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Look down at the bottled beverage on your desk.

Read the label on the back. See the nutrition information and ingredients? There are regulations in place to make sure every consumer knows exactly what is inside every one of those bottles of liquid.

Why?

Public health. Transparency. Consumer confidence.

By disclosing what’s inside, a beverage vendor automatically takes a step towards building trust with their customers. Would you ever buy a bottled soda off the shelf that was conspicuously missing those labels? I didn’t think so.

Higher education doesn’t have regulations requiring up-front disclosure of the contents of degree programs (yet). But there is nothing to stop progressive-thinking institutions from doing exactly that.

It’s called an economic impact study. Analyzing your programs and measuring how much return your students and taxpayers get on their investment. In other words, is this degree program paying off? And how much benefit is it actually bringing its students?

Anyone can educate students. But a successful college or university will bring a rate of return for every dollar that is better than if you had simply invested the money in stocks and bonds. If a student is going to throw $10,000-80,000 at a degree, how will the contents of that degree benefit their lives? Are they more employable? Has their earning potential improved? An impact study can quantify that.

The same thing goes for taxpayers. If a city or region is subsidizing an institution, how does it know that what it is investing in is bringing a positive effect on their community? An impact study proves it.

Without clear data, we are selling the product of higher education solely on feelings. And while feelings are good for prompting people to action, they come up short when proving value. An innovative college or university will market using emotions AND data. Together, you have a powerful value proposition that can change the way your stakeholders view higher education.

After all, if our society thinks it is so important to disclose what’s inside a $1.25 bottle of sugar water, how much more should a multi-billion dollar industry that creates jobs and fuels economic growth?

Interested in talking to some experts? Visit http://www.economicmodeling.com/higher-education/. They have the expertise to analyze your institution’s real-world value and turn it into figures you can use.

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