May 3, 2016

The Importance of Research in Strategic Enrollment Management

Most schools and skilled enrollment managers have a lot of very good hunches. They may even have data sets from parent satisfaction surveys or from demographic research. However, most enrollment managers are severely lacking in real, applicable data that can and should inform enrollment strategy.

So, what research is being done in the most successful enrollment management offices?

1)   Demographic research that reflects the current family population, to understand who is currently in your school.

2)   Demographic trending research to allow you to predict who is coming in the next 5 years or so.

3)   Market segmentation analysis of the current student body as well as the projected student body. This data is often not readily available, but ideally, you get your hands on it.

4)   Survey research of current parents, families who were admitted but didn’t enroll, and families who left your school (attrition).

5)   Research regarding public perception of your school.

That’s a lot of research, and at most schools, it’s simply not feasible to keep up with all of it annually. There are several obstacles to frequent research. One we see commonly is the lack of strong information management systems. Without an effective system to gather data and organize it, staying on top of research can lead to further overwhelm.

So, what is a harried enrollment manager to do? Consider cycling through the research inputs we are suggesting here, so that you always have something current to work with. Alternately, plan to devote significant time and resources every three years or so to do a larger amount at once. Remember that most institutions of higher education have an office of institutional advancement that is not only responsible for data gathering and interpretation, but ties together information systems and parses out information and insight to various departments. It is extremely rare to see that function in an independent school.

Staying on top of the data that supports your enrollment strategy will make your daily work so much easier. Carving out the time to do this important work, while difficult to do, can only serve your higher level goals.

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