Intentional Enrollment

August 8, 2012

Brian C. Mitchell
Huffington Post

Beyond the student athletes and legacies, senior officials and their boards must first ask: What kind of institution do we wish to become?


With a few¬†notable exceptions, America’s colleges and universities are dependent upon their comprehensive fee. These fees are typically defined as tuition, fees, room and board, and with auxiliary revenue and endowment spending draw down, form the financial foundation upon which institutions operate. As the principal source of revenue, they represent the lifeblood of an institution whose health is directly dependent upon the ability of their admissions office to bring in the class.

Surprisingly, this archaic approach is how most institutions assemble their classes. The principal tool — financial aid made possible by discount rates that average between 30%-40% at most institutions — is applied idiosyncratically with more of an effort made to fill the seats than to meet tactical objectives in support of a strategic enrollment plan that blends admissions needs with financial aid availability to achieve a desired strategic outcome.

To bring enrollment into the 21st century there are alternative approaches. The most important to note is that the best enrollment plan directly supports the college’s strategic plan – simple declarative statements of purpose, movement and aspiration while clearly stating the type and quality of students the institution must attract.

There are critical components when building a class. The two most obvious are athletic and legacy recruitments… Additionally, strategies such as early admissions programs and financial aid.¬† There is a basic problem emerging from this approach. While these practices generally assure — more or less — the presence of a newly recruited class on campus every August, they do not contribute successfully to the formation of the right admissions class.

For American colleges and universities, the question becomes one of substance over style. Beyond the student athletes and legacies, senior officials and their boards must first ask: What kind of institution do we wish to become? What are our responsibilities to the public? If 50 percent of American students begin their education at community colleges, what relationship exists with them? If students learn differently, how do we blend online learning with the Socratic method to assure that we drive the technology rather than be driven by it? If America is to lead a global society, what is the right mix of foreign students, faculty and student exchanges, and globally based internships on a campus? What does “diversity in all its forms” mean when working the numbers into the financial aid model? The answer is that recruitment must be more than the ability to translate the brochures into Spanish or working harder to attract stereotypical Asian students into Eastern science and engineering schools. To answer the question best is to ask it again. In light of our strategic plan, how do our admissions efforts answer the question: Who do we wish to become?

To read the full article, you may view it here on Huffington Post.