The Importance of Enrollment Management

Finding ways to attract and retain new students is one of the core focuses of Enrollment Management divisions of colleges and universities, and Enrollment Management Consultants alike. Increasingly, college admissions officers are turning to technology in order to accomplish the task of attracting and retaining prospective students.

In the news, we’ve seen recent headlines that focus on Enrollment Management topics such as: the recent trend in State funding of higher education; the promotion of distance learning initiatives; performance-based funding policies; and how colleges and universities seek to bolster socio-economic diversity among students, by promoting different admissions procedures.

We have also seen how the correct use of direct response marketing (a form of marketing that allows advertisers to quantify marketing ROI by soliciting a direct response from the consumer) – combined with sophisticated tracking technologies, and academic advising centers – provides more applications and enrollments. More colleges and Universities are turning to the internet, and other mediums that provide the opportunity for the increased efficiency of direct response marketing.

In an article entitled “Admissions deans grapple with the promises and pitfalls of electronic recruiting” Elizabeth Farrell discusses the new methods that universities are using to reach out to prospective students. A quote that appears in the article from the director of admissions of Colby is a good summary:

“We’re really trying to keep up with what’s going on in the commercial world, because that’s what the kids are exposed to,” says Steve Thomas, director of admissions at Colby. “It’s what they’ve come to expect in dealing with us.”

As colleges and universities delve into advertising and marketing, they may not realize the enormous amount of time and money that can be saved by outsourcing Enrollment Marketing initiatives to Direct Response Marketing companies that are more equipped to reach target students, on a performance basis. This should not come as a surprise, as marketing agencies have been utilizing the internet and other channels in order to initiate direct quantifiable contact with consumers for some time now.

Enrollment management refers to all of the procedures, initiatives, and events that promote, recruit, assess, admit, and retain students.

  • Promote: School promotional, communication, and marketing initiatives are established to ensure strong brand recognition in the marketplace.
  • Recruit: Yearly events market both internally and externally, locally, and internationally. The goal of recruitment events is to educate and establish trust with applicant families in an attempt to convert vague interest into a formal inquiry and application. It is also important to ensure that your current families are educated, informed, and satisfied with their school experience.
  • Assess: All applicants complete an online application, interview, and assessment. The assessment process is designed to enable applicants to demonstrate their academic and co-curricular strengths. Assessment is viewed as only one component of the process, which values equally the completed application, student profile responses, interview, and other supporting documentation such as report cards and selected student work samples.
  • Admit: All enrolment decisions are made by the admission decision committee. Admission works in partnership with academics and finance to meet enrolment targets and ensure stable class and grade sizes. That predominantly depends on the quality of admission essay writing.
  • Retain: To ensure retention, we frequently conduct student and parent surveys to gather reactions to our program and school. The guidance counsellors work in partnership with the admission team as a retention committee to share feedback or concerns from students and parents. For any student who decides to not to return to the school, an exit interview takes place to glean feedback for improvement.

Promoting Diversity

An interesting article appeared in the New York Times today that focuses on promoting ethnic diversity in student bodies through scholarships and admissions procedures. Michael F. Summers is runs a biochemistry laboratory at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The article highlights the steps that Summers has taken in order to increase the number of African Americans that have access to an educational structure that will provide them with the opportunity to pursue doctoral degrees.

Summers has taken steps like creating the Meyerhoff Scholarship program, a full scholarship that is awarded to African Americans. This program has provided the opportunity to enter a competitive scientific program to about 800 undergraduates.

In addition to highlighting the aggressive position that Summers has taken, the article also highlights many statistics that show just how few African Americans are awarded PH.D’s in science, math, and engineering: less than 3%. To address this, Summers created the Meyerhoff Scholarship, a program that starts with an aggressive admission criteria:

We take minority students – those with very high SATs and high school grades – and we offer them full scholarships. We compete for them with the Ivy Leagues and we focus on retaining them as science majors. We provide the same kind of nurturance they might get at the traditionally black colleges, but we do some extra things, too. In the summer between high school and college, we have a “bridge program” showing the students what it will take to excel in science. We say, “we expect you to get A’s,” and we show them how to study so they’ll get them.”

By securing a scholarship program that funds high-achieving economically underprivileged African Americans, Summers has evened-out the diversity of his lab: 15 of 32 researchers are African American, a proportion that is unheard of in a biochemistry lab.

The different approaches that colleges and universities are taking to generating student enrollments is very interesting, and we will continue to monitor the new ways that academic institutions seek to increase diversity, and increase applications and enrollments.

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