College Enrollment Isn’t Just Admissions

Brian C. Mitchell
Oct 22, 2018 · 4 min read
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In our new book, , Dr. W. Joseph King and I assert that the current operating model by which colleges meet their expenses no longer works. This financial crisis is best viewed through one revealing statistic — the stagnation or continuing drop in net tuition revenue.

Tuition Revenue Fuels the Academic Enterprise

Tuition dollars fuel the academic enterprise. While money also comes from other sources, the over reliance of most colleges on tuition has prompted Moody’s to issue a negative outlook on where higher education is headed.

The situation is especially difficult because there are no other revenue sources or efficiencies that can be created that are likely to dramatically lessen tuition dependence. For example, using room dollars collected for student dorms effectively turns residence halls into fully depreciated cash cows and only exacerbates serious deteriorating facilities issues over time.

Colleges Need Comprehensive Enrollment Planning

Higher education institutions must answer this question by developing a comprehensive enrollment plan. It’s often said that enrollment is more of an art than a science. Yet precision matters because it directly affects the college’s bottom line.

Deficits have economic, political, social and cultural implications on a college campus.

What are the components of a comprehensive enrollment model?

Strategic Planning

The first component recognizes that higher education institutions compete aggressively for students. This presumes that enrollment officials know where to find them. It is shortsighted to assume that there are enough students living in high income ZIP codes to fill a class, lower tuition dependency, and increase net tuition revenue.

Enrollment must start with a strategic plan linked to the college’s sense of self and strategic vision. Such a plan must include detailed tactics to identify potential applicants early in the pipeline and by geography, gender, and diversity, among numerous other factors, matched to the scholarship funds and loan programs designed to support these initiatives.

Enrollment officials must appreciate and advocate for differentiated academic programs with a well-defined and responsive student life with which incoming students identify and feel comfortable.

Analytics Based on Data from Current Students

As in any competition — including a competition for students — data bring better results.

What’s increasingly important, moreover, is that this data be predictive, by looking hard at what students want from their college experience. It’s here where the most work needs to be done in student life programming.

Does the college create the right kind of community to create a good fit with the applicant?

Can faculty be persuaded that a differentiated academic program, served by a well-funded and thoughtful career center, produce outcomes that illuminate the quality of the academic program?

Does the institution add programs upon request through allocation of student affairs funds or does it review research provided by the analytics available on new students to establish which residence life programs best aid retention?

Is it frisbee golf or bass fishing, a jazz band, and a gospel choir that create the “nest” into which incoming students find their home within the campus community?

Assessment of Why Students Leave Before Graduation

A robust enrollment strategy must include a retention strategy. One CFO I know argues that retention on many campuses means that a fifth class must be recruited every four years to replace those students lost to attrition.

Strategic and Well-Resourced Career Services

Finally, there is a need to re-imagine the career center and devote appropriate resources to it. Career centers are the best tool to create a meaningful relationship with alumni because they provide younger alumni with a critical service that illustrates the institution’s continuing commitment to them.

Many colleges have commencement ceremonies in which students symbolically pass through the college gates as they prepare to enter the world beyond the campus. A robust career center opens that world further and also creates ties that bind graduates to their alma mater.

A good comprehensive enrollment model is the best way to build a strong, cohesive, sustainable campus community.

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No sales. No spam. Thoughtful commentary for higher education professionals.

Academic Innovators

Academic Innovators partners with colleges and universities…

Brian C. Mitchell

Written by

Founding partner of Academic Innovators, a solutions company. Author of How to Run a College. Former president of Bucknell University.

Academic Innovators

Academic Innovators partners with colleges and universities to find creative, sustainable solutions, turning challenges into opportunities.

Brian C. Mitchell

Written by

Founding partner of Academic Innovators, a solutions company. Author of How to Run a College. Former president of Bucknell University.

Academic Innovators

Academic Innovators partners with colleges and universities to find creative, sustainable solutions, turning challenges into opportunities.

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