Strategic Enrollment Management Planning

How do you cultivate the right students and build a diverse yet mission-appropriate student body for your college or university? How do you build a culture and environment that supports the students from recruitment, admissions, financial aid, marketing, student life, and beyond? How do you create data collection and systems that inform and empower your community, ultimately leading to student success through graduation? Strategic enrollment management planning.

What is strategic enrollment management planning?

Strategic enrollment management (SEM) planning is an institution’s efforts to identify, recruit, enroll, retain, and graduate a student body in accordance with an institution’s mission and goals while also maintaining fiscal sustainability.

Although it is often thought of as undergraduate-focused, graduate SEM planning has recently grown in prominence.

Why do it?

As US higher education has had to rely more on tuition for revenue, enrollment management practices have become more critical to institutional sustainability. SEM planning grounds enrollment management in a college’s or university’s mission and strategic plan, along with trends in the broader environment.

How to do it?

SEM planning examines broad environmental trends and analyzes how these trends affect the larger pool of students capable of applying to a college or university. It then determines goals for the student body, and collaborates on campus-wide efforts to unite these goals across marketing, recruitment, admission, tuition setting, financial aid, academics, and student success programming.

During SEM planning, the planning team will gather data from stakeholder departments and review strategic needs. Then models are created that show the different possible scenarios for which an institution’s admissions and financial aid departments should strive and how student success programs will need to align with the hopeful new student base.

Who does it?

SEM planning is often conducted by an office of enrollment management or an office of admissions. Many institutions contract with consultants to provide expertise in this process.

Departments which may contribute data or expertise to the planning process include:

  • Admissions
  • Financial aid
  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Institutional research
  • Academic advising
  • Career counseling

When to do it?

SEM planning is an ongoing activity, though it is cyclical. Depending on the institution, the timing of SEM is related to:

  • Institutional admissions deadlines
  • Financial aid deadlines
  • Institutional financial planning milestones
  • State higher education appropriations

Why integrated?

Since SEM planning focuses on the student experience from recruitment through graduation, it needs to be informed by multiple plans (strategic plan, academic plan, diversity and inclusion plan, etc.) on campus while also informing others (budget, campus plans, student affairs). Integrated planning connects SEM planning to these efforts.