Launching a new academic program in higher education is an endeavor that demands careful consideration and strategic planning.
Before diving into the creation of a new educational offering, universities and colleges must conduct a comprehensive program feasibility study to assess its potential success.
In this blog post, we will explore the essential role of program feasibility studies in the realm of higher education, and uncover the benefits they bring to institutions and stakeholders alike.
What is a Program Feasibility Study in Higher Ed?
A program feasibility study for higher education is a comprehensive assessment conducted before the introduction or implementation of a new academic program at a university or college.
This study aims to evaluate the viability and potential success of the proposed program, considering various factors, risks, and opportunities. The study is typically carried out by a team of experts, administrators, and stakeholders involved in higher education.
Why Conduct Program Feasibility Studies
Conducting program feasibility studies for higher education offers numerous benefits to institutions and stakeholders involved in the decision-making process. Some of the key advantages include:
- Informed Decision-Making: Feasibility studies provide essential data and analysis, allowing decision-makers to make well-informed choices about whether to proceed with a new program. It helps avoid hasty or uninformed decisions that could lead to wasted resources.
- Identification of Market Demand: Market research helps determine whether there is sufficient demand for the proposed program among prospective students and employers. Understanding market demand ensures that the program is relevant and addresses the needs of the target audience.
- Financial Viability: Evaluating the financial aspects of the program helps identify potential revenue streams, expected costs, and the projected return on investment. This information is critical for financial planning and budgeting.
- Risk Mitigation: Program feasibility studies allow institutions to identify potential risks and challenges associated with new classes and offerings. By identifying these risks early on, the institution can develop strategies to mitigate them, reducing the likelihood of failure.
- Competitive Advantage: Understanding the competitive landscape enables institutions to design a program that stands out from similar offerings in the market. This helps attract students and enhances the institution's reputation.
Components of a Higher Education Program Feasibility Study
A well-conducted program feasibility study provides valuable insights that can contribute to the successful establishment and growth of a new academic program in higher education.
Based on the findings of the higher education program feasibility study, decision-makers can determine whether it is advisable to proceed with the new program, modify the proposal, or abandon the idea altogether.
To accomplish this, our higher education market research company recommends including the following components:
Component #1: Market Analysis
The market analysis in program feasibility research for higher education answers questions about job growth and demand.
Higher education market research companies review the Bureau of Labor Statistics for relevant market job growth and job potential. This is completed by tying the program of interest to potential occupations in the field.
A market analysis is a critical piece of the program feasibility study because it ties demand data to feedback from the primary research.
Component #2: Competitive Assessment
Additionally, it is important to examine state-wide and national degree completion trends. This provides additional insights into student demand for each degree program.
As part of this competitive analysis, extensive profiles are created for rival institutions in the market area which offer similar degree programs.
Information is gathered on features, messaging, and enrollment of each of these competitive offerings. This lends competitive insight as to how many programs in the area are offering similar degrees and what the enrollment looks like for those degrees.
Component #3: Interviews with Employers
Before a new program can be offered by a higher education institution, it is important to have discussions with employers who could potentially hire these graduates. These discussions are referred to as in-depth interviews (IDIs).
The goal of the interviews is to gain insight from the target audience in relation to program successes and barriers.
Oftentimes, a market research company will target invitations to participate in the IDIs to ensure employers meet all qualifying criteria (e.g., knowledge of the subject area, authority to hire or influence hiring, etc.).
These one-on-one interviews may be conducted with 5 to 8 employers either in-person or over the phone. Each interview lasts between 15 to 20 minutes, which allows for roughly 15 questions.
To encourage participation, market research companies recommend each participant be paid an honorarium as a thank you for the feedback (e.g. $75 cash). This can be accepted or donated to a charity of the participant's choice.
Component #4: Survey with Prospective Students
Another component of new program feasibility research for higher education institutions is getting feedback from prospective students to gauge their interest in the program.
This survey will address the key objectives of the program feasibility study including recommended questions based on past higher education program feasibility experience. Qualifying criteria will be created to ensure the survey reaches the target audience.
Surveys with prospective students should take 3 to 5 minutes to complete which allows for roughly 10 questions.
To encourage participation, it is recommended participants be offered an honorarium as a thank you for sharing their feedback (e.g. raffle to win 1 of 5 $50 Amazon gift cards).
Looking for tips on how to write a survey? We've got you covered.
Ultimately, a well-conducted higher education program feasibility study increases the likelihood of success for new academic programs, benefiting both the institution and its stakeholders.
The thorough assessment of market demand, competing schools, hiring employers, and prospective students makes for well-informed decisions.
More importantly, by conducting these comprehensive studies, educational institutions can craft programs that align with their goals, meet the needs of their target audience, and thrive in a competitive landscape.
Embracing the insights and recommendations obtained from feasibility studies paves the way for sustainable and successful educational initiatives, shaping a brighter future for higher education and the students it serves.
Drive Research is a national market research firm located in Upstate New York. Our team has worked in a variety of industries including higher education. Here's more about the industries Drive Research specializes in and the custom market research services offered.
Want to contact our team about a program feasibility study? Here are a few ways to contact us.
- Message us on our website
- Email us at [email protected]
- Call us at 888-725-DATA
- Text us at 315-303-2040
As a Research Manager, Emily is approaching a decade of experience in the market research industry and loves to challenge the status quo. She is a certified VoC professional with a passion for storytelling.
Learn more about Emily, here.