Blogfolio at the NASPA Western Regional

JW and I will be presenting “Blogs and Student Learning: Making Meaning and Connections through Graduate Student Portfolios” at the 2006 NASPA Western Regional Conference in San Francisco next month. We’ll be using my “blogfolio” as an example of how blogs can be used in higher education graduate programs to facilitate learning in multiple contexts.

The conference will be at the Crowne Plaza Hotel near Union Square. I’m excited about presenting with JW. She’s been a terrific advisor and mentor to me. I wonder if she’ll mind if I place a sign that says “Eric Stoller, available for hire” on my chest… I could become a freelance student affairs techie and create blogs for colleges and universities…

Program Abstract:

Participants are invited to engage in dialogue about the use of blogs (web logs) as a unique student learning experience. Presenters will briefly discuss the phenomenon of blogs and then share examples of student blogs created as the capstone experience within Oregon State University’s student affairs master’s program. Presenters will facilitate conversation around the challenges and opportunities in using blogs and ways in which student affairs professionals may utilize blogs beyond the classroom to serve students better.

According to a program reviewer:

This well-prepared proposal effectively conveys the presenters’ knowledge, practices, and enthusiasm. The presentation has the tremendous potential of starting a blogging epidemic among faculty members and student affairs practitioners who strive to improve student learning.

I’ve never started an epidemic before. No pressure…

Enrollment Management Case Study

Susan B. Anthony College: 3 year Marketing and Recruiting Case Study

According to Hossler and Bean (1990), “Enrollment management is an organizational concept and a systematic set of activities designed to enable educational institutions to exert more influence over their student enrollments” (p. 5) Susan B. Anthony College (SBAC) seems to have little if any strategies for enrollment which involve the entire campus. Therefore, it is crucial that SBAC begin to utilize Strategic Enrollment Management strategies. One of the core concepts of SEM is the institutional mission (Bontrager, 2004b). The SBAC case study does not contain a mission statement. It would seem that this implies that SBAC does not have an organizational mission that contains value for SEM. The identity and origins of SBAC are bereft of long-standing history. Founded in 1976 as a liberal arts college for women, SBAC requires an institutional mission and strategic plan which can form the foundation for SEM.

Utilizing SEM, SBAC needs to focus its efforts on a holistic model that includes the entire collegiate experience including: recruitment, matriculation, retention, graduation, and participation as an alumnus. Hossler and Bean (1990) state that:

[Enrollment management] is organized by strategic planning and supported by institutional research [and] concern student college choice, transition to college, student attrition and retention, and student outcomes. These processes are studied to guide institutional practices in the areas of new student recruitment and financial aid, student support services, curriculum development, and other academic areas that affect enrollments, student persistence, and student outcomes from college (p. 5).

The current state of affairs at SBAC is fragmented. Internal relationships will have to be developed and honed in order to achieve an increase in new student matriculation yields and in student retention rates. Furthermore, it is important that a new campus strategic plan include SBAC faculty. SBAC cannot survive without buy-in from its faculty.

Lastly, to fund a 3 year marketing and recruitment plan, I have devised a tiered approach. Significant amounts of capital will have to be reapportioned in order to finance our SEM efforts. The 3 year plan will increase our enrollment numbers, increase our retention rates, and increase our overall revenue base. We will have to spend money in order to re-stabilize our systems and to increase our financial holdings.

Theoretical Implications

There are two theories which are extremely applicable to SBAC’s enrollment crisis. These theories (Resources Dependency Theory and Systems Theory) are useful in understanding and analyzing external/internal factors that affect SBAC’s enrollment outlook.

According to Hossler and Hoezee (2001), “No theoretical construct provides a better understanding of the emergence of the field of enrollment management, or provides a better focal point for enrollment managers, than Resource Dependency Theory” (p. 4). Resources Dependency Theory looks at how the external environment affects internal resources. Hossler and Hoezee (2001) state that “Resource Dependency Theory helps enrollment managers to continually ask the following question. What are the scarce resources for my campus associated with student enrollments?” (p. 5). As the Director of Admissions, it is crucial that I have the ability to provide input and influence across a multitude of campus decisions. According to Hossler and Hoezee (2001), “Resources Dependency Theory provides a conceptual lead for accomplishing this” (p. 5). Hossler and Hoezee (2001) state:

Enrollment managers need to ask themselves the following questions.

