When you were a child did you play with a rubiks cube? Well, if you enjoyed it, you might want to practice your game if you are an enrollment management professional. Remember when you managed to get most of the colors lined up but not the complete cube aligned? Well, enrollment strategy is very similar. You think you have the situation under control and then surprises occur that you simply did not envision, or plan for in your day-to-day duties.
It is not one thing that makes enrollment successful; it is everything. It is not one thing that causes chaos, but anything. I’ve broken down the puzzle into groups like the cube so you can easily navigate the categories to brainstorm with your team
1. Is your funnel sufficiently full and are students converting from suspect to inquiry, applicant and completed applicant in a timely and efficient manner? And, as they move are they visiting, and engaging to increase yield once they receive a welcoming offer of admission? If you can’t answer yes, to these questions, you need to study your competition. If they are successful, you can be too. What are they doing, that you are not? What are you doing that is wasting time, or cumbersome? Step up your game, have a technology audit, an efficiency audit, and review your best practices, and customer service protocols. Who is driving the bus? Are they smart, creative, resilient, technologically competent, driven to success, competitive and willing to move people around or out who are not? The team must be a high-performance team just like an athlete. “Winners don’t quit and quitters don’t win.” Do they work through the summer on each and every class until someone tells them to stop enrolling, or are they on vacation, out-of-the office, taking a class, visiting relatives, all things that matter but distractions that can impact melt? This is not a position for the faint of heart.
2. Are you competitive and efficient in your scholarship offers, and do they mitigate the gap that parent’s pay? It is not just about the need, or the EFC or the cost but is the out-of-pocket expense too much for some segments of your funnel? With that cost in mind, are you addressing the value proposition in every conversation, and I do mean conversation. Students are now eager for conversations, info sessions, and virtual sessions about your college. This value proposition needs to have a clear path from high school graduation to your curriculum, internships and outcomes for them. A small loan is not an issue when placement rates in careers 6 months after graduation are in the 90 percentile, and salaries are above the national median. Demonstrate to your students how they will achieve success and the value you bring to their ultimate career trajectory and salary and you will not have objections to enrollment.
3. Check engagement, safety, student clubs and fun. Who wants to go to a college that crushes fun and exciting parties, relationships and extracurricular activities? No one. Who wants to go to a vibrant campus with activities, coffee shops, boutiques, pizza delivery, athletics, abroad travel, and community service initiatives? Give them a mentor, an upper-class mentor, an advisor and a first-year cohort. The needs of a new student are immense, over deliver with services and your retention will fund the added expense as will the goodwill, and WOM marketing. Study schools that do this well. Establish early intervention systems and involve faculty. Look for common threads, failing grades, high out-of-pocket costs, missing classes, lack of community engagement. Spread the love to your commuter students, and remote and hybrid learners as well.
4. Lastly, purchase an easy button. Everyone wants it cheap, fast and easy today, at least make it easy. Don’t pass students around that have questions and send them to 5 buildings or email addresses to get an answer. Make it everyone’s responsibility to answer the question and follow-up. Reverse the research. Instead of student’s researching and looking for answers, have the staff and faculty (1st point of contact) research the answer, and solve the issue. It is so easy. Billing questions, get the answer and let them know when and where to pay and how to pay with a link that works. Test it yourself before you pass it to them. Need to add or drop a class, find out how and let them know what is available with a link to add or drop today. Need a Covid test, have a list for their easy access. Unengaged student, or depressed, get them into a mental health counselor now. Walk them over there, or transfer the call and stay on the line with them to make sure the call is comfortable. Treat them and their families the way you would want. And, then do it. Have a zero tolerance for staff and faculty who can’t keep up or who can’t creatively solve issues quickly. Roommate issues, move the student to a new room. Don’t quibble about how it’s not in their best interest to always get easy solutions. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but if their parents are paying you want them to be happy.
Happy people are 31% more productive, and they will remember helpful staff and faculty. We hope this helps you plan a good year.