Cascade Chart

Using a Cascade Chart to Compare Average to Top Performing Colleges

How much less does it cost a top quartile college to deliver a degree than an average college?  You can use a cascade chart to show both how much lower the cost is and why the cost is lower.  The chart below breaks out cost differences into key components:


productivity Note: Average across 6 peer subgroups
1 Cost/degree = cost/full-time student equivalent (FTSE) x FTSE/degree; FTSE/degree normalized to take into account of average time to obtain a degree and includes certificate and graduate production; 2005-07 3-year average
2 Competitive admissions policies as defined by Barron’s23

The chart is from a McKinsey study entitled, “Winning by Degrees: The Strategies of Highly Productive Educational Institutions.” I redid the chart in our Mekko Graphics software. Check out the report for more details on the data and for similar charts and analyses.

I thought this was a great use of a cascade chart.  You could use a similar chart to compare costs across divisions or regions within a company.  Don’t forget to normalize your data (e.g., per employee or per customer) and to identify the key components in a way that brings home your message.