Background: A college in New York State partnered with Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) to understand and substantiate the need for a proposed Master’s program in a specific Liberal Arts track. The market research aimed to analyze the occupational forecast to determine if it demonstrated significant need for the Master’s program and if that need for the curriculum was already fulfilled by other institutions in the area. This market research aimed to provide the college with the data needed to understand the need and forecast demand for the new degree. The project was intended to reduce the risk in launching a new degree program without knowing the demand in the area and to provide the college with recommendations on how to best publicize awareness of the program.
Methodology: Based on previous demand work done by RMS on behalf of the same college, RMS recommended that three areas of research be conducted. These would be documented in justification with the New York State Education Department (NYSED) filing. These areas were: (1) a competitive inventory and assessment of area institutions offering similar programs; (2) the Department of Labor’s (DOL) occupational projections for jobs associated with the Master’s degree concentration; and (3) identification of benefits and drawbacks through in-depth interviews (IDIs) with administrative staff at colleges similar in profile of the sponsoring institution.
Results: In addition to these key findings, RMS also prepared recommendations and action items for the college to use moving forward.
- Primary Market Area (PMA) & Competition – Competition in the PMA was minimal. No competing M.A. programs were offered by institutions within a 60‐minute drive time of the college. One competitor offered a program but was just outside of an hour’s drive from the college, and another’s program was restricted to a small number of full‐time students.
- Job Analysis – It was determined that one specific type of job was the major growth area for relevant jobs in the PMA. Feedback received from the in‐depth interview component strongly suggested that this growth was being driven by this specific position. Beyond that core job profile, minimal growth was projected for positions relevant to this type of M.A. holder.
- In‐Depth Interviews (IDIs) – The interview participants emphasized two vital components needed for the college to sustain a successful M.A. program:
- Faculty buy‐in and support, with the understanding that the addition of a graduate program will change the ways faculty are deployed and students are taught;
- Establishing and focusing upon a specialized niche that would make the program stand out among other competing master’s level programs. Input from the five interviews suggested that the programs with the largest enrollments were geared toward serving the needs of a specific job profile.
- RMS was “thorough” and “extensive.”
- Rated as a 10 for satisfaction on a 1-10 scale (“1” not at all satisfied; “10” very satisfied)
- Reasons for the high level of satisfaction: “RMS came up with the best plan to research the data I needed. Their research was thorough and presented honestly without bias.”
- Plans for using the market research: “We will use the findings from the feasibility study to market and implement a new Graduate program. The tuition (our college) gains from two new students will cover the investment we made (in market research).”
How is that for Market Research ROI? Are you a college or university interested in starting a new program at your institution but are unsure of what the demand for such a program will be? Contact our Business Development Director, Sandy Baker at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 315-635-9802.