collegesTo celebrate being named the third-fastest growing business in Kentucky and the first in Louisville by Inc. Magazine, Capture Higher Ed’s CEO Steve Huey is letting employees off at 3 p.m. for the next three Fridays.

Capture Higher Ed is using big data, narrow artificial intelligence and behavioral engagement to steer prospective students to the right universities and colleges, and the right schools to them. Using the services, admissions offices can know exactly when a prospective student is on their website and what the student is looking at.

Admissions officers can then reach out to that student directly or send an email campaign appropriate to that student’s interests. Admissions can know not only who the student is but also how good of a fit that person would be. These predictions, Huey says, are made by combining thousands of data points that Capture has access to.

This type of behavioral engagement and big data combination is booming across many industries. For its part, Capture Higher Ed can tailor what a student sees on a school’s website in the same way that Amazon uses the “You might like” feature.

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 12.42.28 PMAnd the company is growing fast, hence the attention from a national magazine. Huey attributes the surge to a combination of factors working in the five-year old company’s favor.

In a recent month, the operations team initiated more than 12 customer campaigns. Just a year or so ago, if the team had introduce two or three campaigns in a month, Huey would have been satisfied. “They’re better at their jobs, and we have better systems in place,” Huey said.

The company’s fiscal year starts in July, and in the first 60 days of this fiscal year, it has nearly matched total sales from the previous year.

Capture Higher Ed says its products are unique in the educational marketplace. “We’re using data no one used before for student recruitment,” Huey said.

There are 11 people on the sales team and a total of 61 employees overall, including a team of Ph.D-level data scientists. Huey said that the company has over 40 clients, up from 32 last year.

“We’re scaling very nicely,” he said. “Fewer and fewer people are selling more and more stuff.”

But Capture Higher Ed’s clientele is a fraction of a fraction of the potential market.

There are more than 3,800 colleges and university in America and admissions is a $3.3 billion market in undergraduate alone, according to research by The Advisory Board Company. Those institutions spend more than $2,300 per student on average trying to recruit the right students to their institutions. According to Huey, a recent poll of college CFOs said that 56 percent of the schools didn’t meet their desired class size and that one in four CEOs said that their institution could be out of business in the next 10 years.

Students who are a good fit for a school are important, not just in terms of tuition dollars, but also for degree completion and alumni engagement. There are dollars to be had for an institution in all of the stages of that student’s life, Capture Higher Ed believes. For example, alumni giving is a $5 billion game. The more prestigious the school, the more important it is to get the “right” students.

The University of Tennessee is one of the company’s larger state school partners, along with University of New Hampshire and University of New Mexico, among others.

“When UT started searching for a new strategic enrollment partner, we knew we wanted to look to the future of the industry, not the past,” Kari Alldredge, associate provost of enrollment management said in a news release. “Capture’s innovative technologies epitomized the future of smarter recruitment practices. We’ve not been disappointed.”

Even better news for Huey and the company is that the technology is becoming cheaper and cheaper every year. “The stuff we’re doing wouldn’t be economically viable four years ago,” Huey said.

Dr. Peter Barwis, a data scientist for the company, noted: “As colleges seek better answers to old questions, the need for new tools built on cutting-edge analytic technology increases. Much of our work involves building the tools that make our partner’s work easier, more reliable, and more efficient.” Barwis joined Capture after the company acquired his business, Third Coast Analytics.

So far, the data science the company employs has been focused on traditional students, those attending college straight out of high school. But Huey thinks he could create a product that would work with nontraditional scholars as well.

“We’re changing the industry,” Huey said.

 

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