Decision Analytics & Modeling
Educational leaders urgently recognize that universities, colleges, and schools must harness the power of data and performance analytics and modeling in order to effectively compete, serve their students, and achieve their missions in a time of constant change and heightened accountability. For two decades, we have been pioneering and refining performance analytics and management techniques and tools for higher education, so we’re ready to help you with this challenge.
Academic Program Review
Purpose: High-performing educational institutions dynamically conduct academic program reviews in order to assess and comprehend what programs, offerings, and delivery options contribute to institutional vitality by excelling through their differentiated value in the marketplace; which ones require attention to improve performance; and where resources can be freed up by pruning underperforming offerings.
Method: Our Academic Program 360 Scorecard captures and visualizes operating and marketplace performance across some 50 key factors, forecasts future performance under current momentum, and provides scenario and decision modeling for change.
Outcomes: A comprehensive view of the trend and competitive performance of individual and clusters of academic programs, an evaluation of future potential, and tools for planning and monitoring improvements and investments.
Purpose: In an environment of constant change and heightened competition, universities, colleges, and schools require robust data analytics to uncover performance patterns in their operations, strengthen teaching, learning, and student outcomes, gain cross-functional insights on how to improve quality and efficiency, drive strategic change and innovation, recruit students, and manage critical assets.
Method: Each of our performance analytics engagements carefully define the performance framework for study, collect and organize institutional data, complete iterative rounds of descriptive statistics and inferential analyses, apply diagnositc analytics to identify root causes and interrelated dynamics for performance, and provide drill-downs into multiple levels of data and performance.
Outcomes: Outcomes vary according to your needs. Here are some recent examples: drillable electronic fact books and profiles; situation analyses in advance of strategic and business planning; academic program performance trends; recruitment funnel segmentation patterns, and yield; student retention and persistence studies; and price elasticity studies.
Purpose: Forward-leaning colleges make critical decisions about their futures by applying decision-modeling and support tools to weigh sensitivities and risks, forecast performance and outcomes, fine-tune optimization and effectiveness, and evaluate and choose among alternative scenarios and actions.
Method: We customize each decision and forecasting model according to our client’s specific opportunity or problem, defining its rules, logic, and constraints, populating it with actual performance data, programming for interconnected decisions and influences, providing interactive input variables, and effectively visualizing expected outcomes and results.
Outcomes: Our decision models are used for a variety of purposes: assessing options during scenario planning; documenting the pro formas of strategic and business plans; generating operating forecasts, ROI, and risks for new program planning; determining sensitivities and consequences of pricing and discounting policies; making enrollment and financial forecasts for annual budgeting; and more.
Purpose: It is more vital than ever before to understand, plan, and manage the financial operations, budgeting, and investments of a university, college, and school for optimal performance, value return, and strategic well-being.
Method: We can provide a full toolbox of analytics and decision support around financial analytics and modeling: strategic ratios calculations and goal-setting; dynamic budgeting techniques; activity-based costing analyses; market-life cycle analyses; tuition pricing studies and assistance; and other customized business analytics and intelligence.
Outcomes: University and college CEOs, CFOs, and trustees gain invaluable insights and perceptions that help manage the strategic and operating financial performance of their academic enterprises and develop actionable strategy to improve value creation, delivery, and economic recapture.
Academic Program 360 Scorecard. Our proprietary Academic Program 360 Scorecard gives senior leadership a complete view of a university’s, college’s, or school’s academic offerings in order to drive decisions on investment, growth, and pruning. The Scorecard can be customized as a drillable dashboard to include: competitive value analysis (value scoring, pricing, and market share); market trends and forecasts; headcount and credit hour performance trends; gross and net income; market segmentation and student composition; recruitment and admission metrics; course and faculty performance and ROI; and forecast modeling.
Activity-Based Costing. Prescience is an industry leader in the application of the principles and techniques of Activity-Based Costing (ABC) to higher education. Our distinctive ABC model creates deep insight into the peformance of programs and markets, the cost drivers and activities associated with them, and how to invest strategically for optimal performance.
Market Life-Cycle Analyses. Effective enrollment management extends beyond attracting the next incoming class – and requires managing student, market, and program segments for highest return over each segment’s total life cycle at the institution. Out Market Life-Cycle Analytics program evaluates the total net recapture of economic value from your market segments, to help you decide where to invest and reallocate your branding, marketing, and recruitment resources.
Retention and Persistence Studies. Our retention research starts with student recruitment and admission, so that we can determine not only how to improve retention among current students but also how to recruit the “best fit” students to begin with. We use various statistical tools, including multivariate regression analysis and “fuzzy logic” techniques, to determine factors related to “fit” and retention and to identify “at risk” student segments.
Strategic Financial and Performance Ratios. We assist universities and colleges in developing and calculating an integrated set of strategic financial and performance ratios which assess the operating health and vitality of the institution, determine the degree of strategic maneuver available for planning and decision making, benchmark against competitor, peer, and aspirant institutions, and help set strategic and operating goals to strengthen performance and viability.
