Strategic Enrollment Management Matrix: Part 4


This is the fourth post in the series on Academic Strategic Enrollment Management.

The Strategic Enrollment Management Matrix is a powerful tool in the Academic Strategic Enrollment Management toolbox. The  Strategic Enrollment Management Matrix provides a comprehensive process framework for developing or evaluating strategies, capacities and operational initiatives. The fundamental purpose of Academic SEM is to achieve and maintain the optimum alignment between an institution’s strategies, curriculum, policies and practices and the learning needs and requirements of learners active in the global learning marketplace. The framework guides the planning process toward developing academic and enrollment strategies, tactics, goals and objectives.

The SEM Matrix is a tool developed by MGD+A to frame a structured dialog around the intersection of the seven dimensions of Strategic Enrollment Management with the seven learner-centered questions. The seven dimensions of Strategic Enrollment Management include strategy, the academic domain, recruitment, retention, operations, the policy domain, and finally the analytical foundations of all Strategic Enrollment Management efforts. Answers to the seven learner-centered questions can ensure that curriculum fulfills institutional and fiduciary missions. they include:

  1. the deep understanding of the populations to be served;
  2. knowledge of the objectives they seek;
  3. an evaluation of learning provider models available to them;
  4. a comprehensive integration of learning theory, methods and principles appropriate to successful learning;
  5. a strategic reconceptualization of the overall curriculum architecture providing a full scope of programs and approaches;
  6. a synthesis of specific curriculum configurations designed to meet specific learner’s needs; and finally
  7. the design, development and deployment of the array of services required by learners to meet their objectives.

The Strategic Enrollment Management Matrix is displayed in Figure 1. The green axis of the table is comprised of seven learner-centered questions juxtaposed against seven dimensions of Strategic Enrollment Management displayed along the blue axis.


Figure 1: Strategic Enrollment Management Matrix

Using the Strategic Enrollment Management Matrix

The matrix can be used in a number of ways. It can be used in committee or group process to guide, frame and prompt discussion, harvest insight, mitigate uninformed opinion or cow-path thinking. In decision making it can be used to collect evidence, guide analysis, frame research, discover options, and refine strategies, goals and objectives. In the process of developing an institutional strategic plan, master academic plan or strategic enrollment management plan it can be used to frame the structure and frame the outline of the plan.

In Structured Dialog

The matrix provides a systematic method to frame questions, provide answers and understand analysis when used to help structure a dialog with constituents. For example, the cell labeled A1 can prompt a dialogic structure around the question of ‘what demographics do we seek and how does it fit with our overarching strategy?’ It can then frame more questions around strategy such as what are the relevant demographics – Cells A1, B1, C1. What learning objectives do learners seek? – Cell A2, or what do we provide in our curriculum? – Cell B2, or what yields in enrollment decision processes? – Cell C2. What means do we have for engaging demographic segments? – Cell E1, or do our policies align with that market segment? – Cell F1.

In determining impact and decision making

The focus can be very specific. For example, in reviewing a client graduate program of study MGD+A discerned that the assumed demographic was the characteristic local (line of sight) recruitment pool that was the default focus of the institution. Clarity was achieved using framed analysis of dimensions across Rows A, B, and C highlighting all seven learner-centered questions in each. The analysis revealed that the target demographic was non-profits and by default the presumed geographic reach was line of sight. Being presumed and never stated it shaped thinking and design and was not made clear for evaluation purposes. The program of study design took on such specific characteristics that it designed itself into such a small market segment that enrollment health and self-sufficiency could never be achieved. The Matrix was used to move the team from local, non-profit to global, online, with direct ties to multiple national and international communities of practice who were immediately assimilated into the strategy.

In plan development

The matrix provides the structured framework for developing plans especially a Strategic, Academic or Enrollment Management Plan. Developing a Strategic Enrollment Management Plan can begin with delineating the seven dimensions of Strategic Enrollment Management. For example, we began with Cell A1 with a client to reveal a geographic mix profile of 31% local/commuter, 47% non commuter in state, 19% from 17 of 49 states, and 3% international. Through dialog and analysis of Cell A.1 and Cell A.3 consensus was developed that the geographic profile of its student demographics was a weaknesses. As a result the SEM Plan began by developing one of its primary strategies—to change the geographic mix of through a sustained Academic SEM campaign. Focused planning was begun in the areas Cells B1,2,3,5,6,7 to identify specific program/service packages for development. A specific recruitment campaign was developed using Cells C1-7, targeting a cluster of 11 states and 3 international metropolitan areas for sustained recruitment over three consecutive annual cycles.

These are just a few examples of using the Strategic Enrollment Management Matrix. The Matrix directly supports and provides a method to stay laser focused on the fundamental Goals of a Strategic Enrollment Management initiative.

  1. Achieve and maintain the optimum strategic position of the institution in the marketplace.
  2. Assess and Inform the academic enterprises alignment with the global learning sphere. (Market demand and availability as-well-as competitive restraints such as regulations)
  3. Ensure economic health through sound management of enrollment profiles, yields, ratios and distributions.
  4. Achieve and maintain the optimum recruitment, retention, and attainment of students where “optimum” is defined within the academic context.

Origins of the Strategic Enrollment Management Matrix

The Strategic Enrollment Management Matrix is a modified Delphi type method and is based on the assumption that group judgments are more valid than individual judgments. The Delphi method was developed circa 1959 by Rand researchers Olaf Helmer, Norman Dalkey, and Nicholas Rescher. Delphi as a method morphed to a more advanced evolutionary form known as a Cross-Impact Analysis. The Cross-Impact Analysis was developed by Theodore Gordon and Olaf Helmer in 1966 and was designed to help determine how relationships between events would influence outcomes and reduce uncertainty in the future. James Morrison and William Renfo began to apply these techniques in the 1980’s to environmental scanning and futures work in higher education (see Futures Research and the Strategic Planning Process: Implications for Higher Education (J-B ASHE Higher Education Report Series (AEHE)). I began to use these methods shortly after attending a seminar with Jim Morrison to help develop group understanding of the complex dynamics involved in developing enrollment management strategies.

Programs of Study: Part 5

Learner-Centered Curriculum Framework: Part 3

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