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US Higher Education Analysis

The View Into The Next Ten Years of Higher Education Admissions- A Kaarme White Paper

Mark North

December 2006, Revised 2011

Analysis of Current Practices

Kaarme addresses a fragmented, inefficient higher education market for undergraduate admissions and makes it more efficient using established efficient market techniques such as reference data collection, instrument discovery, exchange boards, search, transaction supporting content, and multivariate analysis.

High school students have a difficult time finding the right college and navigating the admissions process. For affluent and middle class students, picking a college out of 3500 disparate possibilities has a low probability of being the optimal choice using dart board methods, hyped up popular magazine rankings, and overstretched guidance counselors with limited bandwidth per student. Students often reach too high for some schools and too low for "safe" schools. Further, most students will probably never even know if they made the right choices. Simple existing college matching techniques such as student body size, location, test scores, and majors offered are not sophisticated enough for a student with 1000 possible significant attributes. In the end, students make the most out of what they pick. For socio-economically handicapped students, their initiative often fades when facing the daunting college admissions process given their starting point in the race. Advertising their unique attributes & talent profiles and greatly reducing their starting handicap could have significant long term social benefits for society and help us to mine our real hidden talent. A technology solution here can be helpful as an efficient marketplace promoter and social equalizer.

Traditionally limited to their popular reputation, applicant pool constraints, and purchases of student lists, many colleges have challenges finding specialty students, a sufficient volume of applicants, or sufficient diversity of applicants. Filling new or unpopular majors is also a yearly challenge. Colleges must promote their emtomology majors and hope someone applies. A proactive technology based search and matching process on specific attributes with a higher probability of ultimate success per transaction for both sides would be welcome for college admissions departments inefficiently spending large amounts to market and acquire students. This search and matching technology needs to be advanced and flexible since a college's student portfolio objectives change from month to month as majors fill up. Colleges need to be able to freely query a national and international student database for (example) FEMALE/SAT GREATER THAN XXX/FROM NJ/PLAYS TROMBONE/INTERESTED IN ENTOMOLOGY OR EARTH SCIENCE/ RUNS TRACK OR CROSS COUNTRY/MILE TIME FASTER THAN 5:15

The college undergraduate admissions market has a large number of buyers and sellers. Students are currently buyers of services from colleges but if market factors and secular developments force change, students with any in-demand attributes will migrate to sellers of this talent over time. Identifying these attributes through technology is the first step. Students must adapt to effectively exploit their advantages, diversities, and talents on a central exchange to post, market, and effectively price their attributes without any socioeconomic handicaps. Students not using a higher profile talent exchange will remain price (admission) takers with more limited opportunities. Market tools need to be created to address these changes and opportunities.

Current Market Issues and Disruptive Technologies

  • -Frustration and excess search expense on both sides of the Admissions transaction

  • -Declining universe of US college age children

  • -High fixed costs and eroding margins at the lower three quartile rankings will force many colleges to reinvent new business lines, partner, or die.

  • -Colleges may be pricing themselves out of the market vis a vis real income and need to market & recruit more aggressively. Many will fail.

  • -Online education proliferation and impending saturation

  • -The new understanding of the value of human diversity and intellect

  • -New techniques such as on the spot admissions

  • -Use of posting and using information on the internet

  • -A potential populist push for socialized higher education

  • -The emergence and proliferation of Independent Counselors and Coaches

  • -The development of specialty exchanges in HS sports and academics

  • Structural Facts

    Colleges - US

    -4,000 colleges (Source – Kaarme)

    - Current market information solutions attempt to address colleges as the standard instrument when, in fact, they are consumers of the talent pool, competitive with one another, and will always be non standard as they seek to differentiate themselves.

    -No search transparency on the most standard instrument (students) exists right now and colleges are turning to inefficient list brokers and spaghetti on the wall advertising to acquire student talent.


    -13,500,000 US HS students (Source – US government)

    - Students are, in fact, standard instruments that differ more in magnitude of an attribute than uniqueness beyond the actual attribute set. e.g. 95% of students take standardized tests, they only differ in score. All basketball players have the same stats, they just differ in the quality of the stats. There are a few unique outliers beyond two standard deviations.

    - Students are often turning to brokers and paying high fees for admissions counseling, promises, and advice to help them get inside the black box admissions process for ANY match instead of the right match.

    Solutions to Assist in the Market’s Development

    1. Design, Create an industry wide data model and structured database describing the student instrument standard variables with public/private data delineations.

    2. Make the public student database (market data) visible, searchable, sortable, by single or multiple attributes and magnitudes and open and free to ALL players involved in the student-college transaction: Students, Counselors, Parents, Coaches, Independent Counselors, Colleges (Admissions, Academics, Athletics). Pay to play models only encourage inefficient markets.

    3. Establish student instrument visibility via a FREE commercial matching exchange allowing buyer/seller:

    a. Connectivity
    b. Context
    c. Community
    d. Communication
    e. Content

    4. Build targeted communication based upon a highly sophisticated database and search engine for both sides of the transaction. Connect people with the right people. Use advertising as a peripheral transactions model.

    5. Educational organizations need to define and delineate the distinctions between secure student data to protect and market based student data to promote student chances for higher education.

    6. Individuals and secondary Educational organizations need to distribute and market public student data to higher education exchanges. Students should be encouraged to reach out to a wider array of colleges BEFORE they apply and play a greater active role in this process given the limited attention available from overloaded guidance counselors.

    As with all developing markets, the exchange will be more qualitative in its early life. Deeper quantitative analysis of instruments and trading exhaust will foster evolution over time.

    Students are in fact described mainly by numbers and statistics now. Maybe sad, but true. The solution for students and their agents (coaches, counselors, parents) is to define, manage, publish and market their attributes to a much larger audience in order to reach those seeking their particular quantitative, qualitative, or diversity set instead of stressing the traditional, inefficient, high cost, low visibility, admissions and recruiting techniques.

    Convince the students - Someone out there is looking for your particular numbers, qualities, and diverse attributes (e.g. at least one of the colleges out there is searching for a female student, from New Jersey, who runs the mile faster than 5:45, plays an instrument, and is interested in entomology or engineering) so define who you are and make yourself visible on the Kaarme student attribute search engine. Essentially – There is someone for everyone, you just need an effective way to advertise, search, and connect with your counterparty.


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