Head of School Podcast: What Is Enrollment Management [S1.E2]

June 3, 2020 Hans Mundahl

Change - phew change is hard. Back when I was a consultant I thought schools needed my help to figure out what to change. When I became a head of school I realized that often schools know what they need to do but actually making those changes can be really hard. Last episode we talked about the demographic and economic shifts that caused higher ed to both realize they needed change and to also make those changes. Independent schools are realizing we’re in the same boat. 

If you step back - there are two kinds of families out there: the ones who’s parents, grandparents, or other family members attended independent schools AND the ones who might be the first to consider not going to public school. Regardless of your focus BOTH families could be a great academic, social, and (let’s be honest) financial fit for your school and we need to get better at educating these increasingly more experienced consumers who are asking more and more sophisticated questions relating to equity, inclusion, finances, and outcomes.

Welcome to EMA’s Head of School Podcast: where we cover the most important enrollment management topics tailored for heads of school. In every episode we’ll cover a couple of high level topics along with a question or reflection you can bring back to your team. I’m your host (and recovering head of school) Hans Mundahl. Let’s get started.

Enrollment management isn’t a title (although it can be) - instead enrollment management refers to an institution-wide system designed to:

  • Achieve enrollment goals
  • Sustain revenue AND
  • Serve the needs of students

Enrollment management is more than getting kids to enroll - it’s making sure enough families are paying enough tuition and that they’re happy -  so they tell their friends and re-enroll.

When did this whole business get started you might ask? It all started in higher ed. Let’s take our Delorean up to 88 miles per hour and find out.

  • In the 1970’s the term enrollment management was coined in response to declines in demand. Initially the focus was on demographic analysis and segmented marketing
  • By the 1980’s the role grew to include all the functions of attracting students. Those efforts were linked with retention rates and graduation rates for the first time.
  • In the 1990’s the role came to include financial modeling and the concept of strategic enrollment management as a major component of operations was born
  • In the 2000’s professional in-house marketing and segmenting skills became more common. Sophisticated predictive models were developed to create varied pathways to success and the enrollment management leader became a critical part of the university president’s cabinet.

Sounds good - but how have independent schools integrated this approach into their leadership structures? We’ve seen a couple of ways this can work:

  • Perhaps you have a committee - now the committee doesn’t have any special authority or require a financial investment but an enrollment management committee can serve to raise awareness within a school. You might call this a retention committee.
  • Another approach is to designate a coordinator - this might be a Director of Enrollment Management and although this role doesn’t have oversight over program and might not supervise the marketing team they certainly serve as the bridge between these activities.
  • The least common approach in independent schools - but something we would love to hear about if you are working on this would be an enrollment management division bringing together recruitment, marketing, admissions, financial aid, academic and college advising, and student services.

The need for this kind of approach jumped out to me in a conversation Peter and I had on the Enrollment Spectrum Podcast back in episode 27 with Jill Goodman. We were talking about how a family has a single person with a supporting team coordinating the quality of their experience prior to joining the community (the director of admission or enrollment management) and they will have a single person with a supporting team coordinating the experience of the family after they graduate (the director of development)... but we realized many schools might be missing something.

At EMA we recommend schools keep an eye on all enrollment management levers - we call this the strategic enrollment spectrum: recruitment and selection of new students, the program of the school, retention, marketing, tuition and finance, composition of the school community, and student outcomes.

Thanks for listening to episode two of EMA’s Head of School Podcast. In episode three we’ll be taking a look at how the admission funnel has changed. 

  • Today’s episode is based on EMA’s special report What Every Head Needs to Know About Enrollment Management. You can find the full report at www.enrollment.org. 
  • This episode was produced by me, Hans Mundahl, with help from Peter Baron.
  • Check out our other show The Enrollment Management Spectrum Podcast for long-form interviews with scholars, practitioners, and experts in the enrollment management industry. 

Before we close here is a question you can explore with your team: “What steps might you take to employ an institution-wide approach to strategic enrollment management?”

Thanks and I hope you have the chance to be creative today.

About the Author

Hans Mundahl

Hans Mundahl is the Director of Professional Development at EMA. He has been an educator since 1995 when he first stepped into the classroom as a Fulbright exchange teacher in the former East Germany. Since then Hans has done just about every job possible at an independent school from teacher to administrator. Most recently Hans was the head of school at a K-8 day school in central New Hampshire. Hans’s spare time is usually spent with his family but he is also passionate about the outdoors and protecting the environment.

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Previous Podcast
Head of School Podcast: How the Admission Funnel Has Changed [S1.E3]
Head of School Podcast: How the Admission Funnel Has Changed [S1.E3]

What every head needs to know about enrollment management.

Next Podcast
Head of School Podcast: Framing the Problem [S1.E1]
Head of School Podcast: Framing the Problem [S1.E1]

What every head needs to know about enrollment management.