Program Feasibility Studies Part I: Why Do They Make Sense?

During the recent Council for Adult and Experiential Learning 2010 International Conference, I had the opportunity to present a session about the importance of program feasibility studies.  Whether schools base their programs on internal evaluations, external demands, or both, I talked to the audience about research being an integral part of the equation when deciding what programs to offer.

Today, most colleges and universities determine new program development as 1) dictated by senior leadership, 2) with input from faculty, and/or 3) based on market need.  While these are certainly valid means to creating programs, they often rely on very little research.

Program feasibility studies present an excellent opportunity to objectively select programs that will better serve students.  When adding new programs, schools should take into consideration three variables:

  • Location
  • Audience
  • Program

When creating program feasibility studies, schools should identify key success factors associated with similar concepts taught at other schools; research the various sources of labor and occupation data to identify the demand for the programs; research schools in the market that are currently offering similar programs and compare against state and national averages; and quantify and relate these key factors on the market and site to determine the best course mix.  Schools also need to consider their operations capabilities, economic terms and faculty availability.

At the heart of the program development process are two main questions:

  1. Are there enough students out there to make the program viable?
  2. How will we market to this target audience and how much will this cost?

The best program in the world will not succeed if these questions are not answered accurately.

Stay tuned for Program Feasibility Studies Part II where we’ll walk through the step by step process of building these all important studies that will shape the future of your program offerings.

Rick Bentz

Rick brings 23 years of experience in market research to his role as SVP of Business Intelligence at Helix Education. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Marketing with a minor in Finance from the University of Utah.