Huron Education releases white paper addressing strategic enrollment alignment needs at colleges and universities

Lauren Williams's picture
Monday, June 10, 2013

Huron Consulting Group, a leading provider of business consulting services, today announced a Huron Education white paper entitled, “An Enrollment Partnership: The New Model for Success.”  The white paper details a new enrollment approach that utilizes a highly differentiated process considering students’ goals, societal needs, and institutional objectives to recruit the “right” students.

“As colleges and universities face increasing financial and enrollment pressures, it is imperative that they transition from a mass-market approach to a more integrated enrollment strategy,” said Timothy Fournier, managing director, Huron Education. “Strategic enrollment alignment connects admissions and financial aid with analytic tools, support services, academic and financial planning, and a multidisciplinary focus consistent with institutional mission and strategic objectives to identify the best student fit for a university.”

In response to higher tuition costs and student debt, students are approaching the higher education marketplace with a consumer mentality, resulting in a rising tuition discount rate and a veritable arms race among colleges and universities to differentiate themselves and protect their market share. At the same time, the growing ethnic diversity of college cohorts has led institutions to focus on recruiting from new and often unfamiliar groups of international students, out-of-state students, transfer students, and students with lower price sensitivity to offset fiscal challenges. In light of these new pressures, old models no longer provide the same level of predictive power for anticipating student yield and retention.

To implement a strategic enrollment alignment approach, colleges and universities should take the following actions:

·         Identify Barriers to Enrollment and Actions Needed for Long-Term Success. The first step toward a more integrated enrollment model requires that stakeholders throughout the institution come together to understand inherent barriers to enrollment and retention success and to define actions and investments necessary to ensure long-term institutional success – allowing leadership to more effectively identify specific challenges and opportunities that will help drive enrollment success.

·         Define Your Institutional Enrollment Philosophy.  The leadership team must define an institutional enrollment philosophy that will serve as the guiding principle for all future strategic decision making and align leadership perspectives. The resulting strategy should help clarify goals and objectives for enrollment, provide guidance to the admissions and financial aid staff, match enrollment goals to academic and mission objectives, and build a consistent brand and image for current and prospective students.

·         Integrate Institution Priorities.  To successfully balance enrollment goals with other key performance objectives, colleges and universities must adopt a more integrated approach both internally and externally. Institutions should model various tuition-pricing strategies and aid approaches, work with the operations and finance offices to find ways to improve efficiency, and ensure that all workers prioritize providing good support and service to the entire community.

·         Work Together to Evaluate and Modify Academic Programs.  Institutions must bring together key stakeholders – faculty and administrators, student services, career placement professionals, budget and finance staff, and often external stakeholders – to explore opportunities to modify existing academic programs to be attractive, timely, and relevant to the goals and objectives of today’s students. In this process, stakeholders should evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of academic programs, and consider repositioning or combining existing programs into new offerings that have more market relevance.

To attract and retain the right students, colleges and universities need to increase commitment and coordination across departments and continually evaluate whether they are presenting themselves to students in the right way, whether they are offering the right academic programs, and whether they are offering classes in the correct formats. While these improvements require considerable time and effort, institutions must update their enrollment practices to compete in this fast-changing marketplace.