The Strategic Enrollment Management Plan is the sixth element in a cohesive prototype plan leading an institution into the future. It is an integral part of a cohesive planning and management system serving to guide organizational development, focus and workflow. I receive many requests for an outline but the specifics of a plan are largely dependent upon the institutions typology and strategic condition of its academic portfolio and enrollment history. This post will serve to frame the basic functions and some strategic elements necessary for any Strategic Enrollment Management Plan.
The purpose of the Strategic Enrollment Management Plan is threefold:
- Inform the Master Academic Plan regarding global learning market conditions, challenges and opportunities;
- Present the institutions academic program to the global learning marketplace and engage prospects to yield enrollments;
- Manage enrollment dynamics to optimize revenue and enrollment performance.
The foundation of any Strategic Enrollment Management Plan emanates from assumptions either formal or de facto about the relative position of the institution in the global learning ecosystem or within specific learning market segments.
Common Strategic Enrollment Management Plan characteristics include:
- A long range view with specific references such as 1, 3, 5, 10, 15 year milestones.
- Updated annually
- Translates the Institutional Strategic Plan and Master Academic Plan into action
- Fully integrates the Master Academic Plan with the global learning marketplace
- Fully involves the academic leadership
- Guides academic and enrollment organizational development (human capital and systems infrastructure)
The Strategic Enrollment Management Plan when combined with the Institutional Strategic Plan and the Master Academic Plan determine the institutions relative strategic position in the global learning ecosystem. Conversely the desired strategic position focuses the development of specific strategies, tactics, goals and objectives in the Strategic Enrollment Management Plan.
Strategic Position is defined as the sum of the competitive characteristics an institution or program possesses when compared to other institutions or programs in the global learning ecosystem or specific market segments. While marketing, branding, and competitiveness are certainly integral to the strategy, the roots of strategic positioning lie in the academic master plan and the academic culture and curriculum it defines, builds and sustains. The process begins with institutional strategy emanating from mission and vision. We use the SRS Method to develop a clear and concise translation and guide Strategic Enrollment Management plans, campaigns and analysis.
Contrary to the common practice, “we need more,” is neither a strategy nor a plan. The concept of strategic position is built around assessing where an institution is with respect to others in its competitive sphere. The assessment of strategic position is informed through at least six lenses.
- The Demographics Lens
Examines enrollment strategy and performance against geographic scope, reach and yield. Scope assesses and defines target populations, reach details tactics to engage target populations and yield measures enrollment performance.
- The Learning Outcomes Lens
Examines the metrics and perceptions of the benefit and value added through the learning experience.
- The Academic Programs Lens
Examines the scope and focus of the academic program mix requiring an evaluation of saturation and opportunity against market dynamics.
- The Research and Scholarship Lens
Examines the comparative scholarly performance of the institution against competitors.
- The Employment Domains and Discipline Spheres Lens
Examine the requirements of employers, contemporary realities in academic communities and the performance and success of alums.
- The Community of Practice Lens
Examines academic strategies tied to emerging trans-disciplinary communities of practice that require a collaborative academic background to join.
Note the primacy of academic programs (Academic Programs, Learning Outcomes, Research and Scholarship) in the concept and strategic position framework. Because the academic strategies drive enrollment management performance, the cycles that drive each of them must be aligned, and synergy developed. They must also be aligned with the three external factors; population dynamics and demographics, employment domains and global discipline conditions, and emerging communities of practice.
The Life Cycles of PIE
Strategic enrollment management utilizes a basic PIE (Plan / Implement / Evaluate) Cycle to produce results. It is a three year cycle. Each fall, enrollment managers begin the cycle by evaluating last year’s campaign against enrollments registered on census day, launching the current recruitment plan as informed by ongoing evaluation, and planning the next fall’s recruitment campaign. The full cycle takes three years to complete:
- Year 1
Develop the recruitment Plan
- Year 2
Implement the recruitment plan
- Year 3 and Continuous
Evaluate results using analytics and time series methods.
Curriculum management also runs in a basic three year PIE cycle. Academic program modifications, curriculum development, and academic policy modifications are collected, and the results are published in the academic catalog to be offered as the basis for enrollment. Because it serves as the basis for a contract between the institution and the student the academic catalog becomes the input to the development of a Strategic Enrollment Management Recruitment campaign. The confluence and interplay between the various cycles of development, review, approval, and implementation require consistent, clear communications and a commitment to a common goal.
Synchronizing the academic and enrollment management calendars, schedules, and cycles are essential to a smooth enrollment development culture. Cycles must nurture enrollment management campaigns designed to recruit the next cohort of students.
The recruitment, retention, and graduation of students follow the predictive staged path detailed in the Strategic Enrollment Management Funnel. Between each band lies the yield from decisions made in the previous to progress further down the funnel toward registration. Campaigns are designed to yield the progress from suspect populations (input to the funnel) through the various stages.
Defined as an integrated set of recruitment activities designed to achieve a specific enrollment target in a specified amount of time. A campaign is guided by institutional strategy, master academic plan, and strategic position and developed in order to meet recruitment period enrollment targets.
- Targets Begin with trajectory statements such as increase academic profile of freshman class or increase diversity of the undergraduate population, or increase geographic representation of graduate enrollments. Specific campaign targets then flow from these trajectories, such as, grow enrollment from Asia (specifically China, Japan, Malaysia, India, & Indonesia) by x% to 100 incoming students in fall (year).
- Messaging Develops the specific messages and sequences them to influence prospect decision making. Messaging creates the value proposition, removes barriers, engages the interest, and leads the prospect through learning about the opportunity to experience an academic culture. It is both art and science and is rarely enhanced by opinion.
- Channels Map the messages to specific communications systems and schedule them in a strategic order to influence prospects decision to proceed through the application process to enrollment. Channels include events (face-to-face), social media, advertising, including virtually every vehicle of engagement available.
- Closing In the end the entire campaign is about the final negotiation and closing the offer of enrollment. The right tools and flexibility must be in the hands of the closer.
Enrollment managers are working a minimum of three campaigns at any given time. They are evaluating what worked in the previous, implementing the current and planning the next. A consistent critical weakness we have observed is too little time, and attention is paid to campaign planning and analysis.
This brief introduction to the construct, value and key elements of a Strategic Enrollment Management Plan serves to orient its role in the structure of a solid strategic planning process. Without this solid foundation enrollment development activities are adrift, guided only by angst, panic, opinion, beliefs, notions, and impatience.