Is Brand Reputation Moving from the University to the Degree Program?

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. Andrew Gillen, Senior Policy Analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, joins the podcast to discuss why the College Scorecard might start making program reputation an even stronger signal for students than the overall brand reputation of a university.

This has been a complete revolutionary shiftfor policy scholars because for the first time we've been able to look at programmobile outcomes as opposed to institutional level. Becomes. You're listening to enrollment growthuniversity from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders lookingto grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growthtechniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place.Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, aproud member of the connect e Tou podcast network. I'm Eric Olsen with HelixEducation and we're here today with Dr Andrew Gillen, senior policy analyst of theTexas Public Policy Foundation. Andrew, welcome to the show. Thanks for havingme. We're excited to talk to you today about how institutional reputation might betrending toward the degree level. But before we dig into that, can yougive the listeners a quick background on both the Texas Public Policy Foundation and yourrule? They're absolutely so. The the Texas Public Policy Foundation is a thinktank located in Texas and we focus on essentially policies and reforms that we thinkcould help improve the the lives of Texans. And one of the things that we'verealized over the past few years is that so much of the policy spacehas federal angle as well. So we have launched within the past couple yearskind of a federal branch campus, so to speak, located in Washington DC. So even though we're a SE basin, thank we have kind of a smallteam that focuses on federal issues as well, and so that's that's thepart of the team that I'm on and I focused mostly on federal higher educationpolicy. Wonderful that that background is perfect for today's conversation and you maybe tokick offs off today. What do you believe is currently most important today?The brand reputation of a university or the...

...specific degree programs reputation itself? SoI think if we take a snapshot of today, it really depends on whichkind of level of education you're talking about. So if you're talking about like acertificat or in associates degree, those are largely going to be kind ofconvenience providers. So like is this community college, you know on my communityto work, or is this online program set my schedule? Once you getto the undergraduate level it's going to be mostly kind of institution reputation, butthen once you get to the graduate level, I would say it's mostly program levelreputation. So if you think about things like, say, law schoolsor medical schools, you really don't have the institutional brand being as important assay, like the law school's kind of Solo reputation. And so that's sortof of my sense of where we are right now and I think that asthings move forward, we're going to be moving more and more at all theother levels of education are going to start looking like the graduate level education,where the program kind of reputation and quality is really whole that matters. Yeah, let's talk about some of those tools that might get us there sooner thanlater. Could the college score card become what makes program reputation and even strongersignal to a student than the brand reputation of a university over time? Yeah, I think. I think the the addition of program level earnings and deaddata to the College Score Card in the past couple of years has sort ofprovided like the skeleton to that. And so so this has been a completerevolutionary shift for policy scholars because for the first time we've been able to lookat at program Mobil outcomes as opposed to institution level coomes. So this isthis is letting US use a scalpel and step a spyge hammer when we kindof come up with, you know,...

...accountability mechanisms or carrots that we wanta reward, you know, success with. So yeah, I think the CollegeScore Card is definitely a very, very strong foundation. I would loveto see it supplemented with other data and other resources, but just by itselfright now it is already revolutionary. And you mentioned some of those. Let'smake sure you clarify those. Against we understand what have these new with additionsbeen in terms of debt, in terms of outcomes, where people looking intoand trying to glean information of the data are finally able to really really understandthe difference between not just institution to it to another institution, but comparing institutionsat the program level. Yeah, and so so. So, prior toabout two thousand and nineteen, which is when the the first program level datacame out, with the with the College score card, you could get someinformation on, say, average debt or average journeyings at an entire institution andso so there were previous iterations of college score card that just has had institutionlevel data, and then there were also surveys like pay scale and a coupleothers where you could say, okay, I'm thinking to go into the Universityof Michigan. What's the the average salary there? You could find at leastan estimate of that and you know, that's great, that's better nothing.But you don't just go to the University of Michigan right like you go tothe University of Michigan and you major in nursing, where you go to theUniversity of Michigan and you major in Chemistry? And so so what you really wantto know is is what are the outcomes for those particular majors that you'reconsidering? And so, starting in two thousand and nineteen, the College scorecards started actually releasing the program level data, and so they define a program bya college, the level of degree and and essentially the major to thefield of study. And so you can now look up, okay, whatdoes if I get a mass surs degree in nursing from Ohio State University?What are the typical earnings for for those...

