August 8, 2012
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.