With the increasingly competitive nature of recruiting highly qualified students to their department, paired with the reality of a decreasing population of future students, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s Experience Industry Management (EIM) Department sought to identify if its current degree in Recreation, Parks & Tourism Administration (RPTA) should be changed to a degree future students could more clearly identify with, based on their career objectives. Current students in the EIM Department were committed to the RPTA degree, but would this degree entice future students to the department to ensure continued growth of the program? The challenge was to predict which degrees students would be seeking, and what their other top decision-making factors were in their selection process.
Cal Poly’s EIM Department engaged Parker Sanpei to use Swarm Intelligence to research what future college students would be looking for when selecting a college and degree. The first step was to recruit qualified students currently in high school whose scholastic direction was in line with the future objectives of the department; hence high school juniors and seniors needed to be vetted prior to participating in the Swarm. Part of the vetting process included diversity of gender, nationality and geography that mirrored their current student population. STEAM students were immediately declined from consideration. To ensure participation, a stipend was offered to those who completed the Swarm session. And, because of their age, parental authorization was also required. By working with a recruiting company, Parker Sanpei secured enough students for the Swarm Session. Questions posed to the students came from research on behalf of faculty and discussions with key university and city stakeholders.
Lessons from the Swarm
The existing Recreation, Parks & Tourism Administration (RPTA) degree was not thought of favorably by current high school students seeking degrees for similar career choices. Students wanted degrees that aligned with their interests, along with good career positioning with high earning potential. The students also agreed that concentrations and minors were important considerations, and identified that unique degrees were perceived favorably. Both current and potential future EIM students believed the degree name should be changed from RPTA. However, the primary decision factor above the degree name was the cost of tuition, among other ranked factors, which the university can acknowledge when recruiting tomorrow’s students.