How big data can help recruitment and retention

 

How big data can help recruitment and retention

 

 

 

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.”

Sherlock Holmes

What is big data and how can it help higher education administrators to recruit and retain students?

Big data is the use of predictive analyses and user behavior to examine large amounts of data to uncover hidden patterns and correlations.

In higher education, big data and predictive analytics has the ability to construct analytical databases that can provide speedy, actionable information in order to make smart enrollment and retention decisions and allocate both staff time and financial resources to increase the enrollment and retention of students. Simply put, big data and predictive analytics has the ability to help college administrators create a set of assumptions to learn which students are likely to enroll and persist.

Since the 2000s, with the increased focus on accountability in higher education, higher education administrators have used technology to provide insights into student choice, engagement and success. The principles of big data have also been applied to curriculum development, registration procedures, and library use. In the future, big data may be applied to alumni and fundraising programs.

Several colleges and universities are already using big data and predictive analytics in their recruitment and retention campaigns. For example, Florida Polytechnic University uses analytics to focus on specific enrollment markets and increase the university’s yield rate.

Georgia State University, with a student enrollment of more than 24,000 undergraduates, uses predictive analytics to increase its retention rate. University retention officials have developed more than 700 red flags aimed at helping advisors determine which students are likely to withdraw and persist. The universities of Michigan, Arizona, Michigan, Ohio, Colorado and Denver, as well as Miami Dade College, are among schools using analytics to improve progression and graduation rates.

The value of producing reliable data to influence enrollment and retention programs is not without risk. For example, it is reasonable to ask what administrators do with all of the actionable information analytics reveal. Is there a college and university structure in place that allows schools to respond, in actionable time, to what the analytics reveal? In most schools this would require a shift in culture and administrative alignments.

How many enrollment and retention managers are part of a committee or team that includes the director of technology and the director of research? How many deans of admission know what triggered applicants to apply and when, in the application process, that took place?  How many directors of admission know why and when applicants decided not to apply?

The same questions could be applied to progression and retention programs. How many directors or deans of retention have intervention practices based on analytics beginning before enrollment and continuing to first and second semester trigger points? How many directors of retention have a profile of the persister as well as the dropout?

In order to effectively and efficiently use big data and predictive analytics it is necessary to ask the right questions. It also requires the ability to “drill down” from massive data to implement change. Martin Lindstrom, an international educator, calls this “small data,” or small clues that uncover huge trends. Clearly there are limitations of using big data.

Data collection and a commitment to insight and discovery are key elements but if there is not a structure in place to use the information, the analytics will simply be relegated to a shelf in someone’s office.

Flexibility will be the currency of higher education in the future and data analytics and predictive modeling are two of the tools necessary to bring flexibility into strategic planning.

Big data has the ability to unearth the meaningful differences between your school and your competitors, allowing the marketing and admission teams to leverage differences, rather than similarities, into future outreach programs.

Big data has the ability to focus on the needs and expectations of enrolled students to shape meaningful progression and graduation strategies by providing personalized assistance for enrolled students.

For a number of reasons, the future of higher education both in the United States, and around the world, is in flux. Moving from standalone data to actionable information, from uncertainty to accountability, deserves consideration.

 

 

 

Recommendations for colleges and universities to avoid closing or merging


college students

Recommendations for colleges and universities to avoid closing or merging

 

 

In last month’s column I shared facts about college and university closings and mergers. Since that time Green Mountain College in Vermont announced that it would close at the end of the spring 2019 semester and Hampshire College in New Hampshire announced it was seeking a suitable merger partner.

The following are two recommendations for vulnerable institutions to consider to avoid closing or merging. This list is by no means exhaustive. My recommendations are based on the belief that higher education is moving from a provider-driven model to a consumer-driven one.

Identify new markets and revenue streams

In their 2015 book, Blue Ocean Strategy, authors W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne advise companies and organizations to identify untapped markets currently not in existence, create new demand and open up new and uncontested market space. I believe the same principles can, and should, be applied to higher education. College and university presidents and provosts should, after reviewing current offerings and academic portfolios, consider new educational offerings that could attract potential “blue ocean” students not currently enrolled. A new strategic enrollment plan should combine data-driven and predictive analytics, and real-time metrics to determine how to best attract new cohorts of students.

For example, the Department of Education estimates that by 2020 one million computer science-related jobs will go unfilled unless colleges and universities graduate more students with computer science degrees. And according to a report by McKinsey Company, 17 percent of the 1.2 million current jobs openings are in the healthcare sector. Both of these examples highlight the opportunity for schools to create new programs that can not only enroll more students but work directly to meet the workforce needs in the country.

