Occidental College—home to approximately 2,100 liberal arts and sciences undergraduates in the heart of Los Angeles—employs Lightcast’s Analyst to focus enrollment efforts on markets that align with the college’s enrollment initiatives. Among other things, Analyst plays a crucial part in regularly bringing data to the table to inform conversations and direct strategies.
Occidental College is both expanding and focusing their recruitment efforts through a data-driven approach that identifies regions with ideal growth trends and demographic makeup.
Analyst equips Occidental’s enrollment team with regional demographic and occupation data to shape and strengthen the college’s enrollment management model.
Using Analyst, Occidental administration can easily pull, analyze, and organize the data well before deploying a strategy.
One role, many hats
Chris Ferguson, Associate VP of Enrollment, plays a unique role at Occidental College.
“In partnership with Vince Cuseo, VP of Enrollment and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid, some of my focus includes working to strengthen our strategic enrollment management model, implementing best practices in recruitment and financial aid, ensuring programs are attractive, and telling the story of the value of the liberal arts degree in today’s outcomes-focused climate," said Ferguson.
“Overall, it’s about creating, designing, and implementing new strategies and tactics that fit with how students and families are making college choice decisions today. From recruitment marketing through matriculation and beyond, we must employ market research intelligence to recruit active alumni. Our strategic enrollment management efforts are ultimately designed to attract and recruit alumni—college students who will thrive at Oxy and in the workforce."
Past work in program alignment
Ferguson, who joined Occidental in September 2016, introduced and used Analyst in two of his previous roles at Drexel and The New School to research and identify new program opportunities and evaluate existing programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. “When meeting with faculty and staff members about new program ideas, I would have a slew of relevant academic program and occupation data in a few seconds, adding relevance and data-driven detail to initial conversations," said Ferguson.
Using Analyst, Ferguson would reference the data to identify top regional employers, in-demand and marketable skills, and occupational growth trends to align and enhance curriculum or propose new programs.
“Along with saving us time and effort by making the data readily available, Analyst helped us gain the confidence and support of faculty as we collaborated on program assessment and development," said Ferguson.
Targeted enrollment efforts
Now at Occidental, Ferguson’s role includes identifying prospective students that would be a good fit for Occidental’s tight-knit, liberal arts atmosphere.
“We use the demographics data within Analyst to target specific regions and markets that have growth and ideal demographic makeup. It’s important to both strengthen our feeder markets and create new markets where needed," said Ferguson.
Within Analyst, Ferguson can quickly get a bird’s-eye view of different regions and understand at a deeper level which regions present new recruitment opportunities. “When we’re planning campaigns and mapping out travel, Analyst helps us to focus our efforts and run a leaner operation. We know which regions have a growing youth population and align with our institutional enrollment priorities," said Ferguson.
Beyond demographics, Ferguson analyzes job postings and occupation projections to pinpoint markets that have robust job prospects for liberal arts graduates. “Along with saving us time and effort by making the data readily available, Analyst helps us collaborate with faculty interested in new program development. The data—which they can see is legitimate—allows us to build their trust and get on the same page as we work toward the common goal of offering quality programs and curriculum that are attractive and meaningful to students seeking a strong liberal arts education," said Ferguson.
This work supports Occidental’s initiative to double the number of names they purchase annually for marketing and recruitment efforts. Those names translate to leads in Occidental’s multi-channel communication plan, ultimately feeding an inquiry pool of engaged prospective students for admissions.
Advice for enrollment professionals
Ferguson’s advice for other enrollment professionals? Prioritize data in your processes.
“Build in the time needed to pull, analyze, and organize the data well before deploying a strategy or tactic. Don’t try to squeeze it into the end of your work. Thankfully, [Lightcast] makes it an easy add to your workflow since Analyst is quick, efficient, and simple to use," said Ferguson.
“We all feel overloaded and short-staffed at times. Don’t let that be the reason you don’t use data to inform your work. The data is out there and you don’t have to spend weeks gathering it."