Enrollment Management

What is Enrollment Management?

  • Strategies and methods used by college admissions offices to reach the enrollment goals set forth by the institution
  • Usually involves specific recruitment targeted areas/schools
  • Always involves financial considerations that will enhance the enrollment goals 
  • Colleges often hire outside agencies to help them develop algorithms to guide them in achieving their enrollment goals

What information do these algorithms examine?

  • Make-up of applicant/potential accept pool
  • Financial needs of applicants: full pay? full need? low need?
  • Likelihood that they will enroll
  • Suggest a plan that will take these factors into consideration and arrive at the desired enrollment goal 

Why can’t these goals be achieved without enrollment management?

  • Nearly all institutions of higher education seek to enroll a student body that reflects the diversity of our country – socioeconomically, ethnically, geographically, etc. 
  • With the exception of a small number of highly selective institutions with large endowments, most colleges cannot fund all of the students they accept
  • The institution must be able to fund those students who are financially needy. In order to do this, the institution must accept a certain percentage of students who do not need financial assistance. In other words, full pay students help off-set the cost of enrolling high need students. 

How do institutions convince high achieving, full-pay students to enroll when they know such students are in demand at other institutions?

  • They offer merit scholarships
  • The algorithms are able to predict approximately how big a merit scholarship must be, a willingness to pay, in order to enroll a given student
  • A full-pay student who may be given a “merit” scholarship (sometimes termed “discounting”) will then bring the balance of the full cost of attending with him. 

Concluding Remarks

Terms like “Dean of Enrollment Management” or “Vice President of Enrollment Management” began to replace “Dean of Admissions” and “Vice President for Admissions and Financial Aid” in the late 70s. A confluence of factors prompted this change: an approaching decrease in the number of high school graduates, a commitment to enrolling students from diverse backgrounds, and the rising costs of higher education. Particularly hard hit have been smaller, private liberal arts colleges. Admissions professionals have had to move from a position of reviewing the credentials of students and then admitting those who best satisfied the goals of the institution, to recruiting students who could fulfill the institution’s commitment and then finding ways to fund them. This has required a hard pivot for admissions professionals. One such challenge has been the growing popularity of merit scholarships, sometimes known as discounting. With the exception of an elite group of colleges with large endowments who are able to fund all accepted students to their full need, most colleges are unable to do this. Some colleges admit/deny which means the student is admitted to the college but is not offered need-based aid. And, although this normally occurs for the students who fall at the lowest end of the admit pile, some colleges actually deny admission to students with high need whom they cannot fund. Merit scholarships – long deemed unfair by many as long as those with need could not be funded, were now seen as a way to meet the enrollment goals of the college. The idea was to figure out how many full pay students could be enrolled to fill the coffers enough to aid the high need students. By offering a fairly small (compared to the total cost of attendance) merit scholarship, the student would feel honored, decide to enroll and bring a sizable amount of money with him. To determine the precise formula to achieve the enrollment goal, an algorithm had to be developed. Enter outside business professionals with this expertise.

Some long-time admission professionals were initially reluctant to accept the idea of managing enrollment goals through the use of financial information, however these merits/discounts are necessary for institutions to meet their enrollment goals and make it possible for students from all backgrounds to attend their institutions. Although some might view this as an unfair practice to have wealthier families help fund those who are less able to afford the cost of college, it actually ends up benefitting all families. For those who can afford the full cost of attending an institution, the merit scholarship they are offered will lower the cost of attendance – thus saving the families who would not qualify for need-based aid. 

Resource guide by Cindy Pendergast