Penn GSE AHEAD

Consumer-Based Institutional Market Segmentation

Sixteen years ago, a research team led by Robert Zemsky developed a fundamentally new way to map the admissions and enrollment terrain for U.S. post-secondary education. The research and subsequent publications crystalized discussions of the structure of higher education such that the full range of differences among institutions and across market segments became a standard part of the discourse and analysis of post-secondary education in the U.S. Much has changed in the ensuing years: the rise of a successful for-profit sector; the offering of applied baccalaureate degrees by a growing number of community colleges; the growing importance of the employability of graduates with post-secondary degrees; the emergence of pricing policies and practices within post-secondary education that closely resemble the practices of the airline industry; and most recently, the decision by the federal government to develop a performance rating system that both promotes access, completions, and cost-containment, but also promises to take into full account the diversity of American post-secondary institutions. The cumulative impact of these changes has created a demand for a remapping of U.S. post-secondary education that can be used to a) help describe the current higher education institutional marketplace to the general public; b) inform students about the different types of institutions and to help inform their choice of institutions to attend; c) provide insight to policymakers in pursuit of a more responsive system of post-secondary education; d) equip analysts with a conceptual tool they can use when focusing on the performance of post-secondary institutions; and e) assist institutional leaders who understand that to be both mission-centered and market smart requires better serving the growing demand for programs that promote access, completions, and cost-containment.

Funder 

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Researcher 

Robert Zemsky, Penn GSE Laura Perna, Penn GSE

Research Team 

Susan Shaman

Publications

Robert Zemsky, Patricia Burch, Richard Morgan (2017, January). Market Analysis for Law School Admissions .

Working Papers

Zemsky, R., Shaman, S., & Perna, L. W. (2014, May). Making sense of a looking glass world. Working paper from The Consumer-Based Institutional Market Segmentation Project.