After all the hype about massive open online courses settles, the big elephant in the room, in my opinion, will be validating competency-based education as a recognized education paradigm. Allowing students to apply their work and life experiences to earn college credits opens up the “blue waters” to another cohort of students who can earn a college degree at their own pace at reduced costs. According to the global strategy company, Parthenon, more than 600 institutions are either exploring or already offer competency-based programs. Some of the programs are covered by Title IV financial aid funding.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, there are more than 31 million students with some college credits but not enough to graduate. Do competency-based programs have the potential to grow the enrollment pie?

Creative use of technology

Kevin Carey, of the New America foundation and the author of The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere, the author predicts that technology will eventually radically alter the college experience and make higher education available to millions of students.

In another book, College Disrupted: The Great Unbundling of Higher Education, the author, Ryan Craig, the Managing Director of University Ventures, makes the case that the role of technology cannot be underemphasized in higher education. The significant investment in higher education technology application by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation underscores the importance of technology as one way to expand educational opportunities.

The effective and efficient use of technology holds the potential to offer courses throughout the year at any time of the day or night and in any part of the world, making the fall and spring semester system a relic of the past and allowing creative deans and enrollment mangers to fish in “blue waters.”

Technology allows colleges and universities to deliver courses in several ways, on campus, online, in hybrid programs, and with competency-based credits. This variety of learning options supports several student cohorts, including traditional students, non-traditional students, international students and working adults.

According to Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX, “Education in five to ten years will become modular, will become omnichannel, and will become lifelong.”

Traditional colleges and universities will not disappear, but they will change organizationally and future strategic enrollment management plans will include a creative use of technology.

Some venerable colleges and universities will need new business models, an entrepreneurial approach to developing new markets and student cohorts and a collaborative approach to solving enrollment and financial problems.

Perhaps some schools should close or merge with another institution or perhaps they should just fish in blue waters.

 

 

 

 

Shopping for Ideas: High Street to Higher Education

       

          

Shopping for Ideas: High Street to Higher Education

                            

 

My colleague, Alan Preece, has written an insightful article about the challenges in higher education today and how higher education administrators could learn from other sectors’ disruptions.

Alan is an education marketing and enrollment specialist based in San Diego. He has a track record of success in devising and implementing strategies leading to sector-leading recruitment growth for universities. He has worked at a senior level in the higher education, retail, and utility sectors as well as being COO and CEO for private pathways providers. Further information is available from his blog site: viewfromabridge.org

Guest Blog

Higher education could do worse than look to the disruption in the retail sector as a roadmap to the future. The heyday of the high street and shopping mall, from the mid to late 1900s, coincided with the ‘massification’ of higher education as developed economies grew consistently and the population expanded. But the era of major government investment in public higher education is long gone in both the US and the UK, and the sector shows similarities to retailing in its vulnerability to market forces.

Cutting to the present day, 2017 saw a record number of retail closures across US high streets and shopping malls with department stores among the biggest victims. Clay Christensen’s prediction that “50% of the 4,000 colleges and universities in the U. S. will be bankrupt in 10 to 15 years”, may be wide of the mark. But the parallel with retail department stores offer food for thought.

Department stores and most universities run businesses on large sites with high fixed costs and ranges of largely undifferentiated products. Premium prices are charged for quality, service, and a unique customer “experience”. Discounting is a common tool in attempting to lure the volume of customers they need to survive.

Disruptive technology has been a significant factor in undermining traditional retail and higher education. It has created a generation that has global reach in its fingertips. They can shop, learn, experience and compare value without leaving the sofa.

Globalisation is another factor where emerging nations in the Asia Pacific region are making their mark. World rankings, improved quality and rapid growth are among the products of economic power and government support.

The most powerful and best-known universities probably have the financial and brand strength to surf the tides of change. Only total neglect, stupidity or deliberate vandalism would damage their position but even they should be aware of complacency. For the rest there is an urgent need to refine, realign, and reinforce what they offer to students.

As in the retail sector, customer responsiveness, demonstrable value, differentiation, and flexibility will be the basis for survival. But a headlong rush into online delivery is unlikely to provide an answer. It seems unlikely that every university will be able to make it a major, let alone profitable, component of the offer.

Universities might consider some ideas that have proved relevant to retail survival.

  1. Develop unique and compelling “product lines” (degrees and other courses) that are both market sensitive and differentiable from the competition. Be disciplined in managing the range of options available. Learn from experience-driven destinations what it takes to have a must-visit physical or virtual campus.
  2. The power of customer choice means online programmes will have to be the best in class and as good as anything offered anywhere in the world. Half-hearted investment, lackluster delivery, and poor service will not thrive.
  3. Immediacy, performance and personalization have become expectations rather than luxuries. Those are the standards education will need to meet with service excellence from first point of contact to extended options for alumni and added value for repeat shoppers.
  4. Department stores have suffered but stores offering value, convenience, and specialization have grown. These may suggest options for universities actively seeking points of differentiation as they focus on understanding the market and developing their niche.

