This blog post is a summary of a recent project completed by Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS).
Background: A higher education institution in the Northeast partnered with Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) to conduct initial feasibility research regarding two potential academic program offerings. The college wanted to better understand the workforce demand for occupations that the two potential programs would prepare graduates to enter upon completion, as well as regional competition the proposed programs would face. The market research objective was to provide insights needed to determine whether the new programs would be viable in the current and projected market.
Approach: The study consisted of two phases: the RMS Analytic team investigated one potential program first, though an occupational supply and demand analysis and a competitive analysis. Each prospective program received its own full report, including a visual dashboard of the findings, as well as next steps and recommendations. The initial phase of each program included an in-depth review of available occupational supply and demand data for related occupations in particular metropolitan areas, the state where the higher education institution is located, and the United States for comparison. The second phase of each project included a competitive analysis. To hone in on the higher education competition for each proposed program, RMS completed a comparative analysis of competitors in state, as well as neighboring states. The RMS Analytics team gathered competitive data using available higher education databases as well as input from the client team. Among the client’s potential competitors for programs similar to the proposed programs, RMS reviewed conferring degrees or certificates in the region, conferred-degree/certificate rates, and accreditation-based peer sets. For each competitor, RMS scanned program differentiators, comparing the college to the potential competitors (e.g., distinctive features, program composition, credit hour requirements, and modes of delivery), branding and marketing tactics employed, subject matter specializations and target audiences, accreditation, estimated enrollment, and/or tuition/fee schedules. Turnaround time for a project of this size is very quick – RMS is able to provide the client with a full report six weeks from the start of each project.
Results: Here are some highlights of the study’s findings:
1. The occupational supply and demand for the first program under investigation indicated mixed results. There were two concentrations researched as part of the proposed program. The first concentration was projected to experience measured growth for graduates entering the workforce in this field. Although professionals in the state of investigation can expect wages that are higher than the statewide average across occupations, the growth in the field is expected to be minor. RMS recommended that the institution use caution when determining whether the region is in need of enough graduates to support the enrollment needs of the proposed program. The occupational supply and demand for the other proposed concentration showed more promise. The employment market for this field is expanding in the state of investigation and even at the granular metropolitan area of interest. Wages for this occupation are higher than the average wage across all occupations, and steady employment increases are projected in the coming years. Given the growing popularity of online learning in the state of interest, RMS determined that the outlook for a program offered online would be more likely to result in a viable program offering.
2. The competitive analysis for the first program under investigation showed that competition in the region for the proposed offering (and accompanying concentrations) is minimal, with none of the competitors offering online options. RMS profiled the top three competitors by outlining costs, completion hours required, and program characteristics.
3. The second program under investigation revealed a great regional and statewide need for similar programs. Interestingly, we found that there were no completions at any level (bachelors, masters, doctorate etc.) for programs similar to the one under investigation. Professionals in the employment field can expect wages that are higher than the statewide and national average across occupations, with measured growth at the state and regional level. Similarly to the first program investigated, a distance education offering would provide the institution with market leverage.
4. A competitive analysis for the second program under investigation revealed no evident competition in the region. RMS profiled the top three competitors by outlining costs, completion hours required, and program characteristics, and indicated that the institution would be poised to enter the market as a strong competitor with the program under investigation.
5. RMS determined that both proposed programs could be packaged with similar programs that are already established within the college to create a fast-track program. For example, by aligning the proposed bachelor’s level program with an already established master’s level program, the institution can market the program as a fast-track option to graduation, providing students with a faster completion time and reduced cost by spending less time at the college.
RMS is a full-service market research firm located in Baldwinsville, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our research capabilities, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422.