Applying Behavioral Economics to the Business of Higher Education
Colleges and universities are keenly interested in the factors that motivate students or their
parents with respect to key decisions: whether to apply, to enroll if accepted, to stay in school,
or to contribute as alumni. Abundant evidence shows that traditional means of identifying these
factors tend to produce misleading results. "Derived importance" approaches that draw on principles
of behavioral economics fare much better. We demonstrate a variety of such methods and recount
a series of applied situations in which they have played an important role in illuminating the
reasons for key choices. Techniques discussed include group differences on objective vs. subjective
measures; correlation; regression; vignette research including conjoint analysis; and market
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