Towns and cities around the world have been irrevocably changed as what were once considered economic and cultural fixtures – coal, steel, car production, and department stores all have been challenged by globalisation, technology, and new value propositions. In that context it seems unlikely that universities, in their current form, are exempt from the same pressures. There is an urgent need to experiment with new thoughts including building usage, services for users, market relevance, and the economies of delivery.

The challenges will not recede and the future will belong to the bold and the nimble. Inquisitive, smart, and action-oriented universities will embrace the new challenges and respond effectively. Borrowing experiences and solutions from retailing and other sectors may help their thinking.

 

My colleague, Alan Preece, has written an insightful article about the challenges in higher education today and how higher education administrators could learn from other sectors’ disruptions.

Alan is an education marketing and enrollment specialist based in San Diego. He has a track record of success in devising and implementing strategies leading to sector-leading recruitment growth for universities. He has worked at a senior level in the higher education, retail, and utility sectors as well as being COO and CEO for private pathways providers. Further information is available from his blog site: viewfromabridge.org

Guest Blog

Higher education could do worse than look to the disruption in the retail sector as a roadmap to the future. The heyday of the high street and shopping mall, from the mid to late 1900s, coincided with the ‘massification’ of higher education as developed economies grew consistently and the population expanded. But the era of major government investment in public higher education is long gone in both the US and the UK, and the sector shows similarities to retailing in its vulnerability to market forces.

Cutting to the present day, 2017 saw a record number of retail closures across US high streets and shopping malls with department stores among the biggest victims. Clay Christensen’s prediction that “50% of the 4,000 colleges and universities in the U. S. will be bankrupt in 10 to 15 years”, may be wide of the mark. But the parallel with retail department stores offer food for thought.

Department stores and most universities run businesses on large sites with high fixed costs and ranges of largely undifferentiated products. Premium prices are charged for quality, service, and a unique customer “experience”. Discounting is a common tool in attempting to lure the volume of customers they need to survive.

Disruptive technology has been a significant factor in undermining traditional retail and higher education. It has created a generation that has global reach in its fingertips. They can shop, learn, experience and compare value without leaving the sofa.

Globalisation is another factor where emerging nations in the Asia Pacific region are making their mark. World rankings, improved quality and rapid growth are among the products of economic power and government support.

The most powerful and best-known universities probably have the financial and brand strength to surf the tides of change. Only total neglect, stupidity or deliberate vandalism would damage their position but even they should be aware of complacency. For the rest there is an urgent need to refine, realign, and reinforce what they offer to students.

As in the retail sector, customer responsiveness, demonstrable value, differentiation, and flexibility will be the basis for survival. But a headlong rush into online delivery is unlikely to provide an answer. It seems unlikely that every university will be able to make it a major, let alone profitable, component of the offer.

Universities might consider some ideas that have proved relevant to retail survival.

  1. Develop unique and compelling “product lines” (degrees and other courses) that are both market sensitive and differentiable from the competition. Be disciplined in managing the range of options available. Learn from experience-driven destinations what it takes to have a must-visit physical or virtual campus.
  2. The power of customer choice means online programmes will have to be the best in class and as good as anything offered anywhere in the world. Half-hearted investment, lackluster delivery, and poor service will not thrive.
  3. Immediacy, performance and personalization have become expectations rather than luxuries. Those are the standards education will need to meet with service excellence from first point of contact to extended options for alumni and added value for repeat shoppers.
  4. Department stores have suffered but stores offering value, convenience, and specialization have grown. These may suggest options for universities actively seeking points of differentiation as they focus on understanding the market and developing their niche.

Towns and cities around the world have been irrevocably changed as what were once considered economic and cultural fixtures – coal, steel, car production, and department stores all have been challenged by globalisation, technology, and new value propositions. In that context it seems unlikely that universities, in their current form, are exempt from the same pressures. There is an urgent need to experiment with new thoughts including building usage, services for users, market relevance, and the economies of delivery.

The challenges will not recede and the future will belong to the bold and the nimble. Inquisitive, smart, and action-oriented universities will embrace the new challenges and respond effectively. Borrowing experiences and solutions from retailing and other sectors may help their thinking.

