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Drive Your Enrollment Strategy With Cross-Departmental Collaboration

Every Department Plays A Role In Enrollment

Enrollments represent a significant revenue source for all higher education institutions, but enrollments have been in decline for eight years. With the COVID-19 pandemic placing further pressure on enrollment targets, this decline is expected to continue, with early projections suggesting the potential for a 15% drop in enrollment this fall.

The contributing factors to enrollment decline are wide ranging. College-age student populations are decreasing in many geographic areas, forcing institutions to compete over a shrinking applicant pool. The continued ascent of tuition and fees has priced many students out of higher education, and there is rising skepticism over the value of a college degree. Additionally, institutions increasingly fear the loss of tuition revenue from full fee-paying international students due to travel restrictions and concerns about study abroad. With such varied contributors of enrollment decline, the burden of addressing the enrollment challenge can’t just be placed on enrollment departments alone. Combating these challenges requires an institution-wide effort to creatively and strategically target enrollment efforts while standing out from the competition.

By leveraging the unique strengths of each department, institutions can holistically address the various contributors of enrollment decline. Departments beyond the enrollment office can contribute by optimizing academic programs and tuition and aid structure, communicating institutional value and highlighting alumni success, and improving student engagement and retention. Read on to learn what each department can accomplish to drive enrollment.

Drive Enrollment By Leveraging Each Department’s Strengths

By coordinating an institution-wide enrollment strategy, higher education leaders can leverage the unique attributes of each department to boost enrollment.

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Optimize the Enrollment Funnel

  • Identify enrollment drivers
  • Account for inefficiencies in the enrollment funnel
  • Upgrade recruiting intelligence to target prime student populations
  • Allocate recruitment resources to maximize returns
  • Develop strategies to drive applications and enrollments
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Academic Affairs

Offer In-Demand Academic Programs

  • Provide programs that deliver in-demand skills
  • Identify the academic factors non-traditional learners care about most
  • Develop courses that can be taught both live and online to adapt to unprecedented changes
  • Offer programs that fill market gaps to stand out from the competition
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Communicate Institutional Value

  • Develop a messaging strategy based on brand strengths
  • Leverage the most impactful marketing channels and messaging in your communications
  • Differentiate your institution from competitors
  • Clearly convey the educational value your institution provides
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Alumni Affairs

Highlight Alumni Success

  • Track young alumni’s career development and outcomes
  • Collect alumni feedback on how they view your institution
  • Showcase stories of alumni success on your website
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Student Affairs

Engage and Retain Students

  • Offer a supportive institutional climate
  • Identify and intervene with at-risk students early
  • Address the most common factors of student dropout
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Optimize Tuition and Aid Structure

  • Set tuition and fees structure that aligns with target students
  • Shape financial aid packages to optimize enrollment and revenue
  • Differentiate against or level set with competitors
  • Quantify the economic impact on your community


Optimize the Enrollment Funnel

Enrollment departments are under more pressure than ever before to contribute to their institutions’ financial health. With enrollments continuing their years-long decline, population demographics in many areas also spell an uncertain enrollment future for many institutions.

Competition for a limited pool of applicants means enrollment offices need to upgrade the strategies they use to attract applicants and convert them into matriculants. To draw students to their institutions, admissions leaders are casting a wider prospective student net, with more than three-quarters of admissions professionals at four-year
institutions increasing recruitment efforts to out-of-state and minority students.

In addition to expanding recruiting targets, institutions should assess inefficiencies across the enrollment process to strengthen any areas of weakness and maximize the number of students that apply to and enroll at the institution.

Take Action: High-Impact Initiatives To Optimize Enrollment

  • Analyze the Enrollment Funnel: Conduct a comprehensive analysis of the entire enrollment funnel to assess overall funnel health, identify characteristics and behaviors of students who are most likely to progress through the funnel, and pinpoint areas for improvement.
  • Expand Recruiting Targets: Use geographic and sociodemographic data to identify new pockets of potential students.
  • Measure Drivers of Institution Choice: Survey matriculating and non-matriculating students to discern factors that influenced their enrollment decision.

Enrollment Optimization Checklist For Enrollment Departments:

Wondering how to meet your enrollment goals during the COVID-19 outbreak? Get insights into how the pandemic has affected returning students’ academic plans and well-being⁠—and how effectively they think institutions have responded to COVID-19.

Academic Affairs

Offer In-Demand Academic Programs

Institutions that provide compelling academic programs that appeal to a wide range of students and offer promising employment prospects are a key factor in driving enrollment figures.

A carefully curated portfolio of academic program offerings helps institutions maximize their appeal to a broad range of potential students and gain a higher volume of applicants.

Academic Affairs departments can help maximize enrollment by ensuring they are
offering in-demand academic programs that reflect the interests and preferences of
their target prospective student pool, and ensuring degree programs align with healthy employment prospects post-graduation.

Take Action: Steps Academic Affairs Can Take To Drive Enrollment

  • Identify High-Growth, High-Demand Academic Programs: Analyze your market to identify high-growth, high-potential new program offerings and assess lower growth, lower potential programs.
  • Assess Your Program Portfolio’s Attractiveness: Conduct an in-depth assessment of a program’s attractiveness to students and future employers by analyzing market demand, saturation, employment outlook, and competing institution offerings.
  • Benchmark Your Programs Against Your Peers’: Evaluate the course structure and core components of your academic programs relative to competitor institutions.
  • Develop Programs That Meet Employers’ Needs: Conduct in-depth interviews with local employers to collect their opinions, insights, and feedback regarding specific programs or initiatives.

