The Importance of Control in Enrollment Management

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John W. Dysart
The Dysart Group, Inc.

Douglas E. Clark
Vice President of Enrollment Manangement
Ferrum College

In most Principles of Management courses, students study the four basic management functions of planning, organizing, leading and controlling. At many institutions, the control function is the one where enrollment managers need to make the most improvement.

The use of the term control in a management context refers to how managers measure performance, track progress towards objectives, and determine if corrective action is necessary. A well known management mantra is ?What gets measured, gets done? or put another way, ?What gets monitored, gets done.? Enrollment managers need to take that mantra to heart in both admissions and financial aid.

The first step is deciding what gets measured, and then deciding what metrics to use to evaluate performance. In supervising the Admission Office, most enrollment managers have reports that track basic admissions numbers that correspond to each part of the admissions funnel: inquiries, applications, acceptances, and deposits. More detail, however, is desirable.

  • It is important to track admission folder completion rates throughout the cycle. If folder completion rates are below desired objectives, it is beneficial to find out why folders are not being completed and take corrective action so missing documents can be obtained and admissions decisions can be made. Recall that completion status not only enables prospective students to progress further through the enrollment funnel, but financial aid offers cannot be made until applicants have been accepted.
  • Track visit rates for all admission applicants and inquiries. Prospective students visiting the campus are more likely to apply for admission. Effectively encouraging admission applicants to visit the campus will positively influence yield rates. Monthly, aggregate goals should be established and monitored and additional measures should be taken if the visit rates do not meet institutional objectives. Individual and group visits can be equally effective; successfully encouraging admission applicants to visit the campus is critical.
  • Keep an eye on the number of admission applications ready for review when no decision has been made. This could be an indication of a generally inefficient process or a backlog in data entry.
  • Track contact rates for all admission applicants. Ensure that systematic communication is taking place utilizing all forms of communication including telephone contacts, emails, face-to-face interviews, text messaging and IM.

In addition to measuring and monitoring how the Admission Office in general is doing, the performance of individual admissions counselors also needs to be tracked. This particular activity seems to be difficult for many enrollment managers. Tracking performance of specific people means holding individual counselors accountable. Often, team accountability is easier than that of individuals. Specific control, however, is necessary. Tracking individual performance will enable enrollment managers to recognize superior performance, encourage better performance when necessary, and identify training opportunities.

Admission counselor performance should be monitored using both activity and outcome metrics. This should be done on a weekly basis. Calculating telephone outreach and email rates would be considered activity metrics. Tracking the percentage of applicants whose folders are complete and the percentage of applicants who have visited the campus as a function of individual counselor would be considered outcome metrics.

Activity and outcomes in the Financial Aid Office must be monitored carefully as well. Activity in the Financial Aid Office might include sending paper or electronic reminders to encourage prospective and currently enrolled students to apply for financial aid. Tracking certain activities such as loan certifications, state grant certifications and completion of verification are also important activities that can be monitored.

Monitor outcomes such as financial aid application rates.

  • The number of admission applicants who have applied for financial aid should be tracked on a weekly basis throughout the recruitment cycle.
  • Monitor financial aid application rates for returning students. The number of currently enrolled students who have applied for financial aid should be tracked on a weekly basis throughout the recruitment cycle.
  • Track to ensure that award letters are sent to new and returning students in a timely manner. The receipt of financial aid packages is critical to encourage deposits and support institutional goals regarding retention.
  • In addition, financial aid folders for new and returning students need to be complete so aid can be drawn down. One common complaint from business officers is that it takes weeks or even months after classes start to draw down funds because financial aid paperwork is not complete. Getting financial aid paperwork done, therefore,? is important to cash flow which is important for such things as meeting payroll (including your own paycheck). Remember: Good Cash Flow = A Happy Business Officer.
  • It is also important to track expenditure levels of both federal and state aid funds and for private institutions, institutional aid funds. Private institutions should establish a target average for institutional aid expenditures for both new and returning students and monitor those averages on a weekly basis. If the average starts to deviate significantly from the target, then corrective action such as a change in packaging policy needs to be implemented. Likewise, expenditure levels in campus-based aid programs (Federal Perkins, FSEOG and FWS) should be tracked and corrective action taken if expenditure levels get too high.

Weekly monitoring of all the reports is necessary to ensure that ?the paper keeps moving through the funnel.? The supervisor monitoring the reports needs to analyze the numbers carefully and then, most importantly, take corrective action when necessary. The supervisor needs to meet individually with staff members to ask questions and ask for detailed explanations. Sometimes the staff member may be conscientious about getting tasks complete but may need additional training to be more effective.

The control function is the most difficult of the four management tasks, but given the quantitative nature of enrollment management, it is a very necessary function indeed. It is not enough to be aware of the numbers; enrollment managers need to be proactive in their reaction to what the numbers tell them.

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