Using the term “modern enrollment management” is a bit of a misnomer.

Those of us entrenched in the field are quick to forget that the operational units within which we exist are only a half century young. To characterize any function of that age as anything but contemporary lacks an understanding of the lengthy history of American Higher Education.

If there’s one thing to glean from successful enrollment managers over the last fifty years, it is that the field must, to quote Brad Pitt as Billy Beane in Moneyball, “adapt or die.”

Admission and financial aid units have served as the foundation of nearly every consolidated enrollment unit. I am here to argue that, over the last decade, a third element has emerged as necessity: Analytics. Like the aforementioned film’s dive into baseball’s adaptation to sabermetrics, higher ed enrollment management is at a crossroads; one that centers on advanced analytics, both predictive and prescriptive, and the ability to provide needed insight to drive impactful actions that change outcomes.

Keep reading below to find out more!

The Key Issues for Enrollment Management in Higher Education

We’ve all read Grawe. We’ve all seen WICHE’s reports. The times of rising college-going rates and increased demand have come and gone. The competition for students is fierce. According to the Chronicle of Higher Ed, a large number of private colleges are expected to miss their enrollment goals for the fall semester. This is something new for this type of institution, whom historically fill their classes year over year.

That’s why understanding data – most importantly your institution’s data – is a must.

As a former VP of Enrollment brought up through admission, I learned that a strong foundation of recruitment, a dash of sophisticated marketing, and a strategic allocation of financial aid served as the backbone for our team’s success.

But, which students should I target to recruit? What marketing mediums are the most effective at reaching my pool? What is the most precise allocation of aid, and which families are most receptive?

Those are the questions of the Chief Enrollment Officer, and they are best answered with advanced analytics.

The 5 Priorities for Enrollment Management

It is as important to an enrollment manager’s success to invest in substantive analytical understanding as it is to print a viewbook or optimize a campus tour. Surprisingly, many enrollment managers have yet to accept to this realization. If you are in this position, here are a five possible paths to seriously consider moving forward:

1. Invest in foundational data

  • Make sure that your CRM, assuming you have one, is optimized, widely used, and collecting as much data as possible. This will serve you well as you attempt to mine.
  • If you’re not using a CRM I would recommend taking a look at Slate and TargetX and see which platform suits you best.

2. Partner with institutional research

  • Assuming your institution has an academic unit focused on IR, I would recommend picking their brain about the possibility of partnering on small projects as a primer for a larger partnership.
  • As an example, you could start with an assessment of your retention rates and if there are correlations to incoming academic characteristics of your population. It’s a nice way for IR to see the connection between admission and the rest of the campus.

3. Advance your own education

  • Consider entering one of many analytics certificate programs, such as Cornell’s offering, or taking courses in statistics/modeling. It will serve you well as you advance your career.

4. Invest in an internal enrollment analyst

  • If you’re unable to request a new position, the next time your admission office experiences turnover (which we all know, it will), consider saving a position for an analyst. This will help you understand and interpret your data in ways you may not have visioned.

5. Invest in advanced analytics

  • Whether you choose to invest internally (build) or partner with a third party (buy), that’s up to you. However, I can say working with an external partner dedicated to supporting your efforts can serve as an outstanding bridge to the broader higher education landscape, and also comes with less of an investment than an internal position.


Given the circumstance I mentioned earlier, understanding your students better is a must. By incorporating these items into your strategy you’ll identify and reach the right students for your college or university. It’s what is required now.

Good luck out there. It’s an adapt or die world…