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Strategic Enrollment Management Keeps the Lights On
August 7, 2014 - 8:56pm
Strategic enrollment management represents the current solution to funding issues in higher education

Last week, Forbes published a fairly in-depth exposé on the business of enrollment management in higher education. Focusing primarily on Noel-Levitz and The National Conference on Student Recruitment, Marketing & Retention (NCSRMR), the post serves as a pseudo-indictment of the current state of affairs in higher education tuition pricing tactics.

Having been to the NCSRMR in the past, I can say that my focus was on the strategic communications aspect of enrollment management and not the gray area that is tuition pricing and discounting. Forbes' post, "The Invisible Force Behind College Admissions," paints a pretty grim picture of how schools are using strategic pricing structures (similar to the airline industry) to extract as much money via tuition as they possibly can from students who can afford to pay a higher rate. Simultaneously, students who have more financial need are losing out on merit aid...at least that's what the piece would have us believe.

When I was a graduate student at Oregon State University, I had a multifaceted assistantship within the department of Enrollment Management. What I learned about tuition pricing was that the additional tuition dollars that come in via strategic enrollment management are often pumped back into pools of money that are directly focused on assisting students from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

Financial aid leveraging, at least at a surface level glance, sounds particularly gross. However, I'm not sure what schools without mega-endowments are supposed to do. State funding for a lot of public institutions is laughable and the business of higher education is expensive. Strategic enrollment management keeps the lights on. It's the best thing that consultants and in-house experts have been able to come up with in order to keep schools afloat.

Now, is this the best way to do things in the sense of building a better higher education system in the United States? Obviously not. However, until the federal government, state governments, and US society as a whole, decide to bring about changes that will bring education for everyone, we're stuck with the current environment of leveraging, discounting, and tactical pricing.

What would you do if you were in charge of enrollment management at your institution? What are some options for changing the current state of things in the realm of enrollment management?

 

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