...students? What about the bachelor's theory? What about the associates theory? And you can find all those all thosedata points now. And so what this is really great for is making usbe real careful about drawing to to sweeping of conclusions. Right. So,as so, I'm trained as an economist, and so one of the fields wealways take on this sociology. Right, they're like a sociology. But whenyou guys to look at the date that there's a ton of great sociologyprograms out there that have great outcomes. There's a few that have bad outcomes. And so as an economist like I shouldn't be saying, you know,sociology is, you know, bad field, don't go into it. I shouldbe saying these, you know ten percent of programs and sociology are prettyrisky. You should think twice about doing that. But these other ninety percent, they're actually fine. So if you want to do sociology, these ninetypercent of programs are her good to go. So that is really the the valueof this program level data is. Not only does it allow us todo that at the at the level of kind of the heck a Makefield,but we can also do that at then situation. So no longer it's Oh, avoid, you know state x university, they're terrible. It's so avoid thesefive programs that stayed x because you know, all their graduates end upon employed living under a bridge, whereas these these thirty programs, they havegood outcomes. So it's really going to be great once we once kind ofthe policy and once the student and advising capabilities catch up to to the existenceof this data. Yeah, I think that was going to be my nextquestion because I remember when I was shopping undergraduate degree programs, I went tothe bookstore, I bought the US News and World Report, college rankings books. I browsed through potential schools I was familiar with. I made sure thatbusiness was a bullet point in their degrees that students go for. It wasa fairly low level, non economist friendly analysis of my undergraduate program the CollegeScore Card Right now seems to be very...

...helpful and and a much superior toolfor you to do data analysis on. Is there something still missing where it'snot yet ready for prime time? It's not yet ready for it's to bethe primary or one of the few primary tools that students use when degree shopping. Or do you believe that it now is and there's a there's a marketingproblem, where a branding problem that needs to be solved for or to whatyou mentioned, advisors need to start recommending this tool, that the tools readyto students aren't maybe using it readily enough. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Thereare a couple of kind of caveat that I throw out there. Thefirst is going to be taken care of naturally over time. So so thefirst county, I was like when the first data came out, it wasliterally one year of earning data for two recent courts of of graduate which theycombined into one kind of super cohort. And so the problem when you havewon the kind of the first year after graduation data is okay. Well,you know, maybe people didn't work the full year. You know, ittook a while to find a job or, you know, they took a jobthat wasn't really going to be their career just while they were looking.So there are a there were a lot of kind of valid reasons to belike, okay, well, maybe the first year of data isn't. Isn'twhat we should be super concerned about now what the college coore card is doing. is every year they're adding one more year of data to that and sofor that first cohort that they that they first released in two thousand and nineteen, when they release the new data in the next few months here, we'renow going to have the third year of earnings for those students and so atthat point all of the well, maybe this isn't there what the career they'refinally going to be in? A lot of those objections kind of fall awayat that point and so once you have three years of earnings data, yougot a pretty good snapshot of what their early career kind of earnings trajectory is. So that will just kind of be resolved naturally as time goes on asthey had more and more data to each...

...of these cohorts. But the remainingcaveat, which I don't know if there's any plans to address it or not, is that right now we're basically reporting the median earnings, and so that'sthat's very useful. You know it's the the midway point. So you knowfifty percent of students are earning less, fifty percent of students are anymore.I would love to see that supplemented with other percentiles so, like what aboutthe twenty five, personal the seventy five or sentile, the D S andso what you can you can do. That, I think, would providea much, much broader kind of picture of their earnings distractories. If youconsider a field like law, it's got a very bimodal distribution. So likethere's there's, you know, a handful of lawyers who do very, verywell right out of law school. You know they learned at the the toplaw firms and they you know, they're making huge, huge salaries. Thenthere's a whole other big contingent that doesn't get those jobs and is earning much, much less. So you can calculate a median among those two. Writeand and it'll be a valid median figure, but it's not really represented. It'snot giving you kind of the complete picture of what the earnings distribution isamong recent well grinds. So it would be great if we could get alittle bit more information on the distribution and not just the median. You know, as long as we have a median we shouldn't ignore it, but Iwould love to see it supplemented with this Moodaia. You mentioned how the Longitudinaldata will make this even more and more valuable over time. What other longtail effects are possible here? Might we start seeing new or evolving federal restrictionsthat try to hold certain degree programs accountable, not just their universities themselves? Yeah, I think that's absolutely going to be coming down the Pike, andso there is a big bipartisan movement right now for precisely that. So ifyou look at kind of accountability and higher...

...education, it's sort of been alwaysdone in this all or nothing and at the institution levels. So you know, accreditation, cohort, default rates, these are things that as long asyou get the green light, you're fine, your golden but if you get thered light you're basically the whole institution is shut down. And so oneof the problems with that is that it makes it makes it very difficult toset those cutoffs and kind of a healthy place because you know, you knowthat if you fall in the wrong side of the core default rate or ifyou don't get re accredited, you're basically putting that institution out of business.So the accreditors are very reluctant to to actually pull the trigger on that.And then the cohort default rate's like forty percent. So you can have fortypercent of your students defaulting on student loans and still be fine. There's anotherthreshold at thirty percent, but you have three years like those are super highdefault rates. So I think one of the reasons for that is because weknow kind of as policy makers that if you don't meet these benchmarks, you'reit's basically that sentence. And so one of the great things about this programlevel approach to accountability which the College score card data enables, is that it'sno longer death something. Now it's just a okay, you know these youknow seventy percent of your programs are fine, they can continue as is. Youknow, twenty percent of them or and some sort of probationary period.And then these, these bottom ten percent, we need to talk about. Weneed to cut off their access for federal financial aid or or new studentsor whatever. So there's a big bipartisan push to basically make this make thiscase. So I'm at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. We've put out alot of work on this. We're kind of a kind of a center rightorganization. There's another organization that's a center left organization called Third Way. They'veput out some work on this. They use a slightly different metric, butwe're both basically seeing the same thing, which is that hey, we canuse this this new program level data to do program level accountability and then,you know, we can differ about where...

...we want the exact thresholds to be, but we're basically both advocating for the same push here. And there's otherorganizations that have done some more things, like Georgetown University's Center for Workforce andeducation, Anthony Kurrn of Ailey shop. They put out a little bit ofwork on this and President Cooper put out a recent paper as well. So, like there's a bunch of people doing exciting work in this area and Ithink it's only a matter of time before federal and or state policy makers startstart really implementing some sort of kind of carrots and stix approach to to accountabilityat the program level. And your wonderful thoughts leave us with some next stepsadvice here. Prince, students listening to this realizing, boy, we usedto be focused on just promoting branding positioning our university. Now I have eightysub brands in our degree programs. I need to position instead, help usthink about how much focus we may want to put on marketing or institution versusour programs in this future that seems to be quickly becoming, or perhaps justa better way to think about that problem in general. Yeah, yeah,absolutely, so I would say. I would say, if it's so,if I were, you know, a college trying to think about what opportunitiesand threats this new data poses, the opportunities are pretty exciting, right,because if you're not at the top of kind of the broad institutional US newsand World Report rankings, but you have programs that are better than their programs, that's a huge marketing opportunity, right. So you can say, Hey,come to my school, you will do better than the accountants who graduatefrom you. So that that's huge, because now you can actually point tohard data that says these programs are doing just as good or better than theschools that you think are better than us, and so you can really differentiate yoursuccessful programs that way. The threats are at the other end of thedistribution, the programs that maybe are in...

...fields that everybody thinks are safe andfine, or you're at an institution that everybody thinks is safe, but you'vegot these underperforming programs. So the great example here is, you know,I think it was like six seven years ago, the Obama Administration did gainco employment and it mostly applied to for profits, but they also apply thatto certificate programs at the public and private nonprofit level. And so one ofthe programs that caught caught up in that and failed the test was a theaterprogram at Harvard. Yeah, nobody had any idea that the theater program atHarvard was had these ridiculously bad outcomes. Right. So be aware that someof these things are going to be exposed in the in the very near future. Try to head it off if you can. If you can't, useit as the opportunity to basically overcome any internal obstacles you have to phasing theseprograms out because really, if you've got these programs that are consistently leaving youryour students worse off than that they hadn't gone, it really is your sensibilityto stop offering those those programs to kind of new students again. This isthis is data that you know is brand new. So it's going to presentboth both opportunities and threats to and so just just be aware of of kindof the opportunities to basically exploit where you're doing well, but also be awarethat your weaknesses are your note. You're no longer going to be able tohide them on the herd right and so so, like the the week Gazelle, gazelles are going to get eaten now and there's a little you can doto fight that. And so so you can basically kind of prepare the groundfor for what's going to be coming down the pike. And you. Thankyou so much for your time today. What's the best place for listeners toconnect with you if they have any follow up questions you? If they haveany questions for me, I'd be happy to address them if they can getin touch with me via email. So my email is a Gillin Gil EAN. So it's at you, Gillan,...

...at Texas POLICYCOM and if you getin touch with me there, will set up, you know, a azoomer or teams meeting or whatever, and will we can chat about whatever whateveryou find interesting. Awesome, Andrew, thanks so much for joining us today. Yeah, thank you for having me. Attracting today's new post traditional learners meansadopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach toenrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape,and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fiftypercent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've been listening to enrollmentgrowth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the shown itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you somuch for listening. Until next time.

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