Considerations in Selecting a New Chief Enrollment Officer

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John W. Dysart
The Dysart Group, Inc.


Filling a new vacancy for chief enrollment officer can be a difficult task.  Many college and university Presidents simply do not have significant experience in issues related to recruitment, retention and financial aid.  Campus search committees are often comprised of individuals with limited knowledge regarding enrollment management.  The following are some suggestions that can be useful in selecting the right candidate for your school:

Look for a track record of success.

This seems so simple.  It is so obvious.  You would be surprised, however, in how often previous success is not a major requirement.  Have the candidate describe the challenges and objectives faced at the previous institution.  What were the outcomes?  How were the goals achieved?More...

It is often helpful to find candidates from similar institution types.

While enrollment officers from public institutions can certainly serve at private institutions and vice versa, it can be beneficial to avoid steep learning curves.  The difference between a large community college and a small private institution are considerable.  Moving from a private college or university to a for-profit can be difficult.  Again, no candidate should be excluded based on experience at a different institution type, but the transition challenges should not be ignored.

Take demographics into account.

Institutional location is important.  A potential enrollment officer from a school located in a densely populated area may not necessarily be appropriate for a college located in a rural area.  Recruitment success in Los Angeles, California does not necessarily set the stage for success in Edmond, Oklahoma.

Real experience in financial aid is a huge benefit.

Financial aid is more important than ever for recruitment, retention and net revenue.  As the economy sours and state grants stagnate and decline, a chief enrollment officer who really understands financial aid issues, packaging strategies and regulations can be an extraordinary asset.  The truth is that most enrollment management leaders still come from the admission profession rather than financial aid.  Experience “supervising” the financial aid division does not necessarily ensure adequate knowledge of financial aid.

Ask about discount rates.

Discount rates can vary a great deal from one institution to another.  Do not be afraid to ask about the discount rate at the candidate’s previous college or university.  An enrollment officer used to discounting tuition by 65% may have a hard time adjusting to a school that cannot afford a discount rate over 45%.

Compare budget and resources.

Success at a previous institution is not enough.  Sometimes there are huge differences in divisional budgets and available resources.  Some schools, for example, spend millions of dollars every year on marketing and advertising.  Many small colleges and universities do not have marketing budgets at all or the available funds are extremely limited.  Being realistic about resources available at a previous school and being honest about the resources that will be available at your school can benefit potential candidates and your institution.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.There are a number of firms that specialize in assisting colleges and universities in making the right selection.  If you do not have sufficient expertise on your campus to make an informed decision, get help.

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