 

Facts about College and University Closings and Mergers

          

According to education researchers and writers, James Martin and James E. Samuels, colleges and universities are merging and closing at rates higher than at any time in the past fifty years and according  to studies from Vanderbilt University and Higher Education Publications Inc., the number of private four-year colleges that have closed or were acquired, doubled from approximately five a year before 2008 to ten in the four years through 2011 and among all colleges, 37 schools merged in the three years through 2013.2016, 33 colleges and universities closed and one school merged. The number in 2017 was 31 school closings and six mergers. The figures in 2018 were 35 closings, ten mergers and six acquired. Over 90 percent were private institutions

In 2018 the abrupt closings of Mount Ida College and Newbury College prompted the Massachusetts Board of Education to consider requiring colleges to pass a financial “stress test,” an attempt to prevent sudden closures.

The National Student  education student enrollment decline of 1.7 percent in fall 2018 from the prior year. According to Moody’s Investors Service, during this fiscal year public and private universities in the United States are expected to experience the slowest net tuition revenue growth in more than a decade. Moody’s continues to remain negative on higher education forecasts.

There are several reasons for the increase in college closings and mergers. The number of students of traditional college age, particularly in New England, is declining while the cost of recruiting those students through tuition discounts, is increasing. Flat high school graduation rates across the country and increased competition from online competitors have negatively impacted the ability of schools with fewer than 5,000 students to successfully increase their enrollments.

I examined enrollment data from the December 14, 2018 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, of 30 four-year public and private colleges with the greatest percentage decreases in full-time undergraduates.  Contributing factors included the following:

Four-year public institutions – 14.7 percent decrease

Reduction in availability of federal and state aid

Accreditation problems

Stricter admission standards

Fewer international students

Decreased state funding

Strategic planning changes

Changing demographics

Loss of 25 percent of the student body due to unpaid bills

Four-year private institutions – 9.1 percent decrease

Reduction in college’s offerings

Tightening of student loan regulations

Financial and accreditation problems

Less available state aid

Program cuts

Shift from traditional to non-traditional students

Competing scholarship options at other colleges

The Great Recession

In addition to all of these cited reasons, fewer international students are enrolling in United States’ colleges and universities, and flat progression and retention rates, are also contributing to fewer college and university enrollments.

In next month’s column, I will list some suggestions for vulnerable institutions to consider to avoid closing or merging. In the meantime, should you wish further information, I suggest reading:  Consolidating Colleges and Merging Universities by James Martin and James E. Samuels Peter Jacobs’ article, Here’s How Many Colleges Have Closed in the Past 25 Years, Business Insider, March 12, 2015 and William Tierney’s book, The Disruptive Future of Higher Education, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014, and Moody’s Investor Service’s recent article, U.S. higher education outlook remains negative on low tuition growth, 2018.

According to an article in Education Dive by Jim Fong, the director of University Professors and Continuing Education, the trend of unhealthy institutional performance continues upward and will continue to do so in the short-term and possibly for the long-term.

Last year was a challenging year for institutions of higher education in the United States. This year may prove to be equally, or more, challenging.

Elements of Successful and Unsuccessful International Strategic Planning

 

Successful & Unsuccessful International Strategic Planning

 

 

 

Whether you are responsible for recruiting international students or you have the responsibility for managing your institution’s  entire enrollment process, the 14 characteristics of successful strategic plans and the seven characteristics of unsuccessful plans listed in this article will be useful. I realize there are numerous books and scholarly articles written on the subject, but this blog post may be a good place to start.

The questions are simple. But the answers are not.

Check off the following yes or no:

Is your international strategic plan?

Driven by a compelling vision

Has the support of the president and key stakeholders

Is synergistic with your school’s overall strategic plan and complements the enrollment management plan

Has clearly stated goals and priorities

Is coherent, unifying, and integrated

Has an inclusive planning process

Is data-driven and research-based

Makes extensive use of social media

Recognizes marketplace realities, opportunities, and possibilities

Has the staff and funding resources for both the creation and execution of the plan

Has measurable outcomes

Is regularly assessed and changed, if necessary

Can answer why students should enroll in your institution

 

Elements of Unsuccessful Strategic Plans

Lack of presidential and key stakeholders support

Poorly defined goals and objectives

Little or no research

Inadequate staff or funding

Lack of prioritization

Inadequate follow-up procedures

Lack of assessment procedures

 

No longer can or should international deans and recruiters implement international strategic plans that were once successful in the past but are no longer relevant for the future.

Political, economic, social and technological changes require a different way of thinking and planning. Prevailing perceptions should be challenged. Developing a fact-based worldview in order to better understand the world’s new globalized markets and demographic shifts is essential to future planning.

Curiosity, or being open to new information and actively seeking it out, is an international dean’s greatest asset.

Future international students have options. So should international deans and recruiters.