In our practice, we encounter a lot of confusion and misguided understandings concerning what Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) and especially, what planning Academic SEM is about (see 50 Losing SEM Strategies). The laments around planning are numerous, “too complex, too big, too long term, make it simple, I need a quick fix…” blah, blah, blah. The cold hard truth is that Academic SEM is not simple and it is a primary reason why it is such an important emerging profession. Don’t take this the wrong way. There are plenty of ways to achieve short term bumps (see the Art and Science of the Bump) and bring in pockets of enrollments to backfill budgets. We all know those are an integral part of our tool box. Just focusing upon them, however, out of context of the holistic spectrum of Academic SEM, is always a losing proposition. This post is a simple articulation of the scope of Academic SEM planning.
Academic Strategic Enrollment Planning and Management is an institution wide function involving virtually all divisions, units, colleges and key decision makers. This means a multiplicity of systems, functions and perspectives must align and work together in order to achieve optimum enrollment performance.
Four Institution-wide Integrated Layers
The various elements including systems, functions and perspectives must work together synergistically, to achieve optimum performance. We array sixteen discrete elements in four layers, consisting of four elements each. Guidance and direction is provided within the Strategy Layer, the capacity to perform is detailed in the Capacity Layer, functions are defined and aligned in the Operations Layer, and the Systems Layer provides rules, content, metrics, automation, data management, etc. to make it all work.
The Strategy Layer
The strategy layer drives virtually all functions within an Academic SEM enterprise. The layer consists of at least four symbiotic integrated planning foci. The Institutional Strategic Plan articulates the mission, vision, and major goals that define the future direction of the institution and establishes basic operational commitments. The Academic Master Plan translates those commitments into a discrete academic portfolio and program functions. The (Strategic Enrollment Management) SEM Plan seeks to align the Academic Master Plan through enrollment management efforts and initiatives with the dynamics of the global enrollment environment. The SEM Plan must inform both the Institutional Strategic Plan and the Academic Master Plan in iterative cycles in order to achieve alignment. Together, the Strategic, Academic and SEM plans function to develop a Strategic Position among peer institutions and competitors for resources, students, faculty and staff. Strategic Position is the result of academic strategy, marketing, and the net effect of multiple subsystems all coming together to create a sustainable competitive capability.
The Capacity Layer
The Capacity Layer involves at least four interrelated conditions that must work together to get any meaningful academic SEM initiative to work. The organization’s Human Capacity must possess the requisite knowledge and skills across critical functions in order to succeed. The work must be achievable in the work plans of the organizational entities and key individuals across the institution. An institution must have the Organizational Capacity including the systems, methods, tools, processes, as-well-as, the planning and management acumen to undertake and successfully complete complex, integrated, tasks that build to long term success. The Physical Capacity to manage enrollment loads, residency functions, and specific academic pedagogy requirements must be present. The institution must develop and sustain the Fiscal Capacity to develop the resources to support the enterprise.
The Operations Layer
Academic Strategic Enrollment Management is a comprehensive process designed to achieve and maintain the optimum recruitment, retention, and attainment of students where “optimum” is defined within the academic context and results in the strategic position of the institution in the learning marketplace.
Operational Academic SEM involves four primary lenses: Recruitment, Retention, Operations (back office, front facing, calendaring, scheduling etc.) and the Academic Portfolio. Recruitment is defined as an active process an institution undertakes to influence a learner’s decision to attend. Retention is defined as the maintenance of a learner’s satisfactory academic progress toward her or his pedagogical objective until it is attained.
SEM Operations involves a number of cycles and their component processes. Cycles involve Curriculum Development and Revitalization, Recruitment Campaign Design and Development, Campaign Implementation, Yield Monitoring and Optimization, and Retention Management to name a few. Each cycle contains preconditions, policies, processes and procedures. They involve individuals from across academic and administrative units and result in predicted outputs all arranged in a time series workflow that is calendared and resourced.
The Systems Layer
Both the Academic and Strategic Enrollment Management domains rely upon systems to provide basic functionality. Any curriculum system facilitates learning content being conceptualized, designed, assessed, packaged, managed and delivered to a learner. All curricular systems have certain characteristics. For example:
All curricula reside within an institutional or organizational context. The context is defined by the mission of the organization in which it resides, the stakeholders who shape that mission, and their vision of where the institution is going and how it is to evolve.
All curricula result in outcomes, in other words, they have a tangible and often intangible impact upon those that engage it. The outcomes may be expected or unexpected. They may be intended or unintended. They may be measurable or difficult to ascertain.
All curricula have an economic reality that they exist within. It may be stable, adequate, inadequate, growing, shrinking, or in a state of flux. The economic realities shape a great deal of what the curriculum is and how it is delivered.
All curricula have an architecture either both well defined and articulated, or defacto, having evolved over time. By architecture we mean that all curricula have a defined structure that fits many parts together. Each identified part is defined and has a defined role to play in the overall function of the system.
The sum of these characteristics helps to define a curriculums’ (system) architecture. The curriculum architecture is framed, enabled and dependent upon the institution’s Information Systems; academic and administrative Policies, Processes and Procedures; the organizations Human Capital Development; and are informed and guided by the institution’s Performance Metrics. In Academic SEM Planning, we consider all of these elements and aspects of the academic and enrollment domains in the planning process. It makes Academic SEM Planning seem at first blush very complex. Upon reflection, it should be understood as a mega system of subsystems and key components that must fit and work together.