Game Changer Series: MassArt and Othot: Chris Wright, Dean of Admission and Enrollment at MassArt, Carving New Paths for Success

Dave Babst, Vice President of Marketing and Customer Success at Othot, recently sat down with Chris Wright, Dean of Admission and Enrollment at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, to talk about his 2018-2019 recruitment year and how he used prescriptive analytics to validate and guide his strategy.

Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Total Enrollment: 2086 (2018)
Founded 1873
Public, independent institution
The nation’s first art school to grant a degree
CRM: Slate

Since 2015 Chris Wright has been leading admissions and enrollment at Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt). MassArt is the first freestanding public college of art and design school in the country, and it attracts students from Massachusetts, as well as across the country and around the world. Wright knows firsthand how predictive and prescriptive analytics can make the difference between meeting enrollment goals and falling short. The answers lie in the data.

“I’m the first enrollment management leader at MassArt and my approach is strategic and intentional,” says Wright. “I need to know who will enroll, persist, and likely graduate, and I can’t make enrollment decisions without the power of data.”

Before Wright came to MassArt, much of the data management and forecasting was outsourced. A consultant who helped with financial aid modeling recommended discounting to entice students to attend. Continuing to outsource the modeling and the approaches offered by the consultant weren’t sustainable and that prompted Wright to look for other options.

“MassArt is a unique school and difficult to compare to a typical state university or a liberal arts college. I quickly learned that no one could build models for us because we are different,” says Wright. “I knew I had to find a different analytics solution.”

He first heard about Othot through email where he learned that the solution would not only help impact financial aid spending, but also allow Wright and his team to identify the most impactful reason to improve the potential of yielding a student. Most importantly, it allowed him to run scenarios to see how the options would play out in real-time.

Three features of the Othot Platform were very attractive Wright:

  1. Models are built for each phase of the enrollment funnel
  2. The What-if scenarios show in real-time the impact of an action
  3. Counselors can access the full power of the Othot platform

"Othot took into consideration the most important data points that were only our data points,” says Wright. “Meaning, we were modeling against ourselves mostly (with additions of other data that were not based on other schools or universities) since we are a public freestanding college of art and design.”

Wright added, “Customer service is always a factor in a new partnership, and to know that we were coming on board at a time of great experimentation also was an attraction.”

Chris Art

Photo credit: Headshots Photography, Courtesy MassArt

Advanced analytics has helped Wright and his team understand the types of students who are best-fit for MassArt and how they can leverage their tight budgets to entice prospective students at the right time. It’s been a game changer as to how the team works. Othot’s prescriptive analytics save the counselors time and resources by identifying the actions that will have the most impact on an individual student. Any counselor can access the Othot platform any time.

“With Othot, I don’t have to wait a week or two for a report from a consultant. My team and I are in the platform every day, running scenarios in real-time,” says Wright. “My team is empowered to use the platform to make decisions. It’s made us more responsive to our applicant pool because it shows who we should be talking to, what we should be saying, and where we should spend our marketing dollars.”

Wright also uses the Othot Platform to set his annual enrollment goals. “Every October I try to predict the future and a lot of variables go into my predictions,” says Wright. "I use the Othot platform as a validator as to where I think we’ll be with our goals. If the Othot platform says we won’t reach a goal, then I use it to see what actions to take so I can shift my potential to land where I want to be.”

The proof is in the numbers. Last year, MassArt came within two percent of their enrollment goal, the discount rate was less than projected, and it was one of the school’s best years for NTR.

For the current enrollment cycle, Wright is building towards results that will exceed these outcomes across the board. “This year, we will fall within two percent again for our enrollment goal, but our NTR is projected to be the highest in the history of the College without hindering our academic quality or diversity. In fact, on average we are giving out more financial aid and that is impacting those with need in a bigger way, yet still making our cost after attendance attractive to those without significant need,” says Wright.

Higher education institutions are at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Big Data and analytics. According to Wright, those schools that combine data with machine learning are going to be the innovators in the industry. As that happens, Wright thinks the need for true consultants will be less. “With Othot, you won’t need a data analyst because the product does the modeling and the math for you,” says Wright. “It delivers prescriptions that are actionable.”

For those reluctant to embrace advanced analytics, Wright’s advice is to take the plunge. “What is now, was the innovation back then,” Wright says. “Don’t be afraid to take the risk. It will pay dividends.”

Looking forward, MassArt will be integrating Othot predictions directly into Slate, a CRM for higher education institutions. Othot is a Slate Preferred Partner. Slate Preferred Partners have a deeper understanding of the Slate product functionality and processes and add unique value to the Slate user community. For MassArt that means that Othot’s predictions will be easily accessible in Slate so Wright and his team have the most up-to-date insights where they need them and when they need them.