Northwest Iowa Community College

Northwest Iowa Community College

Data-informed planning facilitates enrollment management paradigm shift

With record-setting retention and enrollment among Iowa's community colleges, Northwest Iowa Community College (NCC) has a strong foundation of growth and success. While enrollment has increased dramatically over the past five years, this growth was disproportionately bolstered by dual and part-time enrollment. Sensing an enrollment softening as the local economy improved, NCC proactively sought to implement best practices to take the institution to the next level.

Amidst a low unemployment rate, NCC recognized that some fields may have hit saturation while other academic program areas remained chronically under-enrolled. To uncover new and existing program opportunities with growth potential, NCC partnered with Ruffalo Noel Levitz to conduct an Academic Program Demand Analysis™. Preliminary results identified programs that offer the highest return on investment, shifting the college’s initial focus of seeking to hire more faculty for the humanities and fine arts to health sciences programming. The results of this research are also integrated into the college's annual and longer-term (three- to five-year) planning efforts, supported by monthly consultations to establish goals, strategies, and action plans.


A shift to data-informed planning has enabled the college to compare its data with current benchmarks, industry best practices, and market trends to make strategic recruitment and retention decisions. Now, nearly every funnel stage is tracked from inquiry to application to enrollment. Additionally, a predictive modeling tool (the Student Retention Predictor™) and motivational surveys help statistically determine each student's likelihood of persistence and their individual risk factors.

As the college actively develops long-term goals for their Strategic Enrollment Plan, which will launch in fall 2015, NCC has already seen immediate impacts from this partnership including:

  • A shared-governance approach to academic planning:
    • Plan for offering evening and weekend nursing training.
    • Plan to double the size of radiological technologies services programs.
  • Improved data entry, tracking, and reporting capabilities.
  • Hiring a full-time data-entry specialist, freeing admissions staff to focus on their important recruitment tasks while increasing data accuracy and turnaround.
  • Implemented intrusive advising during first-year orientation based on predictive modeling scores.


"We've seen a lot of good things already, particularly for our institutional research and admissions teams. Data reporting has ramped up tremendously; we never even tracked inquiries before, and now we are tracking them. This is going to help so much in the future as we make strategic decisions based on hard data."

"If you are considering a consulting firm, you should give favorable preference to [Ruffalo Noel Levitz] because of their vast experience, rich heritage, and unbelievable depth of expertise. They really have an army of professionals. [Ruffalo Noel Levitz] is a company you can really trust to help you become a better college."

Dr. John Hartog III
Vice President of Student and Academic Services

Case study used with the permission of Northwest Iowa Community College

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