Data Driven Marketing

How Maricopa College is Using Data to Prove Education ROI

How Maricopa College is Using Data to Prove Education ROI

August 25, 2023 | Brandi Recker


Post-secondary educational institutions are facing unprecedented challenges. They include declining enrollment rates, affordability concerns, mounting regulatory pressure, the resumption of student loan payments, and now the reversal of affirmative action in admissions. And as many parents and prospective students are asking if a college education is really worth the investment, educational institutions are feeling increasing pressure to prove their ROI.

In episode 31 of the Market Pulse podcast, I interviewed Lori Lindenberg, District Director of Enterprise Analytics and Strategy at Maricopa Community Colleges in Arizona. She explained how her institution is meeting these challenges head on. 

Listen to our full podcast interview or continue reading for an excerpt from our discussion.

Addressing Affordability Concerns

Lori, when you were talking about Maricopa's mission, you also touched on affordability. And we know this is a rising concern for prospective students and their parents, even more so in a challenging economy. Just think, in 1980 the price to attend a four-year college full-time was $10,000 annually, including tuition, fees, room and board, and adjusted for inflation, according to the National Center for Education Statistics

By 2020, the total price increased to $28,775. That's a 180% increase. How has Maricopa been impacted by affordability concerns, and what steps are you taking to address this very real and valid issue?

Lori Lindenberg: We recognize that the cost of going to college is a real concern. In fact, we found that 18% of our incoming prospective students have chosen not to enroll with us because they're concerned about the cost of coming to college. And it's even higher when we look at our underserved students at 23%. 

However, the two-year institutions in Arizona have done a particularly good job of keeping costs low. So even with a recent modest increase to our tuition rates, Arizona two-year institutions have been able to keep this low at nearly $500 lower than the national average when you look at the net tuition revenue per student. So, we're really proud of our ability to do that and it's been something that we've prioritized. 

We’re really encouraged by some recent changes to what we're allowed to do for our students. A recent bill passed that allows us to discount student tuition for dual enrollment students who are low income. And for Pell eligible students, their grants completely cover tuition and their fees most of the time. So, they're not leaving us with a lot of burden from student loan debt. 

In addition to keeping all of these costs low, we’re committed to helping our students find financial support when they need it. We have a lot of scholarship opportunities, and we have an active foundation that's associated with our district.

Proving the ROI of a Post-Secondary Education

To stay competitive, schools must prove the value of the amount that people are spending on education, especially when they're making such a significant investment. And on top of that, there's mounting regulatory pressure for higher education institutions to prove the value of their degree programs. For example, Ohio Bill 27 requires that an in-state, post-secondary school provide financial costs in a disclosure, as well as an income range of similar cohorts of students post-graduation to provide greater transparency of anticipated costs and the value of a degree. 

Does the industry anticipate similar regulation coming from other states? And how does Maricopa navigate this landscape?

Lori Lindenberg: I think that we’re expecting increased pressure from federal requirements and state requirements in the future, but that also isn't new. We are under that pressure from external partners and as a requirement of certain funding sources to provide that data. And this is really where we've received the most benefit and value from our partnership with Equifax. 

There's a lot of data pieces that we’re required to report as a part of this funding and with our external partners that we just didn't have access to before. So, using Equifax's match to our student records, we're able to find their wage outcomes and provide that as part of our reporting to external partners and as a part of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. In fact, WIOA programs are required to report second quarter and fourth quarter wages, and we're able to do that through our use of the Equifax wage outcomes data.

To learn more about how Equifax is supporting colleges and universities, visit here. 

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