Higher Ed: Sizing Up Your Competition

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Nontraditional enrollment leaders know how important it is to regularly review the performance of their academic offerings, communication plans, admissions processes, and more. A routine evaluation of all aspects of a school’s nontraditional program allows for adjustments and innovation that can result in more and happier adult learners.

While it’s critical to conduct reviews of your own institution, it’s equally as important to understand your competition. And, just as your school adjusts to the ever-changing needs of adult learners, you can be sure your competitors do the same.

Before you begin comparing your institution to others, you’ll want to define exactly who your competition is. Consider surveying inactive leads to understand where they are applying or why they chose another school over yours. Encourage admissions staff to ask prospective students where else they are considering. Lastly, pay attention to which schools are marketing and advertising in your area (both local institutions and larger online brands).

Once you’ve determined which schools you are competing with, ask yourself the following questions as you size them up:

Programs

The right mix of academic programs is critical to an institution’s success in the nontraditional market. How does your suite of academic offerings compare to that of your competitors? Do you offer more, less, or about the same number of in-demand programs? Does your program mix allow for your institution to be uniquely positioned in the market, or is your school lost in the crowd of those that serve nontraditional learners?

Modality

Having the right program mix is important. However, offering those programs in ways that adults want to learn is even more critical to enrollment success. How does your competition offer its degree programs—online, on-campus, or hybrid? Are your competitors’ programs more or less accessible to nontraditional learners compared to your programs?

Cost

Compare your tuition cost to that of your competition. Is yours higher, lower, or right in line? (Pro tip: don’t forget to evaluate fees.) If your tuition is higher, think about the ways you compete against institutions similar to yours. In other words, what value does your school provide that offsets differences in tuition? And, are your admissions counselors prepared to explain why choosing a degree program is not just about the cost?

Admissions

Ease is the name of the game when it comes to a successful admissions process for nontraditional learners. How does your process stack up against your competitors? How many steps does it take for prospective students to request information, complete an application, register for classes, and enroll with your competition? How many steps does it take at your school? If your process is more involved, can certain steps be eliminated to make the path to enrollment easier?

Outreach

Analyze your competitors’ outreach to prospective students. How does their messaging compare to your institution’s communication plan? Are prospective students being contacted more, less, or virtually the same? What makes their messaging unique and memorable?

These are just a few of the many things to consider as you review your competition. Understanding how your school compares to other institutions is critical to your enrollment success. We’ve assisted our clients with designing, implementing, and facilitating competitive analyses, as well as researching and managing competitor studies for those who may have limited time or resources to complete this important task. If you need help in this area or are looking to improve your team’s conversion rates through admissions training and professional development, or with any of Rivetica’s marketing, admissions, or academic solutions, we’ll be here.

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