9 Enrollment Management Strategies for New Session

As a student and an education consultant, I have seen changes in Indian higher education ecosystem that are nothing short of close to revolutionary. Development in access to higher education, the availability of numerous course options, the number of students attending college, education strategy and technological innovations are just some of the sweeping changes that have made higher education an increasing force in the social, economic, political, and cultural life of our country.

While many of these changes have been positive, these changes are often not easy for many institutions as far as enrollment and admission dynamics are concerned. For all the ways in which higher education has propelled us forward, we sometimes resist and even fear the changes brought on by ensuing generations of college students.

However, if there is a lesson I have learned from my own campus experiences as well as consulting with higher education, it is that adaptation is not an option in enrollment management. Change and succeed, or resist and perish.

While every institution is different, the following 9 strategies have helped many campuses not just to stay ahead of these changes, but use these changes for their advantage in improving student enrollment and admissions.

1. Set realistic admission goals and not just projections:

Think about the enrollment goals at your own institution. Do you know what they are? Do other key stakeholders at your institution know them? Does everyone support them? and most importantly Are You Certain? Every admission manager should answer yes to those these three questions, yet many cannot.

Why? Because goal-setting is often an abstract exercise free from relevant data inputs and market analysis. It is crucial to look at how you have been enrolling and how your competition enrolls before you set future goals. What is your balance between quality and quantity of student enrollments?

Enrollment goals should be strategically planned and assessed. they need to be sub-divided into subpopulations — courses, geography, application channels, and so on.

2. Identify and secure sufficient resources to achieve admission goals:

As part of a realistic goal-setting exercise, you have to know what resources you will require to achieve your goals. Much like asking what your goals are, do you know what is in your annual enrollment plan? Is it visible from your desk, or tucked away like a library book? Successful enrollment plans are living enrollment plans. They are working action documents that should be referred to regularly, and routinely modified. They should also include daily tasks, monthly objectives, and last 90-day action plans.

In addition, it’s important to have a working, realistic enrollment plan that looks three to five years ahead. That plan should chart a course for your campus from what it is now to what it will become.

3. Build your database and inquiry pool by design, not by chance:

To achieve admission goals you have to begin with a plan to build and manage a database not, including an inquiry pool of the right size and shape. You also need to set specific conversion ratios and goals so that you can manage your inquiry pool more strategically. It shouldn’t be a rule of thumb.

Note, that different types of applications will convert at different yield rates. Either Online, or the on Paper applications should be track differently — be sure to monitor these rates and plan accordingly.

4. Implement a strategic communication flow:

With the seemingly chaotic mix of prints, mails, and social media, there may not seem to be a “flow” with admission inquiry. As with prospective student identification, though, building a communications flow remains a bountiful enrollment strategy if it is handled strategically.

First, you ought to think about the communications at various enrollment stages — inquiries, applications, admission acceptances, fees deposits. Progressing them to the next enrollment stage remains the goal.

Second, focus your electronic communications wisely. Having a website that engages students is paramount. You want to invite communication in addition to delivering information. Give students opportunities to provide their email addresses or contact information. Do the same with social media, but be careful not to go overboard. You are better covering fewer social media outlets well rather than spreading yourself too thin.

5. Track your marketing and it’s impact on inquiry generation to final admission:

Michael Porter famously said, “What gets measured gets done”. In an era of abundant resources for an institution’s marketing, you cannot afford to put time and money into activities with no measurable return on investment.

This process can be boiled into four main components:
i).   Identify which metrics to track.
ii).   Know how to track the metrics you identified.
iii). Guide your decisions with the data you collect.
iv). Monitor the effect of your efforts and adjusting accordingly.

Having a solid set of marketing and enrollment conversion metrics you can track your efforts from year to year and make crucial decisions on allocating resources and find opportunities in the education sector.

6. Identify admission channels and its performance measurement mechanism:

As institutions choose to utilise multiple admission channels, from newspaper ads to admission consultants and online marketing to admission fairs, it is important for the institution to identify suitable admission channels. Track admission conversion ratio for each channel and evaluate return on investment of resources for each of the channels. Based on these inputs, the institution can establish a performance measurement mechanism for every channel.

It is important to evaluate performance of your admission channels and set a separate target for each channel.

7. Devote as much attention to student retention as to enrollment:

Post enrollment dropout ratio is on the rise. Let’s say you want to increase your enrollment by 5 per cent. To achieve it, you could increase applications by 5 per cent. Or you could increase new students by 2 per cent while focusing on retention and reduce student retention by 3 per cent. The latter approach tends to be much more cost effective.

However, retention requires attention to detail. Your institution has to be committed to providing all possible admission assistance, and must develop a system for identifying which students need and want assistance, so you can focus on better engagement with those students.

8. Mention fee details clearly and Award scholarships:

The increasing cost of higher education has emerged as the biggest roadblock to attracting bright students. Perhaps nothing will turn away a prospective student faster than a feeling that they cannot afford your institution. You have to address this concern immediately and accurately.

Mentioning fee details clearly on your website is a great first step to address the affordability of education by for prospective students and their families. Further, it is important to mention about all the available scholarships, student bank loans and other financials aids aid available to for your prospective students.

In addition, you have to identify scholarship awarding strategies that address need, and willingness to pay. Doing this successfully means that you have understood the price sensitivity of the various student populations you hope to attract. Awarding scholarship just for the initial phase of the study could put students at risk of dropping out, which hurts both the student and your institution. It’s advisable to spread the scholarship throughout the enrolled years.

Education is a business of brands, so avoid overdoing in awarding scholarships it to make sure prospective students don’t get confused between scholarship and discount.

9. Make the best use of technology for achieving enrollment goals:

Technology has transformed education as a whole and enrollment is not an exception. Most of the institutions limit the use of technology in enrollment management using social media marketing and search engine optimization only. However, integration of technology solutions in admission process can help your institution in identifying and targeting the right set of student applicant pool, providing them personalised assistance, tracking of student applications and application funnel management. In the era of technology, right use of technology can give your institution a distinctive advantage for building an Education ERP.

I hope you find these strategies prolific. It is important to adopt a systematic, forward-thinking way to approach enrollment management. With so many changes in the Indian higher education and economy, you must take a data-informed approach to every aspect of student admissions, so that you focus on the types of students you want to admit and don’t waste your limited resources on an irrelevant student pool. Explore every avenue and then chose the right management strategy for a successful new session.

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