Company Spotlight

Maguire Associates’ 360° Approach to Market Research in Education

maguire associates

Ivy Exec recently spoke with Sarah Enterline, Associate Vice President of Research at Maguire Associates, to learn how the firm helps universities align their student enrollment strategies.

The Massachusetts-based firm provides a full suite of market research services – from enrollment management to financial aid optimization – to universities across the globe.

What is your mission?

Sarah Enterline
Sarah Enterline, Associate VP of Research

Jack Maguire, the Chairman Emeritus and Founder of Maguire Associates, created the concept of enrollment management, a core strategy for a wide range of colleges and universities. This systematic approach strengthens colleges’ and universities’ relationships with students throughout the enrollment lifecycle – from first inquiry through application, admission, matriculation, graduation, and beyond.

Maguire Associates, founded in 1983, is a leading research-based consulting firm that focuses on education and works primarily with colleges and universities. We have served over 500 client institutions, including independent and public schools, colleges and universities, and educational systems; consortia; and government organizations. Since our inception, Maguire Associates has worked with hundreds of colleges and universities as they realign their people, processes, and strategies to achieve an integrated, comprehensive approach to recruitment and new student enrollment.

As researchers, we help our clients develop a deeper understanding of the values, priorities, and perceptions of important constituent groups by conducting in-depth market research supported by sophisticated modeling and forecasting. As consultants, we help to convert information from key constituencies into knowledge that informs decision-making focused on best practices for administration, management, marketing, and communications. Like our clients, we remain steadfastly committed to our core mission – advancing higher education through insight and innovation.

What are your company’s main differentiators within the Market Research space?

Maguire AssociatesUnlike most firms, our research team possesses substantial experience applying complex methods and techniques as researchers and as practitioners. We have been college administrators, teachers, professors, trustees, and students, so we know how to explain cluster analysis, conjoint designs, MaxDiff and other sophisticated quantitative tools and we use these tools often. We are also successful qualitative researchers and know how to carefully probe for information in-person, over the phone and online. Our careful combination of these practices ensures a well-designed market research project, certain to inform decisions and lead to impactful actions.

Where do your company’s best ideas come from?

Our best ideas come from our clients. Over our more than thirty years in this space, we can say with a great deal of confidence that we have never completed the same project twice. Each client is different and while we certainly have developed a strong collection of solutions and services, each and every project teaches us something new.

What are your areas of focus within market research?

For over 30 years, in serving over 500 colleges and universities, our company has been largely focused on the higher education market. We have a successful track record in helping institutions develop enrollment management practices, institutional marketing, branding, competitive positioning strategies, retention and strategic planning both nationally and abroad. As researchers, we help our clients develop a deeper understanding of the values, priorities, and perceptions of important constituent groups by conducting qualitative and quantitative market research supported by sophisticated modeling and forecasting. As consultants, we help to convert information from key constituencies into knowledge that informs decision-making at all levels.

Our full suite of services includes:

Consulting:

  • Enrollment Management
  • Marketing & Communications

Modeling:

  • Targeted Recruitment
  • Inquiry-to-Applicant Conversion
  • Financial Aid Optimization
  • Capacity Analysis
  • Retention Integration

Research:

  • Brand Analytics
  • Price & Value Studies
  • Program Portfolio Assessment
  • Admitted Student Research
  • Retention Research
  • Customized Market Research

As institutions continue to shift to more outcomes-oriented mindsets, they often need feedback from professionals in fields where their graduates eventually are employed. We, therefore, often seek input on new programs from employers on curriculum, format, and even cost. We also may need to know what impressions executives have about the graduates from a particular college or university. Furthermore, we ask employers about how they currently partner with institutions and/or how they would like to improve these partnerships.

What is an example of a project that exemplifies your company’s capabilities?

The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai asked Maguire Associates to investigate the viability of launching a Master’s Degree program in Health Care Delivery Management. We conducted comprehensive market research that assessed the competitive environment, student demand and employer demand for such a program through secondary research, an online survey, and interviews. We developed a market size forecast, described the core audience and their enrollment drivers, and gave recommendations on the format, and curricular focus for the program. Based on our work Mount Sinai launched the program and developed detailed program launch plans to ensure success. We recently presented this project at the American Marketing Association Annual Conference.

What suggestions would you like to offer to those in our community who go onto to participate in market research projects?

It is important for executives to understand the important role they play in shaping the knowledge base and skill set of their future employees. By participating in our research, executives will not only ensure job applicants possess applicable skills but, in doing so, will significantly reduce the amount of time, resources, and revenue spent on-boarding and training new employees.

What is your outlook on the market research industry as a whole?

This is an exciting time for our industry. New technology and programming language has made it possible to become increasingly versatile and sophisticated in terms of how we carry out our research. Online platforms are available for advanced online, qualitative research (such as synchronous and asynchronous focus groups), and statistical software can increasingly construct high-level quantitative models that were overwhelmingly time- and resource-consuming until only recently. Over the next few years, success in this industry will be determined by how well researchers, who easily understand the big picture and impact of certain decisions, collaborate with each other to embrace these technological advancements.

What exciting initiatives do you have planned for 2017?

Partnerships – To better serve our industry in 2017 and going forward, Maguire Associates is in the process of forming an alliance of partnerships with other education vendors. While there are some large companies that will provide surface level services from beginning to end (inquiry to enrollment) most schools use different specialized vendors for different parts of the process. By partnering with a company that’s a leader in the field of top-of-the-funnel services, Maguire Associates will be able to focus our expertise on the bottom of the funnel and share data and strategy with a like-minded vendor at the top. This increases efficiencies, engages more minds to solve problems, and provides a deeper understanding and level of expertise for the entire process. In the end, we also expect it to be less expensive and a greater value to our clients overall, whether they hire two different firms or one big one.

At the start of 2017, we added the expertise of Dr. Richard Freeland, Ph.D, as a senior consultant. As the President of Northeastern University, he led the transformation of an unselective, low ranking, locally oriented campus into a highly selective, top-tier national university. Richard has also recently served as the Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education. For the past five years, Richard has served on the Board of Clark University in Worcester, where he is currently Vice Chair and Chair of the Academic Affairs Committee. Freeland’s background in both the private and public sectors will be a critical asset in supporting institutional leaders as they address challenges in defining an appropriate competitive strategy, actualizing that strategy through high-quality programs, and translate strategy into effective marketing.

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