Three basics for monitoring, tracking, and responding to meet your fall class objectives as May 1 approaches

Sharon Wilkes

Executive Consultant

April 25, 2012

Sharon Wilkes shares strategies for ensuring that your college or university can properly track, record, and monitor enrollment data for the new school year.The talk on every campus in the coming weeks centers around upcoming exams, graduation, and the May 1 response date for recruitment. Anxiety and anticipation abound as campuses plan to seat classes for the fall. Even though everyone knows that June 1 is “the new” May 1, the universal response date remains a key time for most of those in the world of enrollment management. As you move toward that date and continue to push for optimized enrollment for fall 2012 (the number of students you want, the types you want, and at the revenue line you need), there are many essential factors to monitor and measure on a point-in-time comparison dashboard. I’ve included three for your consideration:

1) Application, admit, and deposit numbers for targeted market segments

As different types of students apply, deposit, and even melt back out of the counts on differing timelines, it’s important to track and monitor the populations that are important to your campus on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, identify enrollment trends, and craft timely responses to those trends. Most schools will track in-state and out-of-state students separately. Some schools keep an eye on student athletes, while others are more interested in trends by major. But all agree that the most successful recruitment tracking involves segmenting the market into groups of like students.

Recently I met with a campus partner experiencing a dramatic shift in enrollment. Enrollment of students from other states had increased significantly over past years, while in-state students were holding steady with prior year counts. Since this team has experienced a high out-of-state melt rate (students who deposit and later withdraw) in the past, we began working on community-wide melt-prevention tactics earlier this year and hope to reduce summer losses of out-of-state enrollment.

2) Application, admit, and deposit numbers for students with differing academic credentials

Most schools offer scholarships that are based on a student’s academic achievements and generally experience varying yield rates based on a student’s academic credentials. It’s important to track and analyze students with like academic credentials and scholarship offers, and identify changes in patterns from year to year. Some important topics for investigation include:

  • Are there areas that have performed well in the past that are trailing this year?
  • Can you identify the reasons why those areas are running slow?
  • Are you enrolling more students in the top academic levels and fewer of the students who may not receive as attractive of a scholarship offer?
  • How will this impact your annual goals for tuition and discount rate?
  • Do you need to strategize on how to enroll more students in academic levels that are experiencing a shortfall?
  • How can you develop an outreach plan for your recruitment staff that addresses these trends?

All of these are important questions that require a timely and focused response.

3) Financial-aid filing counts that list your school as the top choice

When a student completes the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) the results can be sent to as many 10 institutions at the same time. Since students who file the FAFSA and send the results to an institution are much more likely to enroll, it is important to track and monitor the percentage of admitted students who have filed the FAFSA and provided your institution with results.

Automation is often not your friend when it comes to FAFSA filing! Monitoring these numbers can often help schools to identify students who have fallen through the cracks of their processing system. I’m working with a campus that noticed their FAFSA counts were down significantly from prior years. An exploration of the data reflected that hundreds of FAFSA forms were not coming through for packaging because the student did not have a social security number in their admissions system.

Students will generally list their top choice institution in the top slot when completing the FAFSA. Yields on this group of students can double compared to students who list your school in the second slot. Overall, it’s just as important to keep track of how many students are listing your institution in the top slot of the FAFSA from year to year as its is to track how many students are filing. This can be an early indicator of a stronger or weaker student interest level.

These are just three of the many factors that institutions should track and monitor throughout the admissions cycle. Of course, tracking and data manipulation alone are not the solution. It’s important to track, meet, discuss, and respond to the data. Involving and educating staff around campus is equally important. Just as it takes an entire campus to retain a student, the entire community is our recruitment staff. Keep the community up to date on these key indicators to involve everyone in the excitement that is enrollment management.

If you’re looking for more last-minute May 1 tips—as well as suggestions to strengthen your deposit efforts for 2013—send me an e-mail and I’ll gladly share some strategies.

About the Author

As an executive consultant for Ruffalo Noel Levitz, Sharon Wilkes offers more than 20 years of experience in higher education and financial aid management. She has expertise in financial aid data analysis and reporting, integrating...

Read more about Sharon's experience and expertise

Reach Sharon by e-mail at Sharon.Wilkes@RuffaloNL.com.

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