Data Visualization and Dashboarding. We regularly apply leading-edge data visualization and dashboarding techniques and tools to deepen the understanding of performance data, enable drill-downs into data levels, and encourage senior administrators and research professionals to present compelling narratives around their data interpretations.
Business Intelligence Tools. We stay on the vanguard of developing and using business intelligence (BI) tools and techniques for higher education to collect, organize, and analyze data, to inform forecasting and decision modeling, and to reveal insights into strategic and operational performance that can be turned into successful action.
Backsolver Optimization. Many crucial performance challenges that academic enterprises need to manage relate to optimization of: academic program portfolios; student mix; course and faculty scheduling; recruitment segment and funnel composition; and student geodemographic profiles and financial aid leveraging. We are skilled in applying “backsolver” techniques and statistics to problems of optimization, to show the best pathways for successful performance.
Customized Performance Studies. For some 40 years, the principals of Prescience have been customizing data analytics and performance studies so that university, college, and school leadership and governance can understand the “Why” of specific situations, trends, problems, and challenges.
Simulating a regional university for strategic planning
The Challenge: A private regional university needed to organize and analyze its business data to inform strategic planning in three ways: conduct a comprehensive performance audit as part of the SWOT phase; decision-model alternative planning scenarios and strategies; produce five-year operating forecasts and pro formas to document the strategic plan.
The Engagement: Design data requirements for planning and modeling; program direct access to the university’s data system; develop drillable performance dashboards, visualizations, and trend analyses across all critical areas of operations; orient planning committees on performance analytics and findings; forecast a “momentum case” for planning; build and apply a simulation model for alternative scenarios and strategies; help interpret simulation projections and decide on courses of action; produce operating pro formas to document the strategic plan; develop KPIs and performance metrics for the plan populated from the institutional data system.
The Results: The university’s investment in a comprehensive system of performance and decision analytics fostered a common “language” and shared understanding throughout the strategic planning program – and beyond, as the institution regularly updates its simulation and forecasting model with “actuals” that show institutional progress on achieving the strategic plan.
Implementing annual program review at a professional school
The Challenge: Design and implement an annual discipline of performance review and planning for academic programs at a school of professional studies to be used by senior leadership, program administrators and staff, and faculty to continuously improve differentiated value, economic return, and competitive sustainability.
The Engagement: Confirm purposes, expectations, design principles, and user-participants for annual academic program review; tailor Prescience’s Academic Program Review 360 Scorecard for the project design; conduct external environmental, competitor, and labor research and derive value scoring methodologies; finalize performance trend analytics and visualizations and tie them to institutional data systems; program and embed forecasting and decision tools; prepare planning and KPI templates for continuous improvement strategies; organize scorecards into cascading levels (faculty, program administrators, senior leadership); orient and coach users on the performance scorecarding and planning system.
The Results: Program administrators and faculty have individual scorecards for their own academic programs, to understand comparative value against competitors, manage key operating and performance trends, and develop annual continuous improvement plans associated with operating budgets and investments. Administrative leaders have an organized system of program scorecards and annual plans to drive strategic development of programs and markets for the professional school overall, as well as tools to communicate program effectiveness and direction to university officers and trustees.
Pricing elasticity analysis and modeling for a private college
The Challenge: Determine a tuition pricing policy for a New England private liberal arts college that accentuates its academic value proposition, faces the competitive realities of a crowded higher education marketplace, aligns with its price elasticity, leverages its reputational and geodemographic strengths in certain academic programs, and realizes sufficient net program income to sustain its strategic direction – while responding to trustees’ interest in a “price reset.”
The Engagement: A national study of the effectiveness of price resets and tuition guarantees at other private colleges; an opinion survey among current and prospective students and families to analyze price elasticity and program demand; analyses of net tuition performance by student geodemographic clusters and academic majors; development of a decision model to forecast and evaluate alternative pricing and discounting scenarios; “backsolver” modeling to determine optimal student and program mix; professional counsel on tuition and financial aid policies and program and market development.
The Results: Trustees and senior leadership learned that the college did not have a “pricing” problem, but a market problem that would not be resolved through a price reset. The unintended consequences of an aggressive financial aid leveraging strategy, based on large amounts of merit aid, were twofold: in-demand academic programs became the most highly discounted ones (because they attracted high-performing students who earned large merit scholarships), negatively affecting elasticity; and, the student body’s geodemographic profile changed as larger proportions of high-need students were attracted by discounts. Instead of a “reset,” the college adopted a price guarantee strategy and revised institutional aid practices to improve elasticity, brand value, market expansion, and program targeting by demand and geodemographic profile.
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We enjoy strategic conversations on how universities, colleges, and schools can enhance their academic value through actionable research, robust business planning, compelling brand strategy, and effective performance.
© 2022 Prescience Associates, LLC
© 2022 Prescience Associates, LLC