Enrollment Optimization Checklist For Academic Affairs Departments:

Optimizing your academic programming portfolio is crucial to drive enrollment. Fortunately, institutions have tools available to ensure overall program health by periodically evaluating their offerings.


Communicate Institutional Value

More than 80% of marketing professionals say that the primary objective of marketing
and advertising in higher education is to increase undergraduate enrollments. Marketing can help institutions break through enrollment barriers in a few ways. It can help differentiate the institution so it stands out within an increasingly competitive field, and it can help drive home institutional value with compelling messages delivered to students through their preferred channels.

From basic website and email optimization to more advanced augmented and virtual reality experiences, marketing can boost enrollment by promoting brand awareness and competitive differentiation. Additionally, marketing can contribute to recruiting efforts to pave the way for enrollment by coordinating an outreach strategy that engages prospective students.

Take Action: Steps Marketing Can Take To Drive Enrollment

  • Measure Brand Strength: Survey prospective and current students, alumni, and community stakeholders to identify your brand’s strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Identify the Most Impactful Marketing Channels: Survey your stakeholders to understand which marketing channels and methods they prefer, then adopt the most popular channels in your communications.
  • Compare Your Brand to Competitors’: Benchmark your branding and messaging against your peers to identify opportunities for increased differentiation.

Enrollment Optimization Checklist For Marketing Departments:

61% of higher education institutions spend $100K+ on marketing each year. How can marketers ensure they’re taking the right approach?

Alumni Affairs

Highlight Alumni Success

Post-graduate outcomes are a significant factor in enrollment decisions. Alumni Affairs can help drive enrollment by tapping into alumni insights to provide success stories demonstrating how the institution prepared them for post-graduate life.

Institutions can address student concerns over the value of a higher education by highlighting alumni recommendations and success stories that paint a vivid picture for why students should enroll. In particular, these hard data and personal statements can demonstrate that higher education significantly boosts annual and lifetime earnings, reduces rates of unemployment, promotes retirement security, increases civic engagement, and leads to healthier lifestyles.

Take Action: Steps Alumni Affairs Can Take To Drive Enrollment

  • Track Post-Graduate Outcomes: Analyze your young alumni’s career development and outcomes to identify perceived strengths and gaps, earnings expectations, and satisfaction with their educational experience.
  • Understand How Alumni View Your Institution: Survey alumni to understand their views of your institution, then pass these insights along to Student Affairs to improve the student experience.
  • Highlight Alumni Stories to Showcase: Analyze segments of your alumni to understand which profiles correlate with post-graduate success and positive perceptions of your institution, then showcase these stories on your website to drive student interest.

Enrollment Optimization Checklist For Alumni Affairs Departments:

Alumni gifts are the second-largest source of charitable contributions for institutions–but the number of contributing alumni is declining. Get a snapshot of the state of alumni giving and strategies to help foster alumni engagement.

Student Affairs

Engage and Retain Students

Retention is a key factor in institutions’ enrollment strategies, as a healthy retention rate can take some of the burden off of new student recruitment and enrollment.

Institutions can increase retention rates by identifying at-risk students early and intervening to lessen the chance of dropout. Additionally, they can gather student feedback to ensure they are offering a healthy school climate that reflects a dynamic, diverse, and welcoming environment.

Take Action: Steps Student Affairs Can Take To Drive Enrollment

  • Collect Stakeholder Feedback on Campus Climate: Survey students, faculty, and staff to uncover impressions of the educational environment, extracurricular activities, athletics, library and technology resources, transportation, security, diversity, and student life.
  • Identify At-Risk Students: Evaluate comprehensive data to determine which student profiles are at risk of not graduating and uncover key triggers that may contribute to failures to graduate.
  • Learn Why Dropped Students Left: Survey dropped students to reveal factors that contribute to student dropout and target ways to prevent student dropout in the future.

Enrollment Optimization Checklist For Student Affairs Departments:

Only 45% of students graduate from college in the United States. Find out how to prevent student dropout by addressing the top three factors contributing to attrition.


Optimize Tuition and Aid Structure

Tuition and fees are a primary source of revenue for institutions, with many increasingly placing the cost burden on students. Decreased government funding has negatively impacted revenues, especially for public institutions who report 41% of their revenues coming from government sources.

At the same time, many students are extremely sensitive to cost. Tuition sticker price, therefore, is a delicate balancing act for institutions as they try to maximize revenue while still keeping costs competitive enough to maintain healthy enrollments.

Institutions often experiment with tuition reduction strategies to address price sensitivity among prospective students. It is crucial for institutions to understand which tuition pricing model is best, their chosen model’s expected impact on students, and how their model compares to competitors’ in order to succeed in increasing enrollment.

Take Action: Steps Finance Can Take To Drive Enrollment

  • Determine the Best Tuition Pricing Model: Survey students to evaluate their perspectives on tuition and financial aid pricing, then model potential scenarios to optimize this pricing.
  • Evaluate Financial Aid Packages: Assess historical trends and current data to ascertain what variety of financial aid packages would optimize enrollment and maximize revenue.
  • Compare Your Pricing to Competitors’: Account for your competitive landscape when establishing your pricing and enrollment strategy.
  • Understand Your Economic Impact: Quantify the impact your institution has on the local economy to provide an anchorpoint to recruitment efforts.

Enrollment Optimization Checklist For Finance Departments:

Higher education affordability is at the forefront of potential students’ and families’ minds. Explore creative tuition pricing strategies to compete for students, drive enrollment, and increase revenue.

Hanover can help optimize your enrollment strategy.


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