By Meaghan Rajkumar, Analyst
Clients often ask us whether we can “find the next BIG program?” What they mean to ask is whether we have inside knowledge or evidence about the next fastest-growing field of study where few schools have already established programs.
While we do uncover new program opportunities that appear promising for various reasons, the next BIG program is usually a myth – particularly in the online sector. Our forecasts show that online enrollments are leveling, at least in the near term, as the market has become competitive and fairly mature. Further, there is no perfect methodology that can survey all possible corners of the workforce and education spectrum to uncover the few fastest-growing and underserved markets that may be left. Such a project would take years, as it would entail synthesizing a massive amount of secondary and primary data. By the time it was complete, the market probably would have changed. Even more importantly, new program opportunities may or may not align with an individual school’s existing strengths, resources, and budget.
What some schools may not realize is that their next BIG program opportunity might be one they already offer. We have seen clients drive great success from looking at their existing program portfolio and asking us to help them take a long and hard look at how they can strengthen it. By looking closely at how an existing program is positioned in the market, schools can often make low-cost changes that help make their programs more competitive. However, the key to being strategic in program revitalization hinges on asking the right questions, such as:
- Who are the leading competitors and what are they doing right?
- Who are our peers and how can our program be better positioned in terms of price, marketing, delivery, and other services?
- What are the traits and needs of specific target audience(s)?
- How do geography and population come into play?
Given the increasingly competitive higher education landscape, the maturing online sector, and the continuous tightening of the budgetary belt at institutions, schools that are able to successfully revitalize existing programs may be in the strongest positions over the long-term.