Direction Determines Strategy

Many years ago, I was sitting for an interview for a chief enrollment officer position at a small, regional liberal arts college. During the most important conversation near the end of my three day visit - with the chair of the board of trustees and the president of the College - I was posed with the challenge. The board chair shared it something like this:

"Ian, it boils down to three challenges we need you to accomplish. The College needs more students, better students, and less expensive students."

I said pick one, maybe two, of the challenges to focus on. I said that these goals might be potentially in conflict. I said that these challenges might not represent realistic goals, but instead the outcomes of a clear direction. I also said no thanks.

I share this conversation as it is largely emblematic of the conversations happening across the country. Most schools and colleges seem to think that the enrollment strategy should drive the direction of the institution. And, this just is not so. The strategic direction and how an organization chooses to position itself in the landscape of other entries in the marketplace actually dictates the strategy of enrollment, recruitment, and financial optimization.

Does your school or college have a clear strategic direction? And, is that strategic direction clear and cogent enough to provide a prescription for an enrollment management philosophy? And, if not, what is missing in order to bring that about?

Some questions to think about.