ROI at RITRochester Institute of Technology Aligns its Online Programs with Labor Market Demand to Boost Enrollment
Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) blends technology with arts and design to provide students with a wide range of academic opportunities to drive progress in industries and communities around the world. RIT boasts more than 135,000 alumni in corporations, government, and non-profit organizations throughout the world and is a national leader in placing graduates (96% within six months of graduating).
In an effort to increase online graduate enrollments, RIT wanted to focus on strategic alignment with career outcomes and labor demand to best communicate the return on investment their online degree programs deliver. Thérèse Hannigan, Director of RIT Online, recognized that real-time demand data needed to be central in the development, analysis, and marketing of existing programs.
Online programs are attractive to nontraditional students and working professionals, which is the target audience for RIT Online. For this demographic, a strong return on investment is one of the most important factors for choosing an online degree program. To determine the ROI of a program, the assessment of potential job growth, skills projections, and salary information related to the degree are essential components to drive decision making.
The existing 35 online programs at RIT have been developed by faculty who are deeply committed to excellence in academics. This provided an opportunity for RIT Online to collaborate with faculty in reviewing in-demand skills through the Labor Insight™ tool and highlighting those skills found in the curriculum. Hannigan knew that in order to increase enrollment and retention for online degree programs, RIT Online would have to align their marketing messaging with real-time labor data to show prospects how RIT’s online programs would prepare them for the job market.
With this goal in mind, Hannigan attended the Association of Independent Technological Universities conference where the Burning Glass CEO, Matt Sigelman, was speaking about programs making data driven decisions to rework their courses and improve outcomes for graduates. Members of RIT leadership were also in attendance and agreed that this was the type of data they needed to help meet their goals.
In October 2019, RIT partnered with Burning Glass Technologies to use Program Insight™ and Labor Insight™ to research broader labor market needs. As a starting point, the college examined three online master’s degree programs: Business Analytics, Data Science, and Applied Statistics.
Once they got started, they were able to identify several quick wins to drive enrollments:
- Highlighting skills required by employers in program descriptions.
- Drilling down to the skills that carried a salary premium in the job market, which set RIT Online apart from its competitors
- Demonstrating to adult learners that the courses would teach them in demand skills and provide a high ROI by aligning courses with employers needs and helping students make the connections from their courses to the job market.
Lessons for Future Work
Burning Glass Technologies solutions made it possible for RIT Online to understand labor market demand and to tailor their degree programs’ marketing strategy accordingly. But RIT doesn’t want to stop there. Based on initial successes, the process will be broadened to the remainder of the online portfolio and to future program development. With Program Insight™, RIT will review the entire campus portfolio to identify any gaps online delivery might address.
- Is there an on-campus program that would provide a competitive opportunity through online delivery?
- Are there opportunities to repackage content in new ways that address current industry skill gaps, hybrid jobs, and prepare for future employer needs?
- How can current programs be improved rather than making a completely new investment?
With Labor Insight™, the RIT Online staff was able to look for new opportunities in the labor market to find who the employers are, what skills are they looking for, and how these online programs can prepare RIT graduates to fill these positions.
- Focusing on employer demand: When focusing on employer demand, programs can integrate into the labor market and provide graduates with clear career pathways
- Drilling down to skills: By understanding the in-demand skills, course and program descriptions can be tailored to highlight skills taught in the curriculum which employers are looking for
- There are new opportunities everywhere: With the right data, RIT Online staff was able to find new opportunities to help drive enrollment from a larger audience and create new online courses and programs to generate new revenue for the university