For the first time in NAC&U history, enrollment management administrators joined CFOs for their annual affinity group meeting which was held at North Central College in Naperville, IL, from March 19 – 21, 2014. The meeting afforded the CFOs and enrollment managers time to meet together and among their respective groups. It was the first time that enrollment managers met as a group.
Formal presentations from Matt Hamill of the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) and Bill Hall and Brad Griesbach of Applied Policy Research, Inc. served as jumping off points for discussion. Hamill, who also facilitated the meeting as he does annually, gave an update on federal policies that affect NAC&U institutions. Paul Loscheider, vice president for business affairs at North Central and regular attendee of the CFO annual meeting, said that Hamill’s presentation always ignites discussion. This year was no different as the group talked about compliance with the Affordable Care Act.
“I’m always picking apart our numbers. I can’t get enough of that data,” said Bisset.Hall’s presentation on net tuition revenue, which he has provided for the past ten years, gives attendees a picture of each institution. Bill Bisset, vice president of enrollment management at Manhattan College, found it helpful that his institution was one of the case studies.
Finding Common Ground
Formal presentations are beneficial, but Loscheider said that the roundtable discussions are valuable when the group is asked “What’s on your mind?” Candid conversation flows, and affinity group members feel they really have a chance to speak openly among peers and learn from each other.
That candor led Bisset to refer to the two-day meeting as “inspiring.” As an admissions/enrollment professional for 26 years, Bisset remembered a time when institutions freely shared their successes and challenges, but finding that in today’s fast-paced, competitive environment is rare. NAC&U group discussions tend toward openness and honesty because members share commonalities but are not direct competitors.
All enrollment managers agreed that they are facing lower conversion rates since students, aided by the common application, are applying to more schools than in the past. Finances are heavily factoring into a prospect’s decision-making process, and honors programs at community colleges are wooing students who want to complete prerequisite courses at a lower cost.
“The uncertainty of the field has never been greater,” said Bisset.
That challenge is something that affects everyone.
“NAC&U institutions depend heavily on enrollments. If enrollment managers don’t bring in the students, the CFOs – as well as the rest of the institution – have an issue,” Loscheider said.
Informal discussions helped the two groups understand the other’s challenges while brainstorming possible solutions. For example, Loscheider said, transfer students can be a significant enrollment population for colleges that have a robust community or junior college system nearby.
CFOs have met with provosts/CAOs in the past, and the plan is to bring all three groups together next year. Bisset welcomes the dynamic that the provosts will bring to the meeting and believes the three groups can benefit by talking openly.
“While enrollment officers manage the admissions process, recruitment is ultimately the responsibility of everyone on campus,” said Loscheider.
Loscheider hopes that these meetings help NAC&U members to continue to capitalize on relationships and potential collaborations within the consortium. Bisset echoed that, saying he hopes that enrollment managers form an affinity group as many others have done within NAC&U.