Emsi Case Study (See Full Archive)
Founded in 1902, Franklin University is one of the leading and most experienced educators of adult students, offering more than 40 undergraduate and graduate programs and graduating more than 1,500 students annually from online, face-to-face, and hybrid programs. What’s its secret to success? Adaptability, flexibility, and, more recently, a systematic use of data.
Franklin University’s students are largely non-traditional; many students work full-time but need a degree in order to advance in their careers. The not-for-profit university’s use of data, which it largely accesses via Emsi’s labor market data software Analyst, keeps the school’s portfolio of academic programs competitive and relevant to this market.
Last year, Emsi’s data also came in handy when researchers on the Accreditation & Institutional Effectiveness team (AIE) at Franklin University had only a brief window in which to advise senior leadership on whether or not to acquire Urbana University, a private institution in Urbana, Ohio, that was established in 1850 but fell on such hard times it was nearly forced to close in 2014.
This case study describes how Franklin University’s systematic use of data informs program decisions, supports a variety of staff throughout the university, and not only helped to (very quickly) solidify the decision to acquire Urbana University but has also helped marketing and recruiting staff strategize ways to improve Urbana’s post-acquisition reputation.
Franklin’s Workflow: Using Data to Inform Program Development
According to Franklin University’s Compliance Specialist Joel Tobin, the institution adds new academic programs nearly every year, a process that allows the university to meet the needs of current and future students, as well as those of their current and potential employers, especially in the context of online programs that face nationwide competition for prospective students. How does Franklin decide which programs to add? What is the approval process? How is nearly constant change made possible despite limited staff and resources?
The process starts with an idea, usually stemming from either a faculty member’s suggestion or an employer’s expressed need. Then, the university’s librarians quickly provide objective data that helps faculty members pitch it to a department chair or dean, or determines the program is not a good fit—a process that Emsi’s comprehensive, easy-to-use dataset has sped up significantly.
Much of the librarians’ initial work is market research, pulling enrollment projections, and determining whether or not competitor schools in Franklin’s target region offer similar programs. The librarians also analyze salary information, potential for advancement, job growth, and other labor market indicators relevant to potential students.
Tobin emphasizes that one of the strengths of Analyst is that, throughout the approval process, the data can be easily adapted to suit the needs of a particular audience: “The really terrific thing about Analyst is that the information it provides is malleable. Detailed data is available for those who need it—faculty members, and enrollment and marketing staff—and that data can be repackaged for those who needing only a high-level view, such as senior leadership and our board of trustees, with visually appealing charts and graphs.”
Deciding to Acquire Urbana University
Franklin’s AIE team analyzed a variety of data in order to provide senior leadership with the tools needed to decide whether to acquire Urbana University. Adding to the complexity of the decision was the element of urgency (the AIE team had only one weekend to conduct the research) and the need for appropriate due diligence (Urbana is a small liberal arts institution with a student base and program portfolio very different from Franklin’s).
“One of the great benefits [of Analyst] is that you can essentially provide a constellation of overlapping information when you’re looking at big decisions from all different angles,” Tobin said. “It essentially made possible in 48 hours something that would have been completely impossible otherwise.”
Tobin first analyzed Champaign County, where Urbana is located, as well as the surrounding counties and nearby Dayton, Ohio, to develop a sense of what was driving the regional economy. He then analyzed regional completions for high school diplomas, associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and so on. He researched employer information and employment trends. How does rural Ohio interact with Dayton and vice versa? Are people commuting? How broad would the geographic range be for recruiting prospective students?
Then, he pulled information about competitor institutions, such as the University of Dayton, community colleges, and a dozen private and public universities and colleges. What are the predominat majors?
“The folks at Emsi have been incredibly helpful when we try to design complicated searches, when we want to know the answer to a weird question with many contingent parts,” Tobin said. “They are terrific at providing solutions on how to think through a question.”
How Data Supports University Marketing and Recruiting
Informed by this research, Franklin’s leadership ultimately made the decision to acquire Urbana University, but they then needed to decide how to make it successful.
“The folks at Emsi have been incredibly helpful when we try to design complicated searches, when we want to know the answer to a weird question with many contingent parts. They are terrific at providing solutions on how to think through a question.”—Joel Tobin, Franklin University
“When we made this acquisition, it was in every single [regional] newspaper, and [those articles] talked about the near death experience of Urbana University. Well, we had a lot of work to do from a PR perspective and from a marketing and recruiting perspective,” said Tobin. How should the marketing and recruiting staff reach out to students and their families? How should they focus their messaging?
With these questions in mind, Franklin’s marketing and enrollment team returned to Analyst to carefully evaluate Urbana University’s portfolio of programs, which helped support the decision to reorganize Urbana University into three colleges: education, applied and professional studies, and arts and sciences. This research also drove the decision to invest in programs with high-growth potential, namely the master of science in nursing and the master of science in criminal justice.
This reorganization helped the marketing and recruiting staffs familiarize themselves with the programs at Urbana University and form clear strategies for recruitment, allowing them to better communicate the institution’s unique value proposition to prospective students and their families.
ABOUT FRANKLIN UNIVERSITY
As a private, nonprofit institution, Franklin University was founded in 1902 in Columbus, Ohio, to serve the needs of adult students who have the ambition to continue their education in combination with other responsibilities. Today, Franklin has grown into the second-largest private university in the state of Ohio. Annually, it serves nearly 10,000 students from across the country and around the world. As an accredited, student-centered leader in online learning, Franklin University offers respected, in-demand undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Classes are taught online and at numerous Midwest locations.
Emsi turns labor market and education data into useful information that helps organizations understand the connection between education, economics, and employment. Using sound economic principles and combining over 90 data sources, we build user-friendly software and reports that help universities and colleges, among other organizations, strengthen their institutions, empower the people they serve, and prosper their communities.