Updated January 2019
As the leader of our strategic enrollment planning at Ruffalo Noel Levitz, I work with institutions of every size, type, and mission to create strategic enrollment plans that help institutions align with changing academic demands, employment needs, and student diversity. In this post, I respond to some common questions I hear from campus leaders, in anticipation of our upcoming Strategic Enrollment Planning Executive Forum, March 27-28 in Chicago.
What are the building blocks of a strategic enrollment plan?
President Eisenhower once said, “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” The foundation of a good strategic enrollment plan is a good strategic enrollment planning process. The key is to bring the right people to the table, provide them with access to institutional and external data, foster collaboration across the institution, embrace transparency, and roll up your sleeves and get to work. Know at the outset that the goal is not to do everything, but to identify those few strategies that the data say have the greatest potential to improve institutional performance, and that will mobilize the campus community to action. It sounds simple, but it requires strong leadership.
What distinguishes strategic enrollment planning from recruitment and retention planning?
While institutional mission must be at the center of any strategic planning process, the most effective strategic enrollment plans link academic and fiscal planning with recruitment and retention planning. Our marketing and recruitment efforts are designed to bring students to our institutions to study in our academic programs. Our retention efforts are designed to foster student success so that students will remain enrolled in our programs and then complete them. The entire financial enterprise, from capital campaigns to financial aid disbursement, are designed to help students enroll, to provide quality programs, and to pay the bills. If enrollment planning is just about getting students and keeping them, then it is not likely very strategic. While strategic enrollment planning will not magically remove organizational silos, by design it will lessen their effects on organizational collaboration because individuals from across the institution will come together to identify challenges and opportunities, and to develop plans that will strengthen the enrollment and the fiscal foundation of the institution.
How does strategic enrollment planning differ from institutional strategic planning?
By design, institutional strategic planning (ISP) has a broader scope than strategic enrollment planning (SEP). We’ll introduce the Ruffalo Noel Levitz approach to ISP at a session following the SEP forum in Chicago, but in essence, ISP starts with a review and refresh of the institutional mission and vision. ISP then expands to include advancement and fundraising, comprehensive fiscal planning, facilities planning, and the student-facing issues that are most commonly the focus of SEP:
- marketing and recruitment
- student success, retention, completion, and re-enrollment
- academic and co-curricular program planning.
We are committed to the same action-item and return-on-investment approach in ISP that has served our campus partners well for well over a decade through strategic enrollment planning. We are also committed to helping institutions move toward sustainability. That means paying as much attention to institutional expenses as to revenue streams.