[From the Archives] Four Key Steps to Developing a Truly Comprehensive Enrollment Strategy
This article was originally published July 28, 2017. At the time, Carolyn Stegmann was the Student Services Manager at UW-Extension
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Areas such as online education, credit for prior learning, and student retention are just as critical now as they were when these stories were written.
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According to the Digital Learning Compass: 2017 Distance Education Enrollment Report, degree granting higher education institutions experienced a 3.2 percent decrease in enrollments between 2012 and 2015. As pressure continues to rise to improve student outcomes, developing a strategic enrollment and retention plan becomes essential to institutional success and sustainability.
Whether auditing an existing strategic plan or developing a new one, below are four key transformational steps to ensure your division is on the right path to success:
1. Define Identity and Purpose
Understanding the roles and responsibilities within each unit at every level within the organization is essential to delineating work scopes. A comprehensive strategic plan must be based on a clear vision and mission statement. If a vision and mission already exist, a periodic review by key stakeholders should occur. If, on the other hand, there is no existing statement, broad-based input should be used in the development process. Each unit’s expressed purpose should both align with and support the institution’s overall mission and strategic planning priorities.
2. Identify Milestones and Measurements
With a clear understanding of each unit’s role and key relationships, you now have a foundation of reference for how to appropriately map out an efficient framework that will produce meaningful data on how to improve student outcomes relevant to institutional and divisional priorities.
This step involves identifying milestones and key performance indicators (KPIs) for each unit in order to obtain meaningful data about student patterns at specific points throughout the student lifecycle. Milestones are major benchmarks student reach throughout the student lifecycle. KPIs assist unit leaders in measuring the effectiveness of various functions and processes important to achieving progression at each milestone.
Within student affairs units, KPIs should directly relate to student success outcomes. For example, a student services unit might identify the rate of students retained within the first 20 days of a semester start as a KPI to measure how effective the current process is in supporting students as they adjust to a new semester. Once defined, KPIs should drive your unit’s activities in an intentional and purposeful way.
3. Conduct Process and Asset Mapping
One powerful approach to assess the effectiveness of your unit’s processes, activities and measurements is mapping. Process mapping creates a clear and concise visual of your current blueprint. Asset mapping adds additional value by identifying existing strengths, opportunities and gaps. By plotting your unit’s milestones, KPIs, and current processes on a student lifecycle pipeline, a clear picture of next steps emerges. Key questions for reflection include:
- What are your current sources of measurement for each KPI?
- Do you have the right tools to measure your KPIs?
- How effective are your processes in supporting each milestone and KPI?
- What are your assets? What processes are effective? What processes are not effective?
- Where are the opportunity gaps? What do you want to be doing that is not currently happening?
Data obtained through this exercise should inform the division on patterns of student progression, reveal inefficiencies in measurement and process and drive prioritization in developing a strategic and comprehensive enrollment plan.
4. Develop a Strategic Plan
The three previous steps provide the foundation for defining a strategic plan for your division. This positions you to effectively support your KPIs by building on existing assets and addressing identified gaps. The prioritization process of both short- and long-term goals can be facilitated by asking the following questions:
- Which of the opportunities are most critical and urgent for the department and institution for prioritization purposes? Short-term? Long-term?
- Considering your resources, how do you best implement new processes? What additional resources are needed?
- How do you achieve necessary buy-in from stakeholders?
- How, how often, and by whom should each measurement within your strategic plan be evaluated?
In addition to articulating priorities, a strategic plan should include identified timelines, resources, communication channels and key relationships needed for each goal outlined.
In order to maximize student results, the following elements are essential:
- Unified vision among key stake holders;
- Investment in technology to produce both formative and summative data;
- Clear delineation of roles and responsibilities among partners;
- Process efficiency;
- Strong interdepartmental collaboration;
- Data-driven decision making.
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” -Albert Einstein
Author Perspective: Administrator