Different Strokes: Rethinking the Way We Segment Students


Different strokes for different folks, or so the saying goes….

A recent report by The Parthenon Group  (a consulting group) asserts that we, in higher education, do a rather poor job of segmenting students into meaningful groups for purposes of recruiting, curriculum development and student services.

And I wholeheartedly agree.

The report points out that:

“the traditional process of ‘segmenting’ the student market by demographics- traditional vs. non-traditional students- is no longer sufficient in providing college leaders with the strategic understanding they need.”

They propose a more nuanced approach to sorting students based not upon student demographic data (age, race, parental education level, etc.) but instead upon students’ motivations for seeking postsecondary education.

Based upon a national survey of 3,200 college students/prospective college students, Parthenon Group identifies six major student segments:


You can read more about the six student segments by looking at the full report, entitled “The Differentiated University,” here.

Understanding the motivations of prospective students would allow us to more strategically tailor recruiting campaigns. Furthermore, understanding why students are seeking a postsecondary education would allow us to better serve the students we already have.

Parthenon anticipates producing a follow-up report which will contain steps colleges can take to adopt a more focused strategy for student segmenting.

I look forward to reading Part II.

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