By MacKenzie Herring
In response to fluctuating enrollment rates and demographic trends, Lewis & Clark’s Admissions Office is adopting new strategies to best reach future students and to retain current ones. Most notably, the office is switching to a more holistic approach called Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM).
SEM aims to look at the enrollment process over a longer period of time. As Admissions begins contact with students in their sophomore year of high school, SEM aims to use that head start to better prepare the office for any surprises and quickly address any changes that need to be made regarding where and how they reach out to students.
Having contact with students over a longer period of time allows the office to see whether or not outreach in certain areas is successful by tracking ongoing interest in LC. This allows the office to make any necessary changes more promptly.
Along with the prolonged enrollment process, Admissions plans to introduce a more flexible, five year budget process. With a budget that spans a longer period of time, the college is able to adjust it in response to recent admissions data.
“When we set the budget in the fall … we are (looking at) how many students should we bring in, how much should our costs be?” Dean of Enrollment and Communications Lisa Meyer Meyer said. “Part of having a longer term budget is being able to live with that ebb and flow a little more easily.”
Student representative for the Admissions and Financial Aid Committee Zack Johnson ’19 said that he was surprised the college has not adopted a new approach sooner.
“I’m honestly surprised it has taken a college with a 150-year history this long to understand that a budget should be drafted after admittance figures are confirmed, rather than before,” Johnson said. “I hope dearly that this admissions change has a positive effect upon the college and upon our budget shortfall.”
Meyer said that SEM includes much more interaction between Admissions and other offices that deal with student affairs.
“Rather than the Admissions office surveying students, creating publications, sending them out, having that interaction between prospective students be with just Admissions, now we are talking about how might those other offices or areas enhance that work,” Meyer said.
ASLC President Marissa Valdez ’18 said she believes that SEM will increase the college’s retention rates.
“I hope this will increase the number of students that persist at LC,” Valdez said. “I also think that this will give the administration more insight into what helps students persist here and hopefully those programs will be better funded.”
Valdez also said that she hopes the college’s financial situation will be improved with SEM strategies. Through better retention, LC will have more money to work with as more students are contributing to the operating budget.
“Currently, our budget fluctuates a lot more than peer institutions,” Valdez said. “There are expected fluctuations between years due to changes in the first year class size, but there are also changes among older cohorts due to transfers and dropouts. Strategic enrollment aims to stabilize this fluctuation that’s due to transfers and help the admissions department bring in students (who) will persist at LC.”
LC is also planning on purchasing more data from testing companies that track prospective student interests and future plans as early as their sophomore year. By purchasing more information, the college hopes to widen the scope in which it can market to students.
Since it is process of narrowing down, Admissions compares enrollment to a funnel. LC starts by contacting a large pool of applicants of whom some apply and even fewer are enrolled. LC hopes that through purchasing more data, it will result in more applicants and steadier enrollment numbers.
“We feel like the top of the funnel is a little too small right now,” Meyer said. “One of the more immediate things that we are doing is purchasing more (data) from the test takers.”
By combining previous admittance methodology and new procedural changes, Admissions is focusing their efforts on being more adaptable to variation in enrollment. Through expanding their enrollment process, and introducing a more flexible budget, LC hopes to be more responsive to changes in incoming classes.