Academic SEM Strategy: 80% of admissions directors concerned about meeting enrollment goals!

Michael G. Dolence & Associates, Volume 2015, Number 3

Innovation in Higher Education Newsletter

May 1, 2015 is only days away. It is time to reflect on what we learned last October from the prospect of persistent enrollment challenges and decline. We must anticipate our actions as the May 1 milestone hurdles us toward Fall 2015 enrollment and the fiscal and educational reality that follows. Explore MGDA Higher Education Blog.

According to Inside Higher Ed’s Survey of College and University Admissions Directors Fall 2014

The survey released September 18, 2014 reported:

  • 61% of colleges did not make enrollment numbers and nearly 80% of admissions directors reported being moderately or very concerned about meeting enrollment goals.
  • 71% of private bachelor’s institutions didn’t meet goals by May 1, 2014 (up from 59% in 2013).
  • 32% of all institutions – in violation of NACAC’s principles of good practice – recruited students after May 1 who had committed to other institutions (up from 29% in 2013).
Table 1: Estimated National Enrollment by Sector (Title IV, Degree-Granting Institutions)
FALL 2014 FALL 2013 FALL 2012
Sector Enrollment % Change from Prior Year Enrollment % Change from Prior Year Enrollment % Change from Prior Year
Total Enrollment, All Sectors 19,619,773 -1.3% 19,885,203 -1.5% 20,195,924 -1.8%
Four-Year, Public 7,965,176 0.0% 7,964,090 0.4% 7,931,702 -0.2%
Four-Year, Private Nonprofit 3,823,465 1.6% 3,761,953 1.3% 3,714,967 0.5%
Four-Year, For-Profit 1,315,167 -0.4% 1,321,107 -9.7% 1,463,097 -7.2%
Two-Year, Public 6,107,337 -3.5% 6,329,631 -3.3% 6,544,820 -3.6%
Unduplicated Student Headcount (all sectors) 19,258,730 -1.3% 19,511,518 -1.4% 19,791,149 -1.7%

Figure 1: Term to term comparison of estimated enrollment by sector 2012 to 2014


Source of Table 1 and Figure 1: National Student Clearinghouse Research Center| REPORT: Current Term Enrollment Report – Fall 2014

What did respondents plan to do? According to the Inside Higher Ed survey they planned to increase efforts to recruit:

  • Part-time undergraduates (40% Public / 15% Private)
  • First generation students (71% Public / 50% Private)
  • “Full pay” students (35% Public / 57% Private)
  • Veterans and military (70% Public / 42% Private)

Rather than implement a narrow cluster of ideas, differentiate by using Academic SEM Strategies.

  • Understand academic strategic advantages and how to recognize, develop and showcase them.
  • Understand the dynamics of the emerging global digital learning ecosystem and its impact on the future of education.
  • Develop an academic narrative that differentiates. Ensure your plan delivers a balanced short-term (bump), medium-term (program market revitalization), and long-term strategic position approach. Then live the plan.
  • Invest in increasing the value of your student’s educational experience, and that means curriculum.
  • Recognize that the underlying issues that created such tense market dynamics defy quick marketing, branding, slap together program fixes. Doesn’t mean marketing and branding are not important, they are, but it does mean success requires much more than billboards on freeways, placards on buses, going on-line, and hastily copying others curricular portfolio.
  • Recognize it takes an Academic/SEM Team to achieve a competitive strategic position in the dynamic learners market that is today and tomorrow.
  • Recognize the gift of ‘bump’ strategies that provide a short term increase in enrollments and the precious investment dollars they provide to continue meaningful transformation.
  • There is much more to Academic SEM…

So, what can be done NOW?

  • Starting with minning the mission, and re-conceptualizing your Strategic Plan as ‘Curriculum-Centered’ and the Curriculum as ‘Learner Centered,’ then focus on strategic position. How? Use the Curriculum-Centered Strategic Planning Model (CCSPM) and the SRS Method as reference. This is not a long drawn out effort, it starts with evaluating the existing strategic plan and assets and creating short-term market wins. In the process identify opportunities for program market revitalization and develop a strategic market narrative.
  • Use Academics, Programs of Study, Curricular Elements, Research, and learner experiences to create a compelling narrative that builds competitive strategic position.
  • Use the emerging principles and practices of Academic SEM to enhance your strategic market position by developing a long term, sustainable strategy.
  • Use bump tactics to gain in selected areas in order to fund broader innovation and revitalization and pave the pathway to a strategic market position. Make everything count toward the future.
  • There are numerous ways and methods to begin an Academic SEM approach to sustainability. The following links provide options, information and opportunities.

Evolve to Academic SEM

Learn why all “Strategic” Enrollment Management is “Academic,” attend:

Academic SEM Posters Available

Academic SEM Funnel [MGDA01]


Academic SEM Cycles [MGDA02]







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