gap once internal budgets have been optimized.
  • Colleges realize the need to demonstrate value to prospective students, so more institutions will be investigating how they can best provide quality education and services which add value to students.1 This will likely not come as a surprise to our colleagues in the higher education industry. Students have been showing increased interest in the value of a college education over the last several years. Obtaining student feedback will be vital to jumping this hurtle.
  • Academic technology and use of analytics is projected to increase at higher education institutions. It will become more commonplace for college’s to gather and use data on student learning and behaviors.1 The focus will need to be on metrics that predict success and are early indicators for areas of improvement, rather than graduation rates and persistent rates, which give us information after it is too late to impact a student’s collegiate experience. To make this venture successful, professors and administrative professionals should be part of the planning process when data collection and reporting tools are being developed.2 While some institutions will have staff in place to handle this influx of data, others may benefit from seeking a qualified vendor to assist in the compilation and analysis to determine next steps.
  • Online learning will continue to gain in popularity and robustness. Platforms are expected to become more customizable, providing immediate feedback on performance and tutoring, and ultimately leading to faster degree completion and enhanced academic relationships with professors. As students are becoming increasingly savvy with technology, institutions will need to find ways to upgrade or offer high tech educational options.This is certainly not a new concept, although it continues to evolve over the years. Since the emergence of MOOCs, we’ve seen a boom in online educational offerings. Although their effectiveness is often debated, it’s clear that online learning as a concept is growing in demand.
  • Acceptance of nontraditional credits, such as “industry-based certifications, credit exams, live demonstrations, etc.” from working professionals who switch careers is expected to become increasingly popular. This will allow the workforce to be recognized for their current knowledge when entering an academic program for a new career.1 This trend caught us off guard. It’s a very interesting concept, and we’re excited to hear if this is gaining in popularity within the industry.
  • The demographic of first-generation college students is evolving. Many are no longer “American-born students from working class families,” but are more likely to come from all corners of the world who graduated high school in the United States. Having completed secondary school stateside will make them appear like a domestic applicant, but they’ll have different financial and service needs.1 It’s not uncommon to see more institutions recruiting a larger number of international students. The U.S. has seen an 85% increase in the number of foreign students since 2005. What’s interesting is the shift – first-generation college students who grew up in another part of the world, but relocated to the United States to complete high school and attend college. Institutions will need to determine the financial aid and student service needs of this population to stay ahead of the evolving trend.
  • The traditional post-secondary student demographic is also shifting. The number of mid-career professionals and baby boomers attending college is on the rise, which will require institutions to revisit their suite of academic offerings and ensure the evolving needs of the student are being met (such as desired schedule, learning format, and program structure).1 Program feasibility studies and revisiting strategic plans will become vital components of an institution’s effort to meet changing needs.
  • More states are requiring institutions to give college credit to veterans for their service to our country. There has also been a shift in policies which requires all public universities in the United States to allow military personnel to receive in-state tuition for use of their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit, regardless of residency restrictions as part of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014.3 This is a recent alteration in tuition expectations, so it will important for institutions to monitor and assess the impact of the Act on their bottom line.

Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our higher education market research services, please contact the Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy, Sandy Baker at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422.


1. Higher ed thought leaders forecast 2015 trends. (2015, January 1). http://www.universitybusiness.com/article/higher-ed-thought-leaders-forecast-2015-trends

2. Phillips, B. (2014, December 19). Top 10 Education Trends to Watch in 2015 and Beyond. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brad-c-phillips/top-10-education-trends-t_b_6345056.html

3. All public colleges will soon offer veterans in-state tuition. (2015, March 9). http://college.usatoday.com/2015/03/09/all-public-colleges-will-soon-offer-veterans-in-state-tuition/

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