Why Every College Needs a Unique Enrollment Analysis

Robert Baird

Senior Vice President

January 25, 2019

I recently completed my 570th campus enrollment analysis, where I travel to a campus for a two-day analysis of enrollment challenges and opportunities. I conduct a thorough review of institutional data and interviews with key campus staff before presenting the findings to campus stakeholders.

After this particular visit, I was asked by one of the institution leaders, “Do you find any common issues that most campuses face when you conduct this type of enrollment analysis”?

An enrollment analysis takes a wide view of a campus
An enrollment analysis needs to take a wide view of an institution and uncover its unique challenges and opportunities

As I leaned back in the chair to reflect for a moment, several challenges came to the forefront of my mind that would appear to have a common thread—challenges related to enrollment growth, declining graduation rates for high school students, using financial aid strategically, and retaining students, to name a few.

And yet, despite these commonalities, each institution’s challenges are still quite unique to the specific campus. It is remarkable how, even after hundreds of consultations, the commonalities among each institution’s history, goals, and strategies disappear when you take a closer look at a campus the way we do before a visit.

This emphasizes the importance digging deep when doing any kind of enrollment analysis, because it’s important to find an approach that addresses those unique challenges, qualities, and circumstances of a campus. That’s why, when we conduct an RNL Opportunity Analysis, we look at each individual institution through a very different lens. We have to be thorough, because think of all the elements—the variables, the strategies, the metrics, the socioeconomic factors, and so on—that can impact each key area of enrollment management. Here are just a small sample of the important questions we have to help campuses answer when we conduct an enrollment analysis:

  • Student marketing and recruitment: Do you have the right mix of digital and traditional channels? A website that meets the needs of prospective students? The right marketing and recruitment plan?
  • Awarding and fiscal management: Are your awarding strategies aligned with your enrollment strategies? Have you balanced student needs with the revenue requirements your institution needs in order to provide a quality education?
  • Student retention and completion: Do you know which students need assistance to persist, and can you act in time to help them? Are students aware of career and professional outcomes so they understand the value of their education?
  • Enrollment growth and shaping: Are you targeting the right markets for your enrollment goals? Do you have the right academic offerings to attract more students or specific groups of students?
  • Campus positioning and planning: How do you compare to your competitors on price, academic programs, outcomes, and other key factors? Are your strategies aligned with your mission, vision, and goals?

Diving into even one of these areas can reveal a host of unique challenges and opportunities, let alone more than one area. This is why campus leaders bring my colleagues and I to their institutions, so that we can look beneath the practices in place to uncover if they are effective or not, and to find those opportunities that are within reach or those attainable with the proper planning.

What campus leaders say about RNL’s enrollment analysis

Over the years, we have received universally positive feedback about the experience. A few leaders recently expressed what they gained from our time on campus:

The opportunity analysis was an excellent chance to have external experts weigh-in on our current enrollment work. Through the analysis, we were able to gain a better understanding of where we have particular opportunities for growth (4-year mid-size public institution in the Midwest).

I think the analysis was spot-on with some of my evaluations as president but having a review from experts in the field was very valuable for the college (4-year small private institution in the South).

We were very pleased with the analysis. It was honest and data driven and will help us build for the future (4-year large private institution in the Northwest).

Request an RNL analysis

Request an RNL enrollment analysis

My colleagues and I—Kevin Crockett and Craig Engel—have years of experience as enrollment managers and consultants. We welcome the opportunity to help you uncover hidden opportunities and guide positive momentum by incorporating our years of experience and utilizing our unique and individualized approach to finding solutions to overcome any and all of your enrollment challenges.

Find out what we can do for your institution. Request an RNL Campus Opportunity Analysis for an expert dive into enrollment and student success.

About the Author

As senior vice president, Rob Baird has conducted more than 700 institutional assessments in the past 20 years, assisting institutions to uncover opportunities to improve recruitment, marketing, retention, and strategic enrollment planning. His areas of...

Read more about Robert's experience and expertise

Reach Robert by e-mail at Rob.Baird@RuffaloNL.com.

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