The Financial Aid Optimization team at Carnegie wanted to bring deeper insights on student enrollment to more clients, but manual processes threatened this objective.
It’s no secret that college admissions are a nerve-racking process for students—but the enrollment process can also be a minefield for higher education institutions themselves.
Every year, colleges and universities across the US face the challenge of sorting through vast pools of applicants to find the best students to fill a finite number of places in each program, while ensuring their selection meets vital targets regarding academic quality, demographic representation, and revenue generation. On top of that, institutions must strike a fine balance with their outreach and financial aid strategies. The aim is to stick within tight budgets while maximizing each prospective student’s likelihood to apply, pay a deposit, and complete their enrollment.
It’s a tall order, and the Financial Aid Optimization team at Carnegie was founded to help higher education institutions manage these processes more effectively, using a unique blend of market research, analytics, and predictive modeling. To deliver these insights to clients, Carnegie relied on largely manual reporting processes for many years. But, more recently, the company has been on a mission to grow faster. To succeed with its expansion plans, Carnegie knew it needed a more powerful and scalable approach to analytics and reporting.
Tim Lyon, Senior Vice President at Carnegie, elaborates: “Our ambition was to grow our client base while maintaining a very lean team. To achieve this, we needed to get smarter about the way we worked. It meant freeing up our analytical team from time-consuming, low-value manual work, so they could focus on supporting more clients using more sophisticated forms of analysis.”
Vertica and Protobi have really streamlined all the manual work that used to take up so much of our analysts’ time. That’s been absolutely crucial in helping us take on more clients, and provide them with a higher-value, high-touch service.
To step up its analytics and reporting capabilities, Carnegie enlisted the help of Protobi: a software provider that helps companies see, explore, and analyze their research data. Protobi built a customized set of interactive dashboards and data visualization tools for Carnegie–all powered by the OpenText™ Vertica™ Analytics Platform.
Pieter Sheth-Voss, Founder at Protobi, comments: “We built our analytics platform on Vertica because the alternatives require months of work and tens of thousands of dollars of investment to create solutions for clients. With Vertica, we can prototype new BI environments in weeks for a tenth of the cost, we can handle wildly diverse data sets thanks to flex tables, and queries are returned essentially in real time. Alternative databases we’ve used take up to two seconds per query. It may not sound like a huge difference, but our frontend application generates potentially hundreds of SQL queries with each click. enables exceptionally responsive analytics, empowering users to take an open and interactive approach to business intelligence.”
With OpenText, Carnegie can leverage both structured and semi-structured data for enhanced reporting and enriched predictive models. Vertica Analytics Platform’s massively parallel, high-performance analytics engine is also made to power through demanding workloads and large numbers of queries, which gives Carnegie the ability to analyze greater volumes of data in more depth than ever before. Mike Keane, Vice President of Client Strategy at Carnegie, confirms: “With Vertica, we just don’t need to worry about the size of the files or the amount of data we’re putting in. It still runs fast and clean if it’s 10,000 students or 100,000.”
Protobi’s dashboards provide a sleek, user-friendly interface for viewing and interacting with the wealth of information generated by Carnegie’s clients. Gone are the days of working with static PDFs, endless slide decks, and cumbersome spreadsheets. Now, teams can bring data to life with rich visualizations and Lightning-fast queries.
Keane gives an example: “At the end of the enrollment cycle, we often do summary presentations with our clients. In the past, it meant taking an entire day to assemble a deck of 50 slides, and then spending a few hours going over them in a meeting. Now, with many clients, we simply use the Protobi dashboard. We’ll prepare the top 10 or 15 talking points that we want to highlight, and we’ll explore those by working live in the dashboard, instead of clicking through static slides. It’s really brought a new dimension to our presentations.”
Today, OpenText Vertica is taking Carnegie’s analytics capabilities to new levels of speed and sophistication. The company can now power through SQL queries in record time and analyze much bigger volumes of data than ever before.
“With Vertica, response times are almost instantaneous,” comments Lyon. “We’re so used to it, in fact, that if a particular view takes more than a few seconds to refresh we start getting impatient! That speed also means we’re able to work with the most complete data and the absolute best quantitative models.”
He continues: “Many of our clients have very large applicant pools, and if we didn’t have a platform as powerful as Vertica, we simply wouldn’t be able to handle all that data effectively. I can think of one project where we helped a client run some projections on a pool of tens of thousands of applicants. It took 300 hours to complete that project prior to using the Vertica platform. Using Vertica, we accomplished that same work in only 120 hours. Time savings like these have really freed us to take on a much greater volume of business than we otherwise could, which is invaluable.”
Increased efficiency has been key to enabling Carnegie’s growth objectives. With analytical queries running faster in the Vertica Analytics Platform, and the Protobi dashboard helping to streamline previously manual reporting, the company has gained much-needed headroom to take on a greater volume and variety of work.
Lyon notes: “Vertica and Protobi have really streamlined all the manual work that used to take up so much of our analysts’ time. By lightening that load, we can make sure that our team has the maximum amount of time to focus on client-facing work that’s as high impact as possible. That’s been absolutely crucial in helping us take on more clients, and provide them with a higher-value, high-touch service, while keeping the same team of just 14 people.”
With Vertica, we just don’t need to worry about the size of the files or the amount of data we’re putting in. It still runs fast and clean if it’s 10,000 students or 100,000.
With their forces combined, Protobi and OpenText have proved to be the ideal solution for Carnegie and its clients. Rich data visualizations, underpinned by a powerful, flexible database, allow higher education institutions to get more value out of their enrollment data—using it to improve their bottom lines, enroll stronger classes, reduce attrition, and award each student the right amount of financial aid.
"I think the major benefit for our clients is that the dashboard environment is purpose-built for the indicators that they care most about,” says Keane. “These can range from high-level views of all the students that are anticipated to enroll and net tuition revenues after financial aid is allocated, all the way down to very fine-grained details on individual prospects, including how likely they are to convert to a full applicant.
” Lyon adds: “This is information that institutions already capture, but it’s typically locked away in separate systems. Our ability to bring together all their data in one view, where it can be analyzed and visualized in many ways, is a huge advantage. Protobi and Vertica are helping us serve up insights that our clients simply couldn’t access before. It means we can come to higher education institutions with a really solid value proposition, and they can shape much stronger enrollment strategies that deliver great outcomes on all fronts.”
Carnegie is a leader and innovator in higher education marketing and enrollment strategy, offering services in research, strategy, digital marketing, lead generation, slate optimization, student search, website development, and creative. In July of 2022, Carnegie acquired Maguire Associates and established the Financial Aid Optimization team at Carnegie. Now, Carnegie helps institutions maximize their enrollment through sophisticated research and strategic financial aid optimization.