Taking the Big-Picture Approach With Data Analytics

Keys to success in competitive markets

Robert Atkins, CEO, Gray Associates, a Jenzabar partner

Q&A with Robert Atkins, CEO, Gray Associates, a Jenzabar partner

Why are data analytics becoming more important in program assessments?
In general, college costs are up, revenue is down and competition is increasing. Traditionally, local schools competed against each other. Now, enormous online players, including Western Governors University, are pulling 100,000 students per year from local markets. These online giants can invest in sophisticated market analytics and spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on marketing. That puts a big strain on local colleges. It’s Bambi against Godzilla, especially when almost every program can be offered online.

Fortunately, analytics tools can help identify new programs and growth opportunities for current programs. The niches are where smaller schools can sustain enrollment, grow and level the playing field by leveraging analytics since the tools are more affordable and easier to use now.

What data is critical to a good program analysis?
For each program, institutions need insights on four topics: mission fit, academic performance, market opportunity and money. Historically, colleges focused on assessing programs against their mission and academic requirements. More recently, people have focused on labor market data to ensure students are prepared for jobs. But just because there are jobs doesn’t guarantee that people will enroll in college programs. Student demand is a critical variable. You must be able to make these decisions about what programs to invest in over time, and see how they’ll affect the university. You’ve got to base predictions on market data.

What are some benefits of using big data analysis?
Big data lets you explore the entire market and all programs. We track 1,400 programs in 72,000 census tracts and look at 800 standard occupation codes. This allows you to get granular information and better understand the market you’re serving, and then pull data, not just for a program, but all 1,400 programs. It allows you to pick the best possible program and the difference could be millions of dollars. It also highlights programs in weak markets. There’s not a lot of money to be saved in cutting these programs, but there is enough money to fund growth. That can be critical if you’re trying to turn around a school.

Why should an institution partner with Jenzabar and Gray Associates for this type of service?
We complement each other. Gray is very good on external market data. We can do program economics, but we’re not set up to build systems and to create solutions that are fully integrated into a school’s existing systems. Jenzabar understands and is at the foundation of an institution’s internal operating infrastructure. It has the right code to hook up big data and analytics to the ongoing operational data in the school. Jenzabar’s integration gives you dynamic, real-time information. Together, Gray and Jenzabar give you exciting ways to look at today’s markets and operations—and make better-informed decisions.

For more information, please visit jenzabar.com/ubanalytics

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