  1. What are the areas of scarcity on my campus?
  2. Are student enrollments associated with any of these?
  3. Can my organizational unit help to provide these scarce resources?

These provide the keys to influence within a college or university environment. At a campus that is highly dependent upon tuition, the link between the number of students enrolled and tuition revenue is obvious. On other campuses, total enrollments and net revenue may not be a concern, but the quality or diversity of the student body may be of concern. These also present enrollment managers to attach themselves to pressing institutional priorities and in the process be in a stronger position to influence institutional policies (p. 5).

Resource Dependency Theory is relevant in many ways to the future growth of SBAC enrollment. Relationships with external constituencies will allow SBAC the potential to increase its overall resources.

The second enrollment management theory is Systems Theory. According to Hossler and Hoezee (2001), “Systems theory examines the structure and behavior of complex organizations” (p. 7). SBAC can utilize Systems Theory to analyze the entire organization with a special focus on closed and open systems. An important aspect of Systems Theory is organizational communication and collaboration. Hossler and Hoezee (2001) state that “in order to effectively influence student enrollments enrollment managers and the units that comprise an enrollment management have to share information, goals, and strategies frequently” (p. 7). When SBAC was founded in 1976 it relied on a comprehensive plan and the need for a liberal arts institution for women in its geographic location. Systems Theory will allow SBAC to analyze why enrollment numbers are down and to see how the entire college can contribute to renewed and sustainable growth. Ideally, this analysis will provide evidence and rationale for more of an open systems perspective at SBAC. The collaborative nature of an open system that includes campus-wide stakeholders should provide for a healthy SEM strategy.

Admissions Recruitment Efforts

The current recruitment efforts seem to be scattered and incongruent with SBAC’s identity as a small, women’s liberal arts college which is located in a suburb of a large metropolitan area. The following is an analysis of current recruitment activities and ideas for modification or discontinuation.

Recruiters

The previous admissions staff did not utilize effective territorial management strategies. Recruiting within a 100 mile radius of campus to high schools and community colleges limits SABC recruiters. The population density in this region is high due to SBAC’s suburban location. However, due to the high cost of attending SBAC and the competitive nature of our location (2 state schools are located within a 100 mile radius), it is illogical to recruit in such a limited territory. Additionally, SBAC’s mission as a private liberal arts college limits our ability to recruit students from community colleges. The current articulation agreements that exist between our neighboring state schools and community colleges create a relatively small pool of potential transfer students.

I recommend that we contract with Noel-Levitz (or a similar vendor) to gather targeted information on perspective students from specific geographic regions. Recruitment staff will then visit specific high schools that match demographics that should lead to increased yields. By using targeted data, SBAC will be sending its recruitment staff on visits that have a higher potential for success. Unlike most state schools, our most successful recruiting territories are most likely not in our backyard. Success for our “road warriors” will be increased by our use of data rich recruitment plans.

Direct Mail

The current SBAC direct mail campaign focuses on high school juniors. The use of direct mail to recruit high juniors can be beneficial, but only if mail is sent to targeted prospects. In addition to targeting mailings, it is extremely important to maintain a data set for prospects. According to Hossler and Anderson (in press):

Beginning with first contact (contacts may occur through the web, e- mail, mail, or telephone), data collection should include a running record of contacts and correspondence with the prospective student, and basic demographic and geographic variables. Simple data such as high school attended or zip code can be linked easily to other data sources, which in turn provide rich portraits of groups of potential students (p. 5).

Direct mail campaigns should also include seniors. Print materials should be creative and students should be able to “see themselves” in SBAC’s advertising.

The previous marketing plan was highly successful in bringing a diverse pool of students to SBAC. SBAC Marketing will be instrumental in the success of our recruitment efforts. It is important to note that all SBAC materials should include updated branding to maintain consistency with Marketing’s “look and feel.” SBAC’s branding should be consistent in both print and online materials. Direct mail efforts should be linked into web sites so that students receive a seamless message. E-mails should be sent out on a graduated basis so that students are not “spammed.”

Preview Day

A campus preview day has been a tradition of SBAC since its inception. The benefits of a preview day are tremendous. Prospective students get to experience SBAC’s campus, meet with faculty/staff, and increase their overall relationship with SBAC. SBAC’s preview day has the potential to damage critical relationships. It is vital that campus coalitions create a vibrant day of events that showcase the best that is SBAC. The preview day brings in students from around the U.S. as well as from abroad. The preview day is an important piece to the SBAC Admissions funnel.

Daily Campus Tours

The value of daily campus tours could be offset by the costs of maintaining the tour schedule. An assessment of visitor numbers including peak times and frequency of scheduled versus impromptu visits is in order. In addition to an assessment of current data patterns, it could prove beneficial to assess the potential of a Saturday visit schedule. This could allow for increased flexibility for students who are traveling at great distances. High school seniors and transfer students who want to participate in extended visits should be afforded the opportunity to stay on campus in our residence halls.

Telephone Campaign

SBAC enrolls about 300 new students each year. Calling each student requires a lot of staff time. However, I would recommend that we conduct a focus group with first-year students to gauge the impact of the telephone campaign. The relationships that SBAC has with its students are without measure. Relationships are instrumental to our success and continuation as an institution of higher learning. E-mail and chat applications are alternatives to the current telephone campaign and oftentimes students prefer this form of contact.

Regional Advertising

An immediate assessment of the efficacy of SBAC’s “occasional” advertising for its graduate programs is in order. The main question that needs to be asked is how many of our graduate students hear about SBAC’s programs and then decide to enroll in education or counseling? Targeted marketing efforts need to be framed around data driven decisions. How many of our graduate students who enroll, live in the metropolitan area in which we target our advertising efforts? It is crucial that we utilize data to implement quality marketing efforts. SBAC’s financial state is such that the college cannot afford “shotgun” marketing. According to Bontrager (2004b), “it is most vital that the institution be clear about its unique mission and the niche it fills in the higher education marketplace” (p. 11).

Alumnae Association

The SBAC Alumnae Association has a history of inconsistence involvement and it currently is lacking a leader. The SBAC Alumnae Association is a critical component to a successful SEM strategy. SBAC’s alumni sit atop the admissions funnel. The continuation of a relationship with the college is crucial to several endeavors. Alumnae serve as informal and formal recruiters depending on situational contexts. Alumnae enrich their alma mater through financial gifts, relationship building, and as examples of an SBAC education. A SEM oriented Alumnae Association Director should be hired so that involvement can be increased and partnerships developed. SBAC Admissions relies heavily on Alumnae to provide bridges to relationships with high schools, donors, and faculty.

The need for a strong and vibrant institutional mission is vital for the perpetuation of successful SBAC alumnae. Alumnae should graduate having been educated in an environment that was rich in knowledge and forged in SBAC’s mission.

The “Donor”

The niche that SBAC fills is unique in that it is a women’s liberal arts college. Changing the institutions mission and niche due to wealthy donor’s request is very risky. Becoming a co-ed institution would fundamentally change SBAC. A million dollars would provide ample seed money for the creation of an online professional management graduate degree program, but it would not guarantee the sustainability of such a program. The donor could perhaps be persuaded that her money would assist the college in a more meaningful way if it did not have to alter the college’s mission. If the donor is unwilling to modify the donation terms then further discussion should occur to determine feasible alternatives. The commuter campus nature of SBAC does create opportunities for online learning environments that could be co-ed. The brick and mortar women’s liberal arts college foundation that is SBAC could be maintained while the online degree program could generate additional interest in the college’s other graduate programs. An extensive review should occur to see if our comparator institutions (Mount Holyoke, Agnes Scott College, Smith College, and Reed College) have had similar occurrences with donors.

Commuter Campus

With less than 10% of SBAC’s students living on campus it is important to critically analyze why students do not live on campus. A comprehensive assessment of campus housing should be undertaken to ascertain the viability of SBAC’s housing. The creation of a learning community within the existing residence hall could increase the value of SBAC’s residence life program. However, assessment efforts are the first step in determining our plans.

SBAC Faculty

The faculty of SBAC are excellent teachers, scholars, and artists. They are also currently not part of the college’s enrollment strategy. Faculty buy-in is crucial to SEM. According to Bontrager (2004a), “it is critical that enrollment management is directly linked to the institution’s academic mission and programs” (p. 12). Furthermore, “the ability to deliver programs and build relationships which enhance student access, transition, persistence, and individual goal attainment will determine whether the institution is able to recruit and retain students in sufficient numbers to achieve optimum enrollment” (Bontrager, 2004a, p. 12).

SBAC faculty are the lifeblood of the college. In order to achieve an open system, faculty will have to emerge from their currently closed systems. The campus preview day will be more beneficial for students as well as a myriad of programs and events. Faculty will be instrumental to SBAC’s retention efforts. Bontrager (2004b) states that “retention research points to student-faculty relationships, particularly in the context of academic advising, as vital to student persistence” (p. 12). The faculty will become members of a SEM strategy that will not only increase enrollment numbers but will also lead to higher rates of student persistence.

Campus Aesthetic

According to Bradica (2001), “Some institutions have developed a $20,000 walk: a path through the campus that showcases to visitors and perspective students its most desirable features in a pristine setting” (para. 13). SBAC does not have a visitor friendly walk. The attractiveness of SBAC’s campus has consistently been ranked as sub par. This is an area that can be remedied with a campus landscaping plan. I would recommend that SBAC begin with a renovation of its most highly trafficked areas and landmarks. This will be highly beneficial for our current students, staff, and faculty because they will get to enjoy a more aesthetically pleasing environment, campus visitors will have a more appealing image of the college, and SBAC’s marketing materials will have the opportunity to include beautiful photographs of campus.

Admission Standards

Over the past three years admission standards have been lowered to try and enroll more students. Unfortunately, this technique did not work. This is probably due to a lack of data and SEM strategies. There are several questions which need to be addressed regarding the lowering of SBAC admission standards. What factors besides lower admission standards contribute to a student’s progression through the admissions funnel?

SBAC’s Enrollment Demographics

The typical new SBAC undergraduate student is white, graduated from a private high school, second or third generation college student, and from a two-parent home with a family income of over $100,000. Thus, SBAC is not very diverse. This is not an ideal campus climate. SBAC’s mission is to educate all women. A SEM plan would include the recruitment of a diverse student body. Financial can be leveraged so that students from lower socio-economic backgrounds with high levels of merit could be recruited and given tuition discounts while still maintaining a stable number of full-paying students. Support structures would have to be analyzed and built up to support an increased population of diverse students. Retaining a multiculturally diverse student body would involve both student and academic affairs.

Conclusion

SBAC needs to implement a holistic SEM plan. The mission of the institution needs to be at the core of its enrollment management goals. Money will have to be spent in order to overcome deficiencies like campus beautification and to increase Admissions marketing. The 3 year plan will start off with a lot of data analysis. Without proper data from multiple shareholders, a SEM initiative will fail. It is critical that we work on relationships with both our internal communities and our external resources. SEM can increase our enrollment numbers and improve our retention rates.

References

Bontrager, Bob (2004a). Strategic enrollment management: Core strategies and best practices. College and University Journal. 79 No. 3, 9-15.

Bontrager, Bob (2004b).Strategic enrollment management: Core strategies and best practices. College and University Journal. 79 No. 4, 11-16.

Bradica, Joetta R. (2001). Enrollment management: An interdependence model. Retrieved June 1, 2006, from New Foundations.com Web site: http://www.newfoundations.com/OrgTheory/Bradica721.html

Hossler, D. & Anderson, D. (in press). The Enrollment Management Process. In J. Gardner & M. L. Upcraft (eds.), The Freshman Year Experience, 2nd. Edition, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hossler, D., Bean, J. P., and Associates. (1990) The Strategic Management of College Enrollments. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Hossler, D. & Hoezee, L. (2001).Conceptual and Theoretical Thinking About Enrollment Management. In J. Black (ed.), Strategic Enrollment Management.Washington, D.C.: American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.