In light of yesterday’s Chronicle article reminding us that IEP enrollments are down, it’s important to focus on working from “where we are” rather than “where we’d like to be.”

In our current international student market, some institutions are still growing international enrollments. And many who aren’t growing are still making incredible things happen to stem the drop in international students. The important benchmark for them – to gain any insights at all – is relative performance. It’s a question of prioritizing actionable changes over exogenous factors outside your control. If all boats are dropping with the tide, elevation isn’t the measure you want. You want to know if you are also sinking, i.e. losing elevation faster than the other boats because you’re also taking on water.

When market shifts happen, the best responses we’ve seen have been to adapt to the new realities and focus on measurable actions that improve performance against outside benchmarks. And those outside benchmarks – in the best cases – also adjust for market realities.

At TheParliamentGroup, we’ve tracked international enrollments baselines across an array of variables – institutional ranking categories, size, location, and published rankings to provide our partners with an important baseline. These performance indicators show how institutions are doing relative to a defined peer group.  And once you’ve defined those peers that are outperforming you in these conditions, you can more readily analyze very specific things they may be doing differently, both from afar (programming, admission criteria, clarity of website, etc), and by reaching out to them directly.

Our recommendation to clients is to focus less on the latest dire predictions for the market, and instead compare their results to a current baseline of their peers. In this way, they get a better view of their enrollment effectiveness, and can invest time in more specific actions that can improve results.