New Market Research for Colleges & Universities


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Overview on how to begin conducting market research for new markets. This has a simple overview of collecting institutional resources, external demographic warehouses and predictive modelling.

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New Market Research for Colleges & Universities

  1. 1. Using Research to Identify New Markets A Brief Overview for Colleges & Universities Joe Szejk Omaha, NE joeszejk@gmail.comThe seismic shift in the country’s demographics demand institutions re-consider their market position, particularly those that relyheavily on traditional, residential students. As the costs of a four-year degree continue to climb, more students are either postponingtheir degree aspirations or extending them for part-time enrollment at the local community college. This maelstrom of heightenedcompetition for fewer students beckons enrollment managers, CFOs and Presidents to allocate resources towards new markets asexternal forces shape their campuses and operating budgets. The purpose of this article is to provide insights on how to approach newmarket research for traditional, residential students. ***According the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), most states are in the middle of a downward turn in graduatingclasses through 2018. The majority of states will need to increase their geographic reach to meet budgetary pressures.By using standard processes, historical data and publically-available information, institutions can build a model that providesdemographic data that connects the new area with current composition of the institution.The process is threefold: 1. Analyze historical data to determine “best” institutional zip codes based upon both recruitment (new) and graduation (success) of high school students; 2. Compile demographic summaries of best zip codes and apply a model to zip codes within a specified region for prime areas to consider; 3. Appraise various existing institutional resources (alumni locations and athletic recruitment, for example) with regional resources as well (competitor sets – public/private as well as academic programs.)If the institution has appropriate resources—rock solid historical data, the ability to pull it correctly, and staff with expertise in statisticalanalysis—there may be another layer added in the mix, which would be to determine the characteristics of the students from those“best” institutional zip codes. This can be helpful in targeting searches more discretely. It is not however, necessary as you recruit froma region not just a specific student. ***Research  Compile the data for your matriculants and graduates over the past five to seven years and aggregate by zip code. Depending on your population, you may want to consider population density to target various subgroups. US Census provides information on population density.  Use zip code demographic sets to find illustrate zip codes and lifestyle. One prevalent is Nielsen Claritas PRIZM model, which assigns a profile to every zip code in the United States. These profiles summarize complex lifestyle, consumer thinking and behavior patterns, providing organizations with precise information to target their marketing efforts.Modeling  Once you have your best zip codes plotted out based upon PRIZM scores, you can build a model of what your typical “best” zip code looks like. Identify key demographic ranges (number in household, % married, income, etc.) that you wish to seek.  Select a zip code demographic program or Web page that allows you to search by state and begin identifying which demographic indicators are the most consistent for your search group.  Once you have these ideal zip codes outside of your serving region, you may plot them out on the map (or through a zip code polygon analysis) to discover which zip codes are clustered together – say, within 20 miles of another “good” one.
  2. 2. This process should highlight where the most consistent, best areas – based upon demographic and lifestyle information – for a newmarket exist for your institution, based upon your current population. It is, however but one step in the process.The next step is equally as important but not quite as labor intensive. The “Additional Considerations” are designed to give aperspective of the competitive landscape of your new region as well as the available resources (students, athletic name recognition,alumni, etc.) ***Additional Considerations  Review US Census & Western Institute of Commission on Higher Education for projections of students in your demographic targets.  Compare your largest academic program enrollment against other institutions in your possible locations or region. This information is readily available from National Institute of Educational Statistics and will also provide you with cost information as well if your students are price sensitive.  Consider reviewing the NCAA or NAIA Web pages or the Web pages of colleges within the area to discover where most of the student athletes at the institutions within your new location originate. This can also help if there are a number of like colleges within your region, as athletes may know of you through competition or recruitment.  Obtain your alumni database from your office of advancement. This information can show you where populations of people who may have an affinity for your institution are located and may help with referrals or outreach.If you are looking at a number of new locations, this process can be replicated easily. The biggest step is building your own “best” zipcodes. You may also decide to slice and dice your own institutional information for students of a specific academic interest, ethnicity oracademic background to build new populations rather than just a blanket of new residential students. ***ClosingThe intelligent use institutional and demographic research to extend your reach beyond your current market will be vital in meetingenrollment and revenue goals over the coming years. The American Freshman: 2010, shows that only 42% of students attended acollege more than 100 miles from home and only 15.5% attended a college more than 500 miles from home. As moreinstitutions compete for fewer students, the stakes will never be higher.With such finite numbers, institutions must find the “right” new geographic market the first time, as there won’t be a second opportunity. ***Joe Szejk is the former Vice President of Enrollment and Marketing at College of St. Mary (NE). With a broad background in communications, enrollment and marketing, he specializes inresearch, financial aid, and communications plans. He has spoken at the National Small College Enrollment Conference on multiple occasions and his work on CSMs microsite, was the subject of an article in USA Today. When not learning new Excel functions or working on a graphic novel with his best friend, Joe enjoys spending time withhis wife and children. He may be reached at: