Market Research: Measuring Alumni and Parent Attitudes

Data Driven Decision Making
January 2009
SAIS Winter Retreat
Part I
The Value of Market Research
Why Conduct Market Research?
 Market research:
– Provides a systematic and objective method for
collecting, analyzing, and using information for strategic
planning and marketing
– Enables you to know your constituents (parents, students,
– Ensures that you are data-driven rather than anecdotedriven
Market Research Keeps a School Strategically Focused
 What are our priorities?
 How well are we doing?
 What global, national, and local trends do we need to be
aware of that might affect our school?
 Will local demographics sustain our school in the next 5-10
 How do our constituents and the general marketplace view
 Where should we apply our financial resources?
Market Research Informs
 Parent Surveys help to clarify:
Why families choose a school
How to best market a school to prospective families
How satisfied current parents are with a school’s program
Where a school is succeeding and where it needs to
– What differentiates parents’ views of a school
– How families experience a school’s culture
Market Research Tells a Story
 Alumni Surveys aid in understanding:
– The long-term benefits students gain from attending a
– Potential for alumni fund raising
– How to best serve alumni today
– How to connect with alums from different generations
How to Conduct Market Research
 Identify what you need to know
 Establish a research agenda and calendar
 Determine the best, most cost-effective method of finding
the information
– Outside consultant or school staff?
– Method? Focus groups, online survey, interviews,
literature or research scan, telephone surveys, etc.
Sample Market Research Agenda
– Environmental Scanning (global, national, and local
trends): Annually
– Parent Research (satisfaction, why students enroll,
priorities): Annually
– Admissions Research (students who enroll and who do
not enroll, attrition studies): Annually
– Demographic Research (school-age population, family
incomes): Twice yearly
– Alumni Research (alumni planning and fund raising,
alumni stats for marketing): Every few years
– Image Assessment (community, current and prospective
families, colleges): Every few years
(From “The Value of Market Research” by Kathleen Hanson, Marketing
Independent Schools in the 21st Century, NAIS, 2001.
Part II
Understanding Today’s Consumer
What Trend Research Tells Us
 Current families are looking for specific data on value-added
of independent education
 More choice in educational environment: public, charter,
parochial, magnet, home-schooling
 Tuition is rising more quickly than disposable income in
some parts of the country
Changing Consumers: Gen X Parents
Gen X parents with young children are most concerned about:
 Development and opportunity: emphasis on finding a school
that offers a variety of activities and classes. They want schools to
engage their children, and expose them to many things.
 Safety concerns: need to see that schools will keep their children
safe from accidents, bullies, or other dangers.
 Too much selectivity, academic rigor, and standardized
testing: concerned that putting too much pressure on their children
will teach them to dislike school.
– NAIS Special Population Research, April 2006
Changing Consumers: Parents of Older
Parents with older children are most concerned about:
 Rigorous academics: look for middle and high schools that
provide the necessary skills to prepare their children to be accepted
into college and have a career – such as gifted programs and AP
 Safety concerns: concerned about safety, but the issues are
different and include social dangers such as drugs, gangs, and sex.
NAIS Special Population Research, April 2006
Changing Consumers: African-American Parents
African-American parents are most concerned about:
 Providing opportunity: say they want schools to open doors for
their children and help them succeed in life.
 Economic and racial diversity: have practical concerns that
their children will be isolated in majority Caucasian schools.
 Before and after school care: single parent and dual income
families in all the groups say that before and after school care is
important, but the sentiment is most concentrated in the AfricanAmerican groups.
 Standardized testing: are wary of standardized testing; they feel
the tests are not always accurate representations of their children’s
 Religious affiliations: say they would prefer some religious
influence in their children’s education.
NAIS Special Population Research, April 2006
Changing Consumers: Hispanic Parents
Hispanic parents are most concerned about:
 Rigorous academics: see a challenging curriculum as a key to
better prepare their children for later life.
 Emphasis on moral values and community service: say that
it is important for schools to support and supplement the moral
values taught at home.
 Economic and racial diversity: would like their children to be in
diverse schools, but not if it means lowering standards.
 Standardized testing: are also put off by an emphasis on
standardized testing.
NAIS Special Population Research, April 2006
Changing Consumers: Asian Parents
Asian parents are most concerned about:
 Reputation of the school: think that a good reputation
represents a composite of all the other factors they value such as
rigorous academics, attentive teachers, etc.
 Allowing one’s child to be her/himself: want a school that
helps their children develop in their own fashion; however, they do
not want a school that allows lax discipline.
NAIS Special Population Research, April 2006
Changing Consumers: On What They All
There are two principles that the parents in our research
indicate they most want to find in schools for their
 nurturing critical thinking, intellectual, and personal
growth; and
 attending to the child’s own particular needs.
NAIS Special Population Research, April 2006
Changing Consumers: Why Some Won’t Choose
Independent Schools
 Economic and racial diversity: say that independent schools are
too often homogenous institutions.
 Real world experience: say that the lack of diversity in
independent schools is a problem because it does not give their
children “real world experience.”
 Elitism: say that independent schools, both institutionally and their
student body, are insulated, elitist and condescending.
NAIS Special Population Research, April 2006
Know your Audience
 Use the NAIS Demographic Center to stay abreast of
changing family demographic data
 Learn which marketing channels and messages are
appropriate for your various audiences
 Take advantage of NAIS Advocacy materials:
Advocacy Home Page
Part III
Using National Research to Drive Marketing and
Program Development
Access National Research Studies
 HERI Reports: Independent Schools: Preparing Students for
Achievement in College and Beyond
 NELS Reports:Values Added: The Lifelong Returns of an
Independent School Education
 SAT Reports
 NAIS Parent Study
 NAIS Research Center: Resources
Major Focus of HERI Research
 Longitudinal study that charts normative data on the
characteristics of students attending colleges and universities
as freshmen.
 Explores
– Attitudes
– Habits
– Aspirations
HERI: Habits/Plans of College Freshman
HERI: Freshman Community Involvement
HERI: Freshmen Community Involvement
HERI: Freshmen Leisure Time Pursuits
The Competitive Edge?
% Perceive Above Average
Public Magnet
Home Schoolers
Drive to Achieve 67%
Source: HERI First College Year Survey
The Competitive Edge?
% Perceive Above Average
Public Magnet
Home Schoolers
Math Ability
Writing Ability
Public Speaking 43%
Source: HERI First College Year Survey
Major Focus of NELS 2000 Research
 Study designed to track student outcomes over more than a
decade. Followed students from eighth grade to beyond
college, with focus on:
– Postsecondary Education—degrees, aspirations, courses
of study
– Employment—work status, job satisfaction, computer
use at work
– Volunteer Service/Civic Duty—civic and community
activities, voting record
– Leisure Activities—reading, home computer use,
physical fitness
Educational Attainment
Further Educational Aspirations
Fields of Study: NELS Cohort/NAIS Alums
Health-related fields—12.1%
Liberal arts—7.2%
Liberal arts—12.9%
Visual & Performing Arts—
Biological sciences—7.8%
Job Satisfaction
 In overall job satisfaction, 84.4% of the NELS cohort
expressed contentment with their jobs, while a whopping
90.8% of the NAIS cohort expressed satisfaction
Computer Use at Work
Various Leisure Activities
Part IV
Conducting your Own Research
Options for Conducting Your Own Research
 In-house research expertise
 Market research expert: local or national
 NAIS SurveyBuilder
 NAIS Demographic Center
NAIS SurveyBuilder
 Standard Surveys w/customizable questions
Parent Satisfaction
Young Alumni Outcomes
Board Assessment
Head Evaluation
Welcome Screen
Create Survey
Add Your Own Questions
Conduct Demographic Research
 NAIS Demographic Center
– Run reports on demographic changes by zip code/census
track/block group
– Study Metropolitan Area Reports for a summary of
overall changes
– Use Profile Analysis tool to pinpoint target recruitment
The NAIS Demographic Center
In November 2006,
NAIS partnered with
Easy Analytic
Software, Inc. (EASI)
to create the NAIS
Demographic Center
Basic Reports
They include variables such as school
population, families with children by
income, race/ethnicity, and
educational attainment
Types of reports:
Summary Reports
Detailed Reports
Multiple Area Reports
Additional Reports
for Advanced Use
They include variables such as population,
households, families, housing, income,
employment, education, sales, cost of
living, and/or consumer expenditures.
Five types of reports:
Quick Reports
Ring Studies
Quick Maps
Rank Analysis
Profile Analysis
Study the Changes in School-age Population
Part V
Case Study: The Edmund Burke School—Using
Research to Assess Market Potential
What We Sought: Current Position in Marketplace
 What are Burke’s five- and ten-year admission trends? Yield
 How do they compare with independent schools in the area?
 What is the image of Burke among DC region families? How
could that be improved?
 Given the educational needs of Gen X families, what are
Burke’s competitive strengths and weaknesses?
 Who are our parents today (e.g., by income range,
race/ethnicity, public/private school orientation, financial aid
 How price-sensitive are parents today?
 Do we have waiting lists today? If so, where?
What We Sought: Affordability
 How are income demographics changing in the DC region?
 What is the elasticity of Burke’s tuition in the current
market—at what price will we begin to lose families? At
what price will we become unaffordable in the DC market?
 How does increasing tuition at our current rate affect our
mission (i.e., how important is “affordability”)?
 Is our current financial aid model the correct one or should
it look more like the college model in which most tuition is
Our Research Agenda
Study the admissions funnel (inquiries, applications, acceptances,
enrollment) for Burke and similar schools in the marketplace to
understand five- and ten-year trends for demand and yield.
Conduct a parent satisfaction survey and review past parent
satisfaction studies to assess satisfaction levels and to determine a
profile of Burke families.
Collect and analyze demographic data on growth of school-age
children by zip code (those zips from which Burke currently draws
students as well as those zips where there is the greatest growth in
Collect and analyze demographic data on income growth for families
with school-age children by zip code (those zips from which Burke
currently draws students as well as those zips where there is the
greatest growth in higher income families).
Conduct a survey with area education consultants to identify
changing trends overall and trends specific to Burke.
And some closing thoughts on the value of acquiring
new information…
 Every creative act involves
a new innocence of perception
liberated from the cataract
of accepted belief.
-Arthur Koestler
Thank You!
 Donna Orem
– Chief Operating Officer