Enrollment Management

In some institutions, enrollment management describes only a segment of the possibilities the role can have in an institution. In other places, it encompasses the entire life cycle of a student and becomes a strategic effort to manage the enrollment as the name implies.  Too many schools focus their enrollment management efforts on recruiting new students.  What we know is that it takes more money, time, and effort to recruit new students than it does to retain the ones we have already admitted. See Dr. Neal Raisman’s on the cost of attrition at this link: http://www.educationalpolicy.org/pdf/1302_PolicyPerspectives.pdf

I view an enrollment management leader as someone at the senior management level who is responsible for coordinating the institution’s efforts from prospecting to graduation and throughout the life cycle between those two events.  I would look for someone with a solid commitment to data-based decision making who has the skills to mine your data at the broad (institutional) level an at the individual student level to find the strategic opportunities for improving enrollment. That person should be a systems thinker who can create synergy among the various operations that touch the student during their experience with the college. The experience needs to be congruent from start to finish in order for students to apply and enroll; navigate financial aid, registration, and other business services; value the academic experience (an area of our institutions that will undoubtedly need to change to meet the learning needs of the upcoming Gen Z population); be engaged by student services; and persist to graduation.

On top of that, the enrollment management person really needs to be able to manage people well by motivating them to excel at their work, work collaboratively with other departments, and bring a high level of critical thinking, ingenuity, and customer service to their roles. And they must see themselves as transformational leaders (agents of change) because we know that doing the same thing will not produce different results.

There are a number of consulting firms out there that can work with enrollment management professionals. Noel-Levitz offers a certificate in Enrollment Management and a pathway to Bay Path’s Masters degree in Enrollment Management.  See more about that at this link: https://www.ruffalonl.com/campus-organizational-planning/higher-education-campus-planning/graduate-program/curriculum

An enrollment manager should be able to establish appropriate benchmarks for each phase of the student life cycle. Certainly, things like cost per lead, conversion rates at every key phase of the student life cycle—prospect-to-application-to-enrollment-to retention-to-graduation—and  can be used not only to guide the development of a college’s approach to enrollment management, but also the performance of key individuals along that life cycle.  Take for example the role of faculty in student retention—just because this is an area often held as a sacred cow by faculty and therefore seldom considered by administration. Does the data show a pattern of attrition from particular faculty members or particular content areas?  Are some programs losing students at particular stages in a program?  The data is there—we seldom use it to inform our strategies for student retention.  It is a management issue if students are consistently leaving the program after the experience of a particular faculty member or course content regardless the instructor. It is these seldom recognized places to look that a good enrollment manager will examine and will work with the rest of the senior management team to establish expectations and hold everyone accountable for retention.  We hear that a lot: Retention is everyone’s job. It is true, but if everyone things it is everyone else’s job, nobody attends to it.  So what a good enrollment manager needs to create is an environment where everyone—absolutely everyone—is fully engaged in student retention, understands the role they play in enrollment management, and is invested in outcomes.


Enrollment Management covers the broad operational areas that affect the total numbers of enrolled students and graduates. Admissions and student retention, marketing and sales, financial aid and many other operational areas are all areas addressed under the umbrella of Enrollment Management in some way.  Visit each topic using the navigation menu to the left of your screen or click here for more information about Enrollment Management.