Educational institutions make better decisions when they understand the perspectives of their important constituencies, and market research plays a vital role in delivering those insights. Based on over 25 years of research experience, we believe that properly designed and executed research lowers the risks inherent in both tactical and strategic decision-making. Maguire Associates has been a leader in the field of market research applied to educational institutions, and we continue to utilize innovative methodologies and analytic methods to address the complex challenges facing educational institutions.
How Maguire Associates is different
- We are a full-service research provider – managing all phases of our research projects, which results in increased accuracy and efficiency in the management of projects.
- We convert research information into knowledge for our clients using our expertise in the field and our vantage point of having worked with many institutions. We also build on existing information – merging demographic and competitive analyses with institutional data to provide a strong foundation for client decision making. Our final reports and presentations summarize research findings and set them in an institutional context.
- Our recommended actions help our clients focus their resources to achieve the outcomes that advance their institutions in areas such as:
- Mission differentiation;
- Competitive positioning strategies;
- Message development;
- Identification of target market opportunities;
- Student satisfaction;
- Alumni engagement;
- Dropout intervention strategies;
- Strategies for approaching prospective donors; and
- Maximizing institutional financial investment in enrollment goals.
- We serve the education community exclusively. Since our founding in 1983, we have served over 350 client institutions, from independent and public schools, colleges, and universities, to consortia and government organizations focused on education.
- We use state-of-the-art technology for data collection, and our staff comprises professionals who are seasoned consultants and savvy interpreters of data.
- We customize research for all of our clients – from sample design and instrument development, to the reporting and analysis of the research findings, to the strategic recommendations that follow from the research. Nothing is off-the-shelf, and one size never fits all.
- Quality control is an utmost priority – from problem definition and instrument design to reporting and interpreting the research findings.
To maximize the return on our clients’ research investment, we start by identifying the most important constituents to survey. The constituencies we have surveyed include:
- Prospective students (undergraduate, graduate, professional, adult learners);
- Current students;
- Faculty, staff, trustees;
- Community and opinion leaders; and
- Guidance counselors.
State-of-the-Art Data Collection Techniques
We offer a full range of methods for gathering insights from important audiences. Which method we utilize depends largely on the goals of our clients and the audience(s) of interest. There is an art to choosing the right methodology – or mix of methodologies – to collect data from important constituencies. Every data collection method has its strengths and limitations, and none is superior in all situations. As a result, our research projects often combine methods such as:
- In-depth executive interviews;
- Focus groups;
- On-line surveys;
- Paper surveys; and
- Phone surveys.
About seven years ago, we began employing the on-line survey approach and have been able to serve our clients extremely well because of its scalability and appeal to multiple constituencies. We have conducted research projects using Internet-based data collection methods for many different types of institutions (i.e., secondary schools, private and public colleges and universities, and technical schools) and for a number of audiences (e.g., prospective and current undergraduate students, their parents, prospective and current graduate students, adult learners, and alumni). On-line surveys offer our clients many advantages, including:
- Larger sample sizes;
- Shorter turnaround time;
- Ability to incorporate visual stimuli, complex skip patterns, dynamic content;
- Results not subject to interviewer bias;
- 24-hour access to respondents; and
- Collection of more in-depth verbatim responses.
We have sponsored research on the validity of on-line data collection which resulted in a white paper presented at the 12th Annual Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education: The Effects of Data Collection Method and Monetary Incentive on Response Rates and Data Integrity in Studies of Prospective College Students. (Click here to access this paper.)
Comprehensive, Customized Data Analysis
We have found that schools, colleges, and universities seek market research when they are considering new ventures, are confronted with unexpected challenges, or are seeking to reposition themselves. In all cases, it is essential to thoroughly mine the research data to uncover all that the survey participants are conveying. Our analysis of gathered data starts with an examination of the means (for continuous variables) and frequencies (for continuous, categorical, or “open end” variables) of responses compared to other variables in the research.
To examine the differences between and among groups of respondents (e.g., more- versus less-satisfied students), we draw on a mix of: independent T-tests, analysis of variance (ANOVA), Chi-square cross-tabulation, Chi-square automatic interaction detector (CHAID), and regression analysis.
Our approach to data collection and analysis consistently enables us to provide clients with insights that far exceed a cursory look at the data. In many cases, this has helped institutions make decisions that might seem counterintuitive to the surface data. Not only have they avoided expensive mistakes, they have been rewarded with great success.