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The Importance of Market Research in the Higher Education Realm

Market research in higher education

Data-driven decision making is the key to success for all businesses. The more facts and figures a company has, the better able it is to assess its policies, procedures, products and services, maintaining or altering them as needed to meet public demand.

But good data doesn’t just benefit for-profit organizations; we all use information to inform our choices, settling on one path of action over another based on the intelligence we amass over the course of our lives. It doesn’t matter whether we’re part of the corporate world or involved with a non-profit institution or whether we’re acting as individuals — parents and students and teachers and friends — the stakes for each of us, while different, are still high. In higher education, where overall student enrollment continues to decline each year, good data can mean the difference between continued operation and the permanent closing of doors. With higher costs, increasing for-profit options and changing student interests threatening higher learning opportunities, colleges and universities must develop affordable programs that attract quality students, professors and administrators alike. To do that, they have to research the facts. Take a look at three ways higher education market research can help post-secondary schools remain relevant:

Inform Fiscal Decisions 

Today, there are a lot more options for people wanting to extend their learning after high school. Competitors with online learning programs offer a convenience that traditional campuses can’t fully replicate, even with the most supportive of programs. Couple this with the fact that the average degree has, in essence, become devalued by its own ubiquity, and you can understand how higher ed institutions must develop ways to reflect upon and maximize their own fiscal health. Indeed, with government and/or state support remaining mostly stable, schools must focus on tuition and donor development strategies that best augment the resources available to them in order to stay viable in today’s changing educational landscape. Higher education market research can be used to evaluate brand perception/value, allowing administrators to recognize an optimal tuition price point. It can also be used to identify and attract prospective donors, develop better marketing materials and critically appraise recruitment strategies (among a host of other things).

Develop and Test Academic and Co-Curricular Offerings

A key component of any school’s appeal is its academic and co-curricular offerings. And schools can’t offer the programs that students and, in some cases, prospective employers want if they don’t ask them. Using higher education market research, colleges can determine whether their current offerings match community need and whether their prospective ones match student and market demand. It can similarly be used to examine competitive offerings in order to capitalize on the strengths and weaknesses of other institutions.

Monitor Community Satisfaction

Finally, schools of higher learning must continuously review how well they are meeting the needs of the people they serve. These, of course, include the needs of students, faculty members, parents and employees, but they also include the needs of less evident groups such as future graduate employers and service staff. With properly administered higher education market research that accurately describes school culture using feedback that measures the satisfaction levels of all their constituents, schools can better guarantee that they are fulfilling their individual missions.

Need More Information?

Good decisions always stem from good information. At Communications for Research (CFR), we have qualified market researchers that understand the changing higher ed market. We know how to harness data that can effectively inform your institution’s fiscal decisions, as well as its academic/co-curricular offerings, and can accurately gauge your level of community support. We can craft a higher education market research plan that fits your budget and time constraints and gets you the data you need to make meaningful and profitable change. Contact